Connacht fired up for derby clash but JP ruled out
Connacht prop JP Cooney has been ruled out for most of the remainder of the season but coach Kieran Keane is sweating on the fitness of loosehead Denis Buckley and impressive flanker Jarrad Butler ahead of Saturday's home showdown with Ulster.
Cooney yesterday underwent surgery on a hamstring injury which will keep him out of action until April at least in the latest setback to hit the Tipperary native.
Cooney, who played 22 times for Connacht last season, had been troubled by an ankle injury earlier this term and was working his way back in the B&I Cup and with Garryowen.
The 27-year-old has not played for Connacht since his 50th appearance against Munster last May.
Most of Cooney's appearances for Connacht since he joined five seasons ago have been off the bench and since he arrived has been a key member of the squad, not least as he's regarded as the prime funny man at the Sportsground.
"JP unfortunately has a really serious injury now," said coach Keane.
"That will take him out for the season. He has been a great squad member, very humorous man and keeps everybody on their toes with that humour."
Keane's side go into the festive derbies on the back of impressive wins over Brive which leaves them in a great position to nail down a home quarter-final in the Challenge Cup.
And with Connacht away to Leinster and Munster over the festive period, Keane knows a good result at home to Ulster at a packed Sportsground - extra terracing is being introduced for the tie - will add momentum.
"It's brought a lot of bounce around the place, a few smiles and a bit of humour which is good," he added.