The city should be decked in Connacht flags and the Connacht Rugby colours of green and white, with the public, city businesses, and the Galway City Council doing all they can to support the team in the run up to their European cup match against Toulon.
This is the view of Fianna Fáil councillor Ollie Crowe, who is calling on the public to turn out in unprecedented numbers to cheer John Muldoon and his men to victory next week as Connacht face the Frenchmen in the Amlin Cup semi-final in the Sportsground, College Road, on Friday April 30 at 7.45pm.
While city businesses will be encouraged to get behind the team through the Go Green For Connacht campaign, local authority cutbacks, the recession, and budgetary constraints have limited what City Hall can do.
The Connacht Rugby branch contacted city manager Joe MacGrath seeking financial assistance in relation to the semi-final, however it was informed that the council “will not be in a position to provide the assistance” as there is not enough money in the local authority’s budget available.
However City Hall will provide car parking for the match and will assist Connacht Rugby with issues such a traffic management and litter management.
Cllr Crowe also had meetings with City Hall and has called on it to allocate funding for flags and bunting, which could be displayed on College Road, the city centre, etc. “It would not cost a huge amount of money but it would make a big difference and I hope the council try and back this,” he said.
He is also calling on city businesses to support the team given that more than 7,000 people will attend the match. As such it is crucial in both sporting and economic terms.
“This is a crucial match as a win will enhance Connacht’s future,” he said. “Connacht Rugby has been fighting an uphill battle in the professional era, as the IRFU fail to provide the level of funding enjoyed by other provinces, and that hinders development.
“It is also an opportunity for us to showcase Galway. If businesses could erect green and white flags, bunting, etc, on their shop fronts it would replicate the same festival atmosphere as last year’s Volvo Ocean Race.”
Cllr Crowe believes that, despite the straitened economic times, this could be done at a “relatively small cost” and given that Sky Sports and French Eurosport will be broadcasting the match, such actions would “generate revenue and have positive effects for Galway tourism”.
As part of the Go Green For Connacht campaign to support Connacht and display the provincial flag, the Connacht Rugby flag, and the team colours of green, Fáilte Ireland and Connacht Rugby sponsors Bank of Ireland and Elverys will hold a number of competitions.
Fáilte Ireland will hold a competition for the best window-dressing efforts in the city. Bank of Ireland will give six hospitality packages to the business which puts on the best display, including pre-match meal, match ticket, programme, and post match entertainment.
Elverys will hold a competition for schools with the winning school receiving €1,000 and Connacht jerseys. It will also hold a kicking competition at the match with a €1,000 prize on offer.
New Sportsground Terracing
Connacht does enjoy a large and dedicated following of supporters for every home game but every extra voice shouting “C’mon Connacht!” helps, according to former Connacht rugby president Michael Grealish.
“It’s the support that makes Connacht Rugby,” Mr Grealish told the Galway Advertiser, “and the team deserve the support so people should get the tickets early. It will be great for them and great for the city if we get the largest crowd ever at the match as Toulon are meant to be bringing 1,500 supporters.”
Mr Grealish added that Toulon boast a star line-up of international players such as Argentina’s Felipe Contepomi and England’s 2004 World Cup hero Jonny Wilkinson. “People might never again get the chance to see such an array of stars in Galway again,” he said.
It is estimated that, aside from the Toulon supporters, and the regular 1,200+ Connacht supporters, there could be c7,000 people attending the match. To accommodate and encourage more supporters, extra terraces will be erected in the Sportsground today.
A new terrace stand, similar to that at the Bohermore end will be erected at the College Road end of the grounds. New terraced spaces will be added to those on the Clubhouse side of the pitch, while there will be new terraced areas at either side of the main stand. Some of this extra terracing will remain after the Toulon match.
There will be a big screen installed for the match and Macnas are likely to be out in force to add to the colour and excitement of the occasion.
In order to get as many Connacht supporters to the game as possible, special trains will be laid on by Iarnrod Éireann on Friday. A return fare of €10 will apply on the service from Athlone to Galway, with supporters able to avail of the regular service at 4.04pm, 5.04pm, and 6.02pm, with the return train leaving Galway at 9.15pm. The train will service Athlone, Ballinasloe, Woodlawn, Athenry, and Galway.
A hospitality package has been organised with a special marquee at the Sportsground. Packages are €100 per person and include a pre-match supper, complimentary drinks, seated match ticket, match programme, and post match entertainment. To book a place contact 091 - 561568.
Tickets are available from Ticketmaster.ie and the Connacht Rugby Office (091 - 561568 ). Businesses looking to obtain flags/bunting may contact Connacht office also.