Connacht under no illusions for tough trip North to face Ulster in Guinness PRO14 play-off

Connacht's Tiernan O'Halloran
Connacht's Tiernan O'Halloran

Connacht may have finally got the monkey of their backs last October when they defeated Ulster for the first time in 50 years in Belfast.

And they may be the only side to have won at Kingspan Stadium this season in any competition.

But a trip North once again for a Guinness PRO14 semi-final qualifier on Saturday (kick-off 5:35pm) against their rivals will still be as tough as ever insists fullback Tiernan O’Halloran.

“We’ve obviously beaten them up there this year, But it was our first time in 50 odd years so I don’t think we can go up there with too much confidence,” said O’Halloran.

“Yeah, look, we’re under no illusions. Every time we’ve been up there, it’s a hostile place to go, you know.

“The crowd put a lot of pressure on the team and on the referee as well, so, I think, discipline is going to be huge for us.

“Ulster are a very physical team, they’ve got some individuals who like to go with a low tackle focus and some big guys - like Stuart McCloskey - who like to go for a choke tackle.

“So, we know we’ve got different threats around the pitch and different areas we have to target as well.

“We’re well aware of that and we’ve got our plan in place to do that.

“But, I suppose our main focus this week is on ourselves and what we can bring.

“And I think that’s the beauty of it and that’s what we’ve done all season; we focused on ourselves and on our game and our structures and we haven’t focused too much on the opposition and what they bring.

“So, we’re going to stick to that this weekend again and we’re not going to get distracted by other things. We know what we need to do and we know what we need to target.

“But, at the same, hopefully put our plan in place and play our game.”

O’Halloran admits there are happy memories from that day in Belfast last October, but not much is being put on it as they go into this tie.

“Obviously we are well aware of how big the game is for us,” he said.

“It’s been quite a long season but I think this is exactly where we want to be. We set our goals out at the start of the season and we work towards that.

“We had our ups and downs throughout the season but, at the end of the day, we’re where we want to be and we’ve got a quarter final now.

“Up to Belfast in a spot where we got our first win in 50 odd years up there. So obviously, that’s a positive to think about it that way.

“But at the same time, we’re under no illusions about how tough it’s going to be in a knockout game in front of their crowd.”