Connacht stalwart Michael Swift has experienced pretty much everything in his 11 seasons at the Galway, but finally reaching the promised-land of the Heineken Cup is one that he will cherish well into his retirement.
Not that the 34-year-old has any immediate plans of hanging up his boots. Having just signed a new one-year contract extension with the Irish province, he is eager to take the club to new heights having seen the club develop first-hand over the past decade.
Despite losing their last nine RaboDirect PRO12 games, the veteran back row is confident his side can put up a fight against their next European opponents – Toulouse on Friday – and insists it’s these nights that make the blood, sweat and tears he has shed in the famous green strip worthwhile labelling their 36-10 reverse at Galway to the French giants as one of the greatest moments of his career.
“Our objective was to play Heineken Cup and this year we’ve finally reached that goal and to play Toulouse at home was an experience in Galway, it was a night I’ll never forget,” said Swift who is Connacht’s most capped ever player.
“It shows what we can achieve in terms of moving on a step off the pitch. Obviously playing Toulouse on their home pitch is going to be an experience to really savour as well.
“People have been saying it’s the worst fixture we could have been given in our current form, but to be honest I see it as a positive.
“Expectations for us actually doing anything over there will probably be not very high, the pressure will be off and I personally think it’s probably one of the better fixtures we could be handed this weekend.”
With Toulouse sitting pretty at the summit of the Top 14, and having dispatched Lyon 51-10 on Saturday, you would forgive Swift if he was a little apprehensive ahead of the visit to Stade Ernest-Wallon.
But ever the optimist, London-born Swift says the trip to the South of France is just the tonic as Eric Elwood’s side look to arrest a winless run that dates back to September 23.
“Personally I can’t wait,” said Swift. “I’m really looking forward to it and also for the amount of travelling support we’ll have over there.
“It’s going to make some buzz that’s not really been felt by Connacht before. There could be 700 or 800 people over there in green, so I know we are going to show up for it for those travelling supporters.”