Connacht lock Andrew Browne wants to end a decade of “bad memories” at Ravenhill in tonight’s Guinness Pro12 derby against Ulster.
“It makes you want to win up there even more,” says Browne of his miserable run of results in Belfast.
“It’s another big game, another cup final so to speak, and we are going up there with a lot of confidence.”
Browne, who scored his first try for Connacht in a 12-14 defeat to Ulster at the Sportsground seven years ago, lines out with Ali Muldowney in a much-changed Connacht selection.
Despite missing several key players, the 29-years-old Galwegian, whose older brother Damien played for Connacht and Leinster, has no concerns about facing into such an onerous challenge.
“We mentioned it at the end of a training session, that it is not the 23 who go out on the park, but the entire squad, the collective, and how we all challenge each other week-in and week-out; all of that is transferring onto the pitch.
“We are getting closer and closer (to winning in Belfast) especially last year.
“That St Stephen’s Day game was extremely tight in poor conditions, but this year is different. It comes from confidence. It is confidence from the wins that has us top of the league, confidence in how we are training.
“Ulster is an absolutely massive challenge, they have an efficient pack, an extremely good lineout, a great scrum, two quality hookers in Best (who is starting) and Herring, not to mention the back line. There is quality all over the park.”
Browne’s last full 80 minutes was against Leinster on New Year’s Day. After several months sidelined with a shoulder injury, he came on for 50 minutes last weekend in a hard fought victory over the eastern province.
“What a game to come back to. Having missed the Munster win in Thomond, it was great to be involved in the win against Leinster.”
Browne, a convert from back-row to lock, will be more than happy to repeat those nail-biting final minutes against Leinster if it means breaking a 55 years hoodoo against Ulster.
“What was going through our heads (against Leinster) was ‘don’t give away a penalty. If we want to be top of the league and qualify for Champions Cup, this is where we have to pull through’, and that is exactly what we did.
“The effort was incredible.
“I listened to Mul [John Muldoon] on Sky TV talking about 2003 when Connacht was going to be disbanded. And now 13 years later we are top of the league.
“For a Connacht man it means a lot, and you do get a little emotional. I think it’s important to savour and enjoy these wins because we have faced a lot of hard times.
“But now we are looking at Ulster. The atmosphere can be very hostile, but you have to embrace it.
“There’s a few places in France like that, but it makes it even sweeter when you see a hostile crowd leaving at the end and they are not too happy.”
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