Connacht Rugby can today confirm that five new players will join the NUIG Connacht Academy for the 2014/15 season.

Four players have graduated to the senior squad next season with Darragh Leader, Jack Carty, Conor Finn and Finlay Bealham all signing one-year deals.

It has been confirmed that tighthead prop Jamie Dever will rejoin the Academy this year. The Mayo man was released on sabbatical last season due to a lengthy battle with a foot injury. He will come into year 2 of the Academy having already completed a season in 2012/13.

While Shane Layden has completed three years in the Academy, he unfortunately missed the majority of a season due to injury and so has been re-contracted for an additional year. Layden will train with the senior squad under Head Coach Pat Lam.

Of the five new recruits, three played with the Ireland U20s this year in both the IRB 6 Nations and Junior World Championship.

  • Ciaran Gaffney                   Back Three
  • Jack Dineen                       Hooker
  • Marc Kelly                          Back Row
  • Conor McKeon                    Outhalf
  • Peter Robb                         Centre

Introducing the new Connacht Academy recruits:

Ciaran Gaffney was one of the stand-out players in this summer’s Junior World Championship in New Zealand. As one of two Connacht representatives in the squad, Gaffney was named to start on the right wing for all five games.

Born in Galway, Gaffney was educated at the Bish before moving to Cistercian College Roscrea for the last two years of secondary school. The young back plays his club rugby with Galwegians RFC.

Balancing his rugby with a Commerce & French degree in NUIG, Gaffney was a member of the Connacht sub Academy this season and earned deserved recognition as a nominee for the ‘Connacht U19 Player of the Year’.

19-year-old hooker Jack Dinneen has also been promoted from the sub-academy. Born in Limerick, Dinneen now plays his club rugby with Galwegians RFC and studies Commerce in NUI Galway.

At the end of the 2013/14 season, Dinneen was drafted into the senior match day squad following an injury crisis at hooker. Having only recently converted from the back row to hooker, the young forward took his opportunity when called on from the bench against Munster at the Sportsground. He then went on to earn a second cap in the PRO12 as a replacement in the last game of the season away to Ospreys

Back row forward Marc Kelly recently lined out for the Ireland U19s against France and was also nominated for Connacht U19 Player of the Year after a great season with the province. The Portumna native was educated at Cisteran College Roscrea where he captained the senior cup team.

Outhalf Conor McKeon has been a regular for the Ireland U20’s, playing the last ten games in both the IRB 6 Nations and Junior World Championship in New Zealand. Second cousin to Connacht’s Eoin McKeon, the 20-year-old was born and educated in Dublin where he played his club rugby with Lansdowne RFC.

Hugely physical centre Peter Robb had a successful U20’s 6 Nations campaign under Mike Ruddock. The Old Belvedere club man started all five games in the competition and was set to continue his form in the Junior World Championship in New Zealand but had his season cut short when he sustained an injury in a JWC warm up game against Scotland U20’s.

Speaking about the upcoming season and new crop of players Academy Manager Nigel Carolan said:

“When recruiting players to the Academy, we always go back to the objective which is to produce winning rugby players who will go on to play for Connacht and Ireland. I am delighted with this new crop of players we have coming through. All have achieved success at age-grade level and this will be another step up for them in terms of their development – both on and off the field.

“It was great to see Academy graduate Kieran Marmion earn his first two international caps in Argentina this month and we’ve also been keeping an eye on the progress of other graduates Mick Kearney and Eoin Griffin with Dan McFarland in the ITM Nations Cup. To see those players as well as our representatives with the Ireland U20’s achieve success at the top level is extremely encouraging and we want to see more and more Academy graduates on those teams going forward.”

Full list of Connacht Academy 2014/15


  • Ultan Dillane                      Lock
  • Shane Layden                     Back Three


  • James Connolly                   Back Row
  • Jamie Dever                       Tight-Head Prop
  • Saba Meunargia                 Tight-Head Prop
  • Rory Moloney                     Back Row
  • Sean O’Brien                       Back Row/Lock
  • David Panter                       Back Three
  • Rory Parata                        Centre
  • Jacob Walshe                    Loose-Head Prop
  • Eoin Masterson                   Back Row
  • Caolin Blade                       Scrum Half


  • Ciaran Gaffney                   Back Three
  • Jack Dinneen                      Hooker
  • Marc Kelly                          Back Row
  • Conor McKeon                    Outhalf
  • Peter Robb                         Centre

Released: Tadgh Leader (Boston Wolfhounds) Peter Reilly (Waimate RFC, NZ), Steve Macauley (Waimate RFC, NZ), Marcus Walsh (Life University, US), Conor Kindregran.



Gallery: 6 Nations and Celtic Challenge