Connacht branch CEO Gerry Kelly wants to see Connacht supporters marching down College Road to the Sportsground not to IRFU headquarters at Lansdowne Road.
In response to the recent fears that Connacht could be in for the chop because of a current IRFU review, Gerry Kelly says the audit is being undertaken to provide a sustainable future for Connacht Rugby.
“By that I mean a better future - nobody is talking about no future,” he said at yesterday’s press conference to unveil Eric Elwood’s succession to Michael Bradley.
Kelly said the branch and the IRFU will jointly develop a business plan for the way forward, including a major fundraising drive to improve facilities at the Galway Sportsground. Planning permission has already been secured to develop a second stand at the ground, but has been halted due to a lack of finance.
“ Munster and Leinster, who are well beyond most clubs in Europe, have the RDS and Thomond Park and we readily acknowledge that we have to improve our facility. We hope the union will embrace that, but obviously they are under pressure with the Aviva (stadium ), so we will be undertaking a major fundraiser campaign.”
Kelly said the recent international results had shown that Scotland, with just two professional teams, proved the need for strength and depth.
“It is well aceepted that what you need in Irish rugby is four professional teams. It was great for us to see Sean Cronin ready to replace Jerry Flannery in the Irish squad, and I believe there are a lot more Sean Cronins who need game time that we can offer here in Connacht.”
Kelly said the issue of one-year contracts was a compromise while the review was being undertaken.
“Initially it was a worry, but the players have embraced it and are looking positively towards the review.
“In the past there have been problems with the IRFU but things have improved and the over-riding need of the national team to have sufficient players has focussed the minds on having four strong provinces. Now it is how to strengthen the fourth province - being Connacht.”