Six months ago, Galway’s Martin Fallon was in Murrayfield cheering on Connacht in the PRO12 final.
This week, he is backing the yellow and black of Wasps to achieve the double over Connacht in tomorrow’s Champions Cup fixture at the Sportsground.
Fallon, an NUI Galway graduate, is now marketing manager at Wasps RFC. He arrived at the club via Harlequins and Connacht, where he began his career in the commercial and marketing department after graduating from NUI Galway with a B Comm in marketing.
“When I first went to Wasps, it had a lot of similarities with Connacht. It was back in old Adams Park days, we trained at the amateur club’s ground, and it had a real family atmosphere. Since we moved to Coventry, things have changed. We have grown into quite a big business now.
“I was quite lucky, in that I had a season at Harlequins in between two seasons with Connacht, so I had a little experience of the Premiership. There is a difference, obviously, with all the clubs not run centrally through the union like Ireland, but each has its own merits, and at the end of the day, rugby is the same sport.”
From ground-sharing with Wycombe Wanderers in Buckinghamshire at the 10,000 capacity Adams Park (now the Causeway) to sharing the 32,000 Ricoh Arena with Coventry City FC has been a major change for Fallon. “It took me about two weeks to get my head around the place, I kept getting lost in the corridors. However, it’s been great and it’s been a challenge which I have relished.
“What the Ricoh has allowed us to do is a whole a lot more than 80 minutes of rugby on the pitch. We have a fan village that recently held 1,800 at a Christmas party and then can quickly change to rugby for a fan base.”
In addition to a hotel and casino, the facilities allow Wasps to hold events to accrue income. “Rugby is now just one small portion of the business, but we would never have been able to sign Kurtley Beale or Danny Cipriani if we did not have a facility like this to pay for it,” he says.
However Fallon still believes the club retains some of its old identity, with 1,100 core fans still travelling from its former bases in London.
“It has all the facilities, but it is still a good club with old school rugby and a lot of heart. It’s something that I would hope Connacht, on such a fantastic journey at the moment, will also have down the line — facilities to match this while also keeping that same soul.”
Galway and Connacht, he says, is crying out for a municipal stadium, common in France and Italy. “People in Galway and around the province — I know from my own experience — will embrace it. You only have to look in summer when every week there’s a festival, and I think a stadium like this could provide a focal point to host events. It would benefit Galway and the west of Ireland.”
Tomorrow: Sportsground, 5.30pm
Referee: Jerome Garces (Fra)
TV: Sky Sports 2
Betting: Connacht 9/5, Wasps 4/9, Draw 16/1
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