Another home-grown stalwart to leave Connacht

Connacht stalwart Andrew Browne will end his playing days with the club at the end of this season.

The 31-years-old Galwegian has spent 13 years with the province, 11 years with the senior squad, after joining the academy.

Having played with the Bish and Galwegians, Browne, who converted from the back row to lock, became an integral player in the squad, particularly over the last six years, and his experience and leadership qualities will be missed.

A brother of former second row and solo Atlantic sailor Damian, Browne is a highly regarded squad member, who was central in Connacht’s PRO12 Championship winning campaign in 2016.

The popular Galwegian has struggled with injuries in recent years, and was out for much of last season with a persistent Achilles injury. He returned to play against the Ospreys, only to be forced off the field.

"It is with great sadness that I say goodbye to Connacht rugby after 13 years," says Browne. "From going to the Sportsground as a kid, to joining the academy and going on to play for the senior team, it’s been amazing to watch this club grow...and I feel very privileged to have played a small part along the way.

"Unfortunately, injuries have hindered me the past couple of years and I haven’t been able to contribute to the team as I would have liked. But, as we all know, injuries are a part of rugby and you learn to take the good with the bad. In the end the good memories will always outweigh the bad."

Connacht CEO Willie Ruane says Browne has been a "great player and leader for Connacht on the field and a fantastic ambassador off it over the past 11 years".

"He is an incredibly resilient character and represents everything that is good about Connacht Rugby and what we aim to achieve."

Browne is one of 12 players whose departures have been announced this season, including captain John Muldoon, who will be farewelled next weekend when Leinster visit the Sportsground for the last fixture.

It comes at the end of a disappointing season for Connacht who, having fallen short of expectations under Pat Lam last season, have struggled to adapt to the new coaching structures this year.

With little continuity from previous seasons - only Jimmy Duffy remained on the coaching ticket - it has been a huge learning curve for players and new head coach Kieran Keane.

Struggling early on was understandable given Keane's late arrival in the province, and there have been some strong signs of a new attacking style and fluidity in performance, but the defeat to Gloucester three weeks ago ended Connacht's season and has obviously taken its toll on the players - despite a perceived mindset to win. Few individuals had anything but pride to play - only a handful are likely to be selected for the Ireland summer tour - and that was never going to be enough against a side primed to top the conference table.

As a result no one was surprised with the Warriors' 35-22 victory in Scotstoun last Friday. Playing with supreme confidence, Dave Rennie's side, boasting 11 internationals, displayed the type of rugby Keane would dearly love his side to develop in time.

Although Connacht grabbed an early try from Finlay Bealham after a forward drive, and a 23m penalty, the home side began to run riot after a simple missed tackle allowed Hogg to saunter over for the first of their four tries. The sheer speed and continuity of Glasgow when running from deep forced too many gaps in the Connacht line, the tries looked so easy. In contrast Connacht were able to keep the ball in hand, but failed to make the necessary yardage.

The one bright spot was a solid rolling maul and an improved line-out, but poor decision making proved costly. By 42 minutes Glasgow were 35-8 in front, Kieran Marmion showing despairing determination to halt Fraser Browne under the posts. With the bonus point wrapped up, Glasgow took their foot off the gas, and Connacht found some impetus, but after three penalties on the trot from a scrum and drive, Connacht unfathomably went to the line and the opportunity was lost. Eventually Caolan Blade crossed, while a penalty try at the death provided some respectability on the scoreline.

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