The mayor of Galway said the Connacht rugby team epitomises all that is good about the West of Ireland.

Frank Fahy, who accompanied the team home from Edinburgh on Saturday night, said the side had brought honour and glory to all of the province.

“It’s not just rugby people who are celebrating today,” he said. “People from all sports and people with little interest in sport are walking a bit taller today. They have done it against all the odds and the manner in which they captured the Pro12 title was breathtaking. Everyone is so proud of them.”

The squad and management were given a heroes’ welcome in Galway city centre yesterday with an open-top bus tour of the city.

The squad assembled at the Town Hall Theatre and paraded through the streets of Galway to their home turf at the Sportsground.

Bright sunshine provided the perfect backdrop to an historic occasion.

It is Connacht’s first trophy of the professional era, but captain John Muldoon said they never gave up hope. “You always believe, but when you’re going through tough days it’s always harder to believe,” he said.

The 33-year old grew up in Portumna and he could easily have turned to hurling had he not concentrated on rugby.

“I might have been lifting the Liam McCarthy Cup but nothing changes and I’m just delighted.

“Deep down you always believe that it’s coming, and you always believe that you can be part of it and I’m just chuffed that I’m here,” said the victorious captain.

Coach Pat Lam was also given a massive ovation, having turned the side around in the three years since he arrived. The New Zealander, who captained Samoa, where his family originated, said it was a privilege to work with such a group.

“We represent Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Leitrim, and Sligo — the five counties — and all the Connacht people living abroad and we are honoured to do that.

“We are so grateful to all the support and goodwill we have received and we now want to build on this,” he said.

The team charter was greeted by almost 2,000 supporters when it touched down just after midnight on Saturday night at Ireland West Airport in Knock.


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