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'It's not like years gone by where I might automatically walk back into the 15 jersey'

Connacht are looking for their fifth Pro14 win of the season against the Kings this evening.

TIERNAN O’HALLORAN IS currently sidelined through injury but even in that frustrating state, he is enjoying being part of this Connacht squad.

Under Australian head coach Andy Friend’s guidance, the pep in everyone’s step has returned at the Sportsground over the past year.

The unhappy season under Kieran Keane in 2017/18 seems like a distant memory now for O’Halloran, who recently signed a new contract to remain with Connacht until 2022.

tiernan-ohalloran O'Halloran is currently out injured. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“It’s just an exciting place to work at the moment. In the years gone by, there have been times where you have been driving into training and you’re just not really looking forward to the day,” explained O’Halloran at this week’s Guinness Pro14 media day.

“Whereas at the moment, I think there is genuine excitement amongst the whole squad.

“In the past, you would have between 25 and 30 lads that were like, ‘I have a chance of playing this weekend.’ Whereas the other 15 or so lads just knew they weren’t going to be involved.

“Everybody is involved now no matter what it is. Everyone really feels a part of it, which is huge.

“In years gone by, times I wasn’t involved, it’s very easy to be infectious with negativity towards the whole squad and that leaks into games. It’s a very open environment now. You’re walking into work and everyone has got a smile on their face and that feeds onto the pitch and into the results.”

Friend deserves major credit for the atmosphere he has encouraged within Connacht and it’s clear why Bundee Aki is keen to stick around.

O’Halloran is now six weeks post-surgery on his ankle after a very unfortunate incident that also saw him fracture a bone. He’s keen not to rush back from the injury – expecting to be back around the new Year – but he understands that he will have to fight harder for his place than might have been the case in the past.

“There is pressure there as well,” said O’Halloran, who is coaching with Galwegians this season.

“It’s not like years gone by where I might automatically walk back into the 15 jersey again. That’s not the case anymore. It’s great for us as a squad to have that depth and it gives encouragement to the injured guys to come back stronger.”

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bundee-aki-celebrates-with-fans Bundee Aki is likely to get a rousing reception again tonight. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

While O’Halloran continues rebabbing his injury, Connacht take to the Sportsground again this evening versus the Southern Kings [KO 5.15pm, TG4].

Aki will surely receive his latest rapturous reception after penning a new central IRFU contract to keep him with the province until 2023 at least, while 22-year-old Conor Fitzgerald will be keen to continue his rise at out-half.

Connacht should have more than enough quality to pick up their fifth Pro14 win of the season.

Connacht:

15. Matt Healy
14. Niyi Adeolokun
13. Kyle Godwin
12. Bundee Aki
11. John Porch
10. Conor Fitzgerald
9. Caolin Blade

1. Denis Buckley
2. Tom McCartney 
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Ultan Dillane
5. Quinn Roux (captain)
6. Eoghan Masterson
7. Colby Fainga’a
8. Paul Boyle

Replacements:

16. Shane Delahunt
17. Matthew Burke
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy
19. Joe Maksymiw
20. Jarrad Butler
21. Angus Lloyd
22. Jack Carty
23. Peter Robb

Southern Kings:

15. Scott van Breda
14. Chris Hollis
13. Erich Cronje
12, Howard Mnisi (captain)
11. Yaw Penxe
10. John-Thomas Jackson
9. Stefan Ungerer

1. Juan Schoeman
2. Jacques du Toit
3. Pieter Scholtz
4. Jerry Sexton
5. Aston Fortuin
6. Martinus Burger
7. Thembelani Bholi
8. Elrigh Louw

Replacements:

16. Chad Solomon
17. Xandre Vos
18. De-Jay Terblanche
19. Bobby de Wee
20. Ruaan Lerm
21. Theo Maree
22. Siyabonga Masuku
23. Sibusiso Sithole

Referee: Ben Whitehouse [Wales].

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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