Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce the club have reached an agreement to sign Bristol Bears second row Joe Joyce for the start of the 2023/24 season.
 
The 28 year old will make the move to Connacht after he completes his 11th season at the Gallagher Premiership club, where he has already made more than 150 appearances, including helping his side to win the EPCR Challenge Cup title in 2020.
 
In 2017/2018 Joyce was named the Bristol Bears Player of the Season, when he played a leading role in his hometown club’s promotion back to the top flight.
 
While Joyce has consistently been one of the Bears’ best performers over the last number of years, the 2021/22 season has arguably been his best yet. Acting as Captain for parts of the campaign, Joyce’s huge contribution both on and off the pitch was recognised when he was named the club’s Forward of the Season, Team Man of the Season and Supporters’ Player of the Season.
 
In addition to his outstanding personal achievements with his club, Joyce was also shortlisted for the Gallagher Community Player of the Season award, in recognition of his community engagement efforts with local charities and programmes.
 
The 28-year old is extremely proud of his Irish and Connacht heritage – his grandparents were born in Clonbur Co. Galway – and he has already represented Ireland, featuring in the 2014 U20 Six Nations campaign.
 
Joe Joyce says he is looking forward to the new challenge:
 
“After many years representing my hometown club I’m very excited about the opportunity to represent my Irish roots and my family name. I’ve been to the West of Ireland and The Sportsground on many occasions to visit family and as a supporter, and I can’t wait to make an impact on and off the field in the province as a Connacht player and make my family proud. After speaking to the coaches, Tim and Willie I’m very excited about the future of Connacht Rugby and can’t wait to be a part of it.”
 
Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“We are thrilled Joe has chosen to join the club for the start of the 2023/24 season. Whilst we know his arrival is still 12 months away, we are already excited by the prospect of what he will bring to Connacht Rugby and his signing represents a key addition to the squad we are looking to build. Joe is a big physical lock, with excellent athletic and footballing ability and so he is a great fit for how we want play. Off the pitch Joe is also the type of player who understands the importance of community and I have no doubt he will make a positive impact in that area, something we as a club place a significant value on.”

– 218km cycle from The Sportsground to Sligo RFC to take place on Saturday 13th August
– Club members & Connacht Rugby staff to take part, including Andy Friend & Eric Elwood
– Funds raised to support Claire Carpenter, partner of Connacht employee Ross Mannion

 
Connacht Rugby can announce that it is organising a special provincial-wide charity cycle on Saturday 13th August, in aid of Sligo native Claire Carpenter.
 
The 218km cycle from The Sportsground to Sligo RFC will involve both Connacht staff members and club volunteers, all with the aim of raising much-needed funds.
 
About the Cycle
 
The cycle will begin at The Sportsground in Galway in the early hours of Saturday 13th August and will finish at Sligo RFC. The route will take in all five counties with stops in Ballinrobe Co. Mayo, Ballyhaunis Co. Mayo, Frenchpark Co. Roscommon, Carrick-on-Shannon Co. Leitrim, and finally Ross and Claire’s home in Coolaney Co. Sligo, before the final stretch to Sligo RFC.
 
Taking part in the cycle will be representatives from clubs around Connacht, as well as a number of Connacht Rugby staff members including Andy Friend and Eric Elwood.
 
About Claire Carpenter
 
On 10th February, 35-year old Sligo native Claire Carpenter suffered a serious and life-changing event.
 
After a few days of feeling unwell, Claire suffered a stroke at her home in Coolaney. After being rushed to the ICU unit of Beaumont Hospital she was placed in an induced coma for over a week following a life-saving operation. Claire is now thankfully on the road to recovery, however significant funds need to be raised to allow her to continue her rehabilitation in Dun Laoghaire, and eventually lead an independent life at home.
 
Claire’s partner Ross Mannion is a Rugby Participation Officer with Connacht Rugby and was Head Coach of the Connacht Women’s team in 2021.
 
The pair were in the process of organising their wedding this summer which was already twice postponed due to COVID. Their wedding has again been postponed while they focus on Claire’s health and wellbeing.
 
They have three children, Luke (14), Anna (10) and Zach (7).
 

 
About the Fundraiser
 
Shortly after her stroke a GoFundMe page was set up to support Claire and her family. The support they have received has been nothing short of phenomenal, with over €90,000 already donated.
 
The aim of this charity cycle is to increase that number even further, and give Claire, Ross and their children the help they need and deserve.
 
How You Can Help
 
The quickest and easiest way to support the charity cycle is by donating to the GoFundMe page HERE. By doing this, no matter how big or small your donation will be, you will make a substantial difference to Claire’s life and would be hugely appreciated by the Carpenter, Mannion and Connacht Rugby families.
 
If you live near any of the stops, you can also volunteer to make the stop as seamless as possible for the riders on the 13th August. If you would like to help out please email [email protected] with the subject line ‘Care4Claire’.
 
Please note that all vacancies on the cycle have been filled, however you can contact Connacht Rugby or your local club to register your interest if more vacancies arise.
 
Further details about the Care4Claire cycle will be shared by Connacht Rugby in the coming weeks.
 
DONATE TO CARE FOR CLAIRE HERE
 

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has named an extended 40 player squad for the five game Tour of New Zealand this summer.
 
Johnny Sexton will captain the squad in what will be Ireland’s first tour since the 2018 series win over Australia. Ireland will play three Test matches against New Zealand in Auckland, Dunedin and Wellington as well as two fixtures against the Māori All Blacks in Hamilton ahead of the first Test and in Wellington following the second Test.
 
Ireland have not toured New Zealand since 2012 and have never recorded a victory over the All Blacks in Aotearoa. Five players in the current squad toured New Zealand in 2012 – Cian Healy, Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Johnny Sexton and Keith Earls while Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Johnny Sexton and Robbie Henshaw were part of the British & Irish Lions squad who toured New Zealand in 2017.
 
There are five uncapped players included in the squad Ciaran Frawley, Joe McCarthy, Jimmy O’Brien (all Leinster), Jeremy Loughman (Munster) and Cian Prendergast (Connacht).
 
There are a further 12 players included who have won less than 10 caps for Ireland – Harry Byrne, Craig Casey, Gavin Coombes, Mack Hansen, James Hume, Michael Lowry, Ryan Baird, Dave Heffernan, Tom O’Toole, Dan Sheehan, Nick Timoney and Kieran Treadwell.
 
Robert Baloucoune, Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell and Ronan Kelleher have been ruled out of the tour through injury.
 
Andy Farrell commented, “This is the start of our Rugby World Cup campaign and it is going to be a fantastic challenge for our group facing five massive tests across the three weeks.
 
Due to Covid we haven’t had an opportunity to tour and touring plays a massive role in teams gelling together and building cohesion on and off the field. This group could also be the last to play a Test series in New Zealand which makes it even more special.
 
We will learn so much about the players and the group as a whole as we have to front up for five incredibly tough fixtures, far from the comforts of home and in grounds where the home support will greatly outnumber travelling Irish fans.”

 
Connacht’s Senior Coach Peter Wilkins will join the national coaching group for the duration of the tour to assist in team preparation.
 
Mick Kearney has been re-appointed as Men’s National Team Manager following Gerard Carmody’s promotion to IRFU Director of Operations. Mick previously held the position between 2012 and 2016 and will fulfil the role through to the end of the Rugby World Cup in France. Geraldine Armstrong, will lead team operations for the tour to New Zealand while Gerard Carmody will continue to support team operations and planning for RWC23.
 
Ireland 2022 Summer Tour Squad
 
Backs (18)
Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 37 caps
Harry Byrne (Leinster/Lansdowne) 2 caps
Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 32 caps
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 5 caps
Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 96 caps
Ciaran Frawley (Leinster/Skerries) uncapped
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 17 caps
Mack Hansen (Connacht) 4 caps
Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 57 caps
James Hume (Ulster/Banbridge) 3 caps
Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 20 caps
Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 30 caps
James Lowe (Leinster) 12 caps
Michael Lowry (Ulster/Banbridge) 1 cap
Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 96 caps
Jimmy O’Brien (Leinster/Naas) uncapped
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 42 caps
Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 105 caps CAPTAIN
 
Forwards (22)
Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 8 caps
Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 23 caps
Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 30 caps
Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 27 caps
Gavin Coombes (Munster/Young Munster) 2 caps
Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 17 caps
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 57 caps
Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 116 caps
Dave Heffernan (Connacht/Buccaneers) 6 caps
Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 68 caps
Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 26 caps
Jeremy Loughman (Munster/Garryowen) uncapped
Joe McCarthy (Leinster/Dublin) uncapped
Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 84 caps
Tom O’Toole (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 2 caps
Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 43 caps
Cian Prendergast (Connacht) uncapped
James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 43 caps
Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne) 7 caps
Nick Timoney (Ulster/Banbridge) 2 caps
Kieran Treadwell (Ulster/Ballymena) 5 caps
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 40 caps
 
Ireland 2022 Summer Tour Fixtures
 
Māori All Blacks v IRELAND
FMG Stadium, Hamilton, Wednesday 29th June, 2022 (KO: 8.05am)
 
New Zealand v IRELAND
Eden Park, Auckland, Saturday 2nd July, 2022 (KO: 8.05am)
 
New Zealand v IRELAND
Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, Saturday 9th July, 2022 (KO: 8.05am)
 
Māori All Blacks v IRELAND
SKY Stadium, Wellington, Tuesday 12th July, 2022 (KO: 8.05am)
 
New Zealand v IRELAND
SKY Stadium, Wellington, Saturday 16th July, 2022 (KO: 8.05am)

Following the landmark announcement of the inclusion of the leading South African clubs in its tournaments, EPCR is pleased to confirm the formats and qualifiers for next season’s expanded Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup.
 
Twenty clubs will play in next season’s EPCR Challenge Cup with eight representatives from the United Rugby Championship, including the Johannesburg-based Lions who will also be making a historic first appearance in an EPCR competition, six from the TOP 14, five from the Premiership, as well as the Cheetahs from Bloemfontein who have accepted an invitation to compete. (See qualifiers below)
 
The clubs will be divided into two pools of 10 – Pool A and Pool B – and in a similar format to the Heineken Champions Cup, the tournament will be played over eight weekends with four rounds of matches in the pool stage starting in December.
 
The six highest-ranked clubs from each pool, as well as the 9th and 10th ranked clubs from each of the Heineken Champions Cup pools, will qualify for a Round of 16, which will be followed by quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final at the Aviva Stadium on 19 May 2023.
 
The live-streamed draw for the EPCR Challenge Cup pools is also scheduled to take place at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday 28 June with the clubs separated into three tiers based on their rankings, and clubs from the same league will not play against one another during the pool stage.
 
The number 1 and number 2 ranked clubs from each league will be in Tier 1, the number 3 and number 4 ranked clubs from each league, as well as the number 5 and number 6 ranked clubs from the URC, will be in Tier 2. The Dragons, Zebre Parma, Aviron Bayonnais, USAP, Bath Rugby and the Cheetahs will be in Tier 3.
 
The Tier 1 and the Tier 3 clubs which have been drawn in the same pool, but which are not in the same league, will play one another home and away over four pool stage rounds.
 
The Tier 2 clubs which have been drawn in the same pool, but which are not from the same league, will play one another home and away during the pool stage. In order to adhere to the key principle of no same-league matches, Tier 2 clubs from the TOP 14 can only play against opposition from the URC, and similarly, Tier 2 clubs from the Premiership can also only play against opposition from the URC.
 
Further details and timings for the draws for both the Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup pools will be communicated shortly.
 
2022/23 HEINEKEN CHAMPIONS CUP QUALIFIERS
TOP 14: Castres Olympique, Montpellier Hérault Rugby, Union Bordeaux-Bègles, Stade Toulousain, 5 Stade Rochelais, 6 Racing 92, 7 ASM Clermont Auvergne, 8 Lyon
Gallagher Premiership: Leicester Tigers, Saracens, 3 Harlequins, 4 Northampton Saints, 5 Gloucester Rugby, 6 Sale Sharks, 7 Exeter Chiefs, 8 London Irish
United Rugby Championship: Stormers, Bulls, 3 Leinster Rugby, 4 Ulster Rugby, 5 Sharks, 6 Munster Rugby, 7 Edinburgh Rugby, 8 Ospreys
 
2022/23 EPCR CHALLENGE CUP QUALIFIERS
United Rugby Championship: 1 Glasgow Warriors, 2 Scarlets, 3 Connacht Rugby, 4 Lions, 5 Benetton Rugby, 6 Cardiff Rugby, 7 Dragons, 8 Zebre Parma
TOP 14: 1 RC Toulon, 2 Section Paloise, 3 Stade Français Paris, 4 CA Brive, 5 Aviron Bayonnais, 6 USAP
Gallagher Premiership: 1 Wasps, 2 Bristol Bears, 3 Worcester Warriors, 4 Newcastle Falcons, 5 Bath Rugby
Invited: Cheetahs
 
2022/23 key dates
Round 1 – 9/10/11 December 2022
Round 2 – 16/17/18 December 2022
Round 3 – 13/14/15 January 2023
Round 4 – 20/21/22 January 2023
Round of 16 – 31 March/ 1/2 April 2023
Quarter-finals – 7/8/9 April 2023
Semi-finals – 28/29/30 April 2023
EPCR Challenge Cup final – Friday 19 May 2023; Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Heineken Champions Cup final – Saturday 20 May 2023; Aviva Stadium, Dublin

Connacht Rugby are delighted to confirm that Phase 1 of the historic redevelopment of The Sportsground has now begun with the installation of a new artificial playing surface and floodlight system.
 
Following preliminary works earlier this week, a full excavation of the pitch is now underway to allow the laying of a new state-of-the-art surface ahead of the 2022/23 season.
 
The new artificial surface will enable Connacht Rugby to retain The Sportsground as both its training and playing base long into the future with additional capacity to continue hosting the very many club and school games that take place in the Sportsground every year.
 
Meanwhile Phase 2 of the redevelopment will soon be entering the procurement phase leading to the construction of a state-of-the-art High Performance Centre and the construction of a new North Stand to follow thereafter.
 
Willie Ruane, CEO of Connacht Rugby says:
 
“This is a historic occasion for Connacht Rugby. ‘Facilities to match our ambition’ has been a key pillar of our vision and strategy, and plans for such a facility have been in the works for many years now. Today we are delighted to confirm that Phase 1 on the construction of this new facility has now begun.
 
There are many advantages to an artificial surface, not least that it enables us to remain in The Sportsground as both our training and playing base. The additional capacity that this surface provides will also give boys and girls across the province greater opportunities to play at the home of Connacht Rugby, and act as a beacon that future generations of players and supporters can be proud of.
 
The new LED floodlight system will also greatly enhance the viewing experience for both supporters attending games and those watching at home.
 
Needless to say The Sportsground holds an emotional attachment for all of us and any change can be difficult. These works however represent a new phase in the life of The Sportsground and one that will secure its future as a fit-for-purpose facility for many years to come.
 
This redevelopment project is also the start of what is a very exciting time for Connacht Rugby. The new High Performance Centre will give all our squads state-of-the-art facilities that will help them prepare to their fullest potential and to perform at the highest level. The new North Stand will also transform the club in terms of the facilities we can offer our fans and players and in the commercial and financial benefits that accrue with that.
 
Finally, I would like to thank the Government, whose financial support has made this redevelopment possible, the Sportsground Stakeholders and our local residents for their fulsome support of this project.”
 

 

 

By John O’Sullivan

 

Connacht wrapped up their United Rugby Championship campaign with a 22-20 win over Zebre at the Sportsground. 

 

It was an emotional day as the fans said goodbye to Ultan Dillane, Eoghan Masterson, Sammy Arnold and Abraham Papali’i who will all depart the province but the team delivered the bonus point win to mark the occasion in style. 

 

The hosts scored four tries in total, through Kieran Marmion, Niall Murray, Masterson on his Connacht swansong and John Porch in a performance showcasing some excellent attacking play. 

 

The away team, meanwhile, scored three tries of their own and added a penalty, but it was the home team who held on for the deserved win. 

 

With the Sportsground bathed in balmy weather, both teams were content to play an open brand of rugby in the opening exchanges and it was Zebre who drew first blood. 

 

Strong breakdown work won the visitors a penalty and Carlo Canna made no mistake in slotting the kick and the Italian team worked themselves into a 3-0 lead with barely five minutes gone. 

 

Connacht, however, worked their way back into the game immediately in what was proving a highly entertaining opening seven minutes of the contest. 

 

After a clever line-out routine, Tom Daly carried hard and punctured through the Zebre defence. The centre was stopped eventually, but the hosts had an overload wide on the left and the ball was moved to Marmion who dove in the for the score to move Connacht 5-3 ahead. 

 

The home team were totally in the ascendancy after their try – with Daly and Cian Prendergast central to their ball carrying and playmaking efforts – and they made it two tries not long after their first. A beautiful sweeping move from right to left saw Prendergast acrobatically dodge a would-be tackle with a step before delivering an even better offload to Murray to touch down in the left corner and take the score to 10-3. 

 

The Connacht broken play attack looked superb, but so, too, did set-piece attacks and it showed just after the midway point of the first half. In his final appearance at the Sportsground, a well–constructed line–out maul saw Masterson touch down for a try manufactured by the pack. Carty slotted the extras and the hosts lead 17-3. 

 

Zebre, to their credit, didn’t baulk and they had the game’s next try, on the stroke of halftime. Full-back Lorenzo Pani was the benefactor of a quick move and he touched down in the corner. The conversion was wide and the teams went into the interval with Connacht 17-8 in the lead. 

 

Connacht wrestled momentum back at the beginning of the second half and their pressure told with the second period eight minutes old. The hosts spread the ball wide quickly first through Carty and then Oran McNulty, with the full-back feeding Porch, whose step and pace took him away from the cover defence and over the line for a try of both collective and individual brilliance. The home team were deserving of both their bonus point and their 22-8 lead. 

 

With both teams emptying their benches – Dillane, Papali’i and Arnold came on for their Connacht swang songs – the game became fractious and it was the visitors who were the team to snap out of the lull first and they went over for an unconverted try through their replacement tight-head Matteo Nocera muscled over from close range to see the home team’s score reduced to 22-13 with ten minutes remaining. 

 

With their tails up, the Italians went in search of more scores and they registered their third try with the game approaching the 80th-minute mark. Centre Enrico Lucchin showed great pace and strength to breakthrough for an individual try that Cana converted to cut the host’s lead to 22-20 with just over a minute left. 

 

The hosts, however, showed determination to pin Zebre in their own half and close off the game to take the win at 22-20. 

 

Connacht team: 

 

(15-9)

 

15: Oran McNulty 

14: John Porch 

13: Tom Farrell 

12: Tom Daly 

11: Alex Wootton 

10: Jack Carty 

9: Kieran Marmion 

 

(8-1)

 

8: Cian Prendergast 

7: Sean Masterson 

6: Eoghan Masterson 

5: Niall Murray 

4: Gavin Thornbury 

3: Finlay Bealham 

2: Dylan Tierney Martin 

1: Denis Buckley 

 

REPLACEMENTS: 

 

16: Dave Heffernan for Tierney Martin 

17: Matthew Burke for Buckley 

18: Sam Illo for Bealham 

19: Ultan Dillane for Thornbury 

20: Abraham Papali’i for E. Masterson 

21: Colm Reilly for Marmion 

22: Conor Fitzgerald for Carty 

23: Sammy Arnold for Farrell

The Connacht matchday 23 has been named for tomorrow’s final game of the season against Zebre Parma at The Sportsground (k/o 5pm).
 
Andy Friend and his coaching staff have opted for a blend of youth and experience. Dylan Tierney-Martin is handed his first Connacht start at hooker, while there are also starts for Seán Masterson at openside flanker and Oran McNulty at full-back.
 
Centurions Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham partner Tierney-Martin in the front row, while locks Gavin Thornbury and Niall Murray are paired together. Masterson is accompanied in the back row by his brother Eoghan and Cian Prendergast at number 8.
 
Kieran Marmion and captain Jack Carty continue at 9 and 10 respectively, as do centres Tom Daly and Tom Farrell. The side is completed by wingers Alex Wootton and John Porch.
 
Included on the bench are departing players Ultan Dillane, Abraham Papali’i and Sammy Arnold who will make their final appearances for the club if called upon.
 
As is tradition in Connacht, all the departing players will be presented to the supporters after the final whistle – the first time since pre-COVID that such a presentation will be able to take place.
 
Commenting on the team selection, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“Even though we missed out on the playoffs we have plenty to play for tomorrow. Finishing with a 50% win record is important, but more so is finishing on a high at our home ground – both for our playing group and our supporters.
 
The likes of Dylan, Seán and Oran all deserve their opportunity tomorrow and I know the departing players involved will savour the experience as well.”
 

CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS ZEBRE PARMA
Saturday 21st May, 17:00 @ The Sportsground
 
Number/Name/Caps
15. Oran McNulty (8)
14. John Porch (58)
13. Tom Farrell (78)
12. Tom Daly (60)
11. Alex Wootton (33)
10. Jack Carty (179)
9. Kieran Marmion (208)
1. Denis Buckley (207)
2. Dylan Tierney-Martin (5)
3. Finlay Bealham (173)
4. Gavin Thornbury (62)
5. Niall Murray (34)
6. Eoghan Masterson (118)
7. Seán Masterson (17)
8. Cian Prendergast (30)
 
Replacements
16. Dave Heffernan (164)
17. Matthew Burke (38)
18. Jack Aungier (31)
19. Ultan Dillane (126)
20. Abraham Papali’i (24)
21. Colm Reilly (8)
22. Conor Fitzgerald (52)
23. Sammy Arnold (37)

Head coach Andy Friend says that Connacht are looking to end their season on a high with a win over Zebre Parma at the Sportsground in the United Rugby Championship on Saturday, kick-off at 5 PM. 

 

With several players leaving the province at the end of the season, the Australian is keen for them to feel the appreciation of the fans before they depart for new pastures. 

 

Abraham Papali’i, Eoghan Masterson, Peter Robb, and the retiring Matt Healy – among others – will be leaving Connacht and, given large swathes of the previous season were played in empty stadiums, they will be given their send-off in front of an atmospheric Sportsground crowd. 

 

Despite the game wrapping up the campaign, Friend says that training has been at a high level and the players’ focus is on putting on a good showing and securing the victory. 

 

“It’s a tricky period because you have players exiting,” the head coach said. 

 

“You’ve got the last game, which is still an important game because it’s another chance to play in front of your family and friends and support, as well as putting on the Connacht jersey. 

 

“We know we can’t go any lower or any higher on the ladder(the table) but it is still an important game. In fairness to them all, they have been really good and their heads are definitely on, so let’s bring on Saturday.”

 

Mack Hansen and Cian Prendergast picked up awards at last Friday’s Connacht Rugby awards and Friend is looking forward to not only those players, but everyone in the squad making more strides next season. 

 

The Australian also detailed how pleased he was with individual improvements from players in the Connacht pack and the growth of players across the board will increase the level of competition next season and will complement the qualities brought by the new recruits. 

 

“Yeah, I think there were some great performances this year,” he said. 

 

“The boys you named(Hansen and Prendergast) and others as well. I thought the growth of our second-row stocks rose this year. I thought Matthew Burke and Jordan Duggan, when Denis Buckley was out for so long, had enormous growth throughout the course of the year. Jack Aungier came in and improved again. 

 

“There were some really good performers throughout the course of the year, but what’s important is if you have a poor game there are quality footballers sitting behind you. That’s when players tend not to have a poor game, because the pressure’s there. 

 

And that’s what we’re building here at Connacht Rugby where we’re going to have, I believe, a squad of 44 where there’s genuine competition across all positions and slip up, in terms of performances, next season and you might not get another chance.”

Mack Hansen and Catherine Martin were the big winners at last night’s annual Connacht Rugby Awards Ball, with the pair named Men’s and Women’s Player of the Year for 2021/22.
 
The accolade is the latest in a string of achievements for Hansen who has enjoyed a whirlwind first season at the club. The back three player scored 7 tries in 14 appearances for the province, and also started in four of Ireland’s five Guinness Six Nations games, scoring a famous try against France in the process.
 
His performances meant he was duly voted the Men’s Player of the Year by his fellow teammates, with Cian Prendergast and Conor Oliver also nominated for the award.
 
The Women’s Player of the Year award went to Catherine Martin after her excellent appearances for Connacht in this season’s Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial Championship.
 
Meanwhile Cian Prendergast’s breakthrough season was deservedly acknowledged by the supporters, with the flanker named the Fans’ Player of the Year after a week of public voting on connachtrugby.ie.
 
Matthew Devine capped a brilliant season with the scrum-half named the Academy Player of the Year, largely thanks to his excellent performances for the Ireland U20s in their Grand Slam-winning Six Nations campaign.
 
There were also emotional scenes at the Clayton Hotel when the late, great Mick Grealish was posthumously awarded the Lifetime Contribution to Connacht Rugby Award, with his wife Maureen and family on hand to receive the accolade on his behalf.
 
The full list of winners and nominees is as follows (winners in italics):
 
U18 Men’s Player of the Year, sponsored by Sound to Light
Max Flynn – Corinthians RFC / CC Roscrea
Hugh Gavin – Galwegians RFC / The Jes
Ryan Roche – Galwegians RFC / St. Paul’s Oughterard
 
U18 Women’s Player of the Year, sponsored by RDJ
Molly Boote – Connemara RFC / Clifden Community College
Éabha Nic Dhonnacha – Corinthians RFC / Chuimsitheach na Chiaráin, An Cheathru Rua
Karly Tierney – Tuam/Oughterard RFC / Salerno Salthill
 
U19 Men’s Player of the Year, sponsored by Benchmark Recruitment
Harry West – Ballina RFC / King’s Hospital
John Devine – Ballinasloe RFC / Garbally College
Adam Hunter – Sligo RFC / Sligo Grammar
 
Academy Player of the Year, sponsored by Total Health
Matthew Devine
Cathal Forde
Diarmuid Kilgallen
 
Referee of the Year, sponsored by LK Shields
Andrew Fogarty
Siobhán Daly
Gerry Geraghty
 
Coach of the Year, sponsored by Deloitte
Charlie Couper – Buccaneers RFC
Martin Cummins – Dunmore RFC
Henry O’Toole – Connemara RFC
 
Women’s Club Player of the Year, sponsored by CityLink
Aoife Williams – Galwegians RFC
Noreen Coyne – Westport RFC
Hazel Kilduff – Buccaneers RFC
 
Men’s Junior Club Player of the Year, sponsored by Laya
Brian Diffley – Creggs RFC
Steven Conroy – Ballinrobe RFC
Ian Staunton – Connemara RFC
 
Men’s Senior Club Player of the Year, sponsored by Aerogen
Calum Quinn – Ballina RFC
Shayn Layden – Buccaneers RFC
Mark McDermott – Corinthians RFC
 
Club of the Year, sponsored by Bank of Ireland
Creggs RFC
Buccaneers RFC
Sligo RFC
 
Fans’ Player of the Year, sponsored by Intersport Elverys
Cian Prendergast
Jack Carty
Shane Delahunt
Mack Hansen
Conor Oliver
 
Lifetime Contribution to Connacht Rugby, sponsored by Heineken
Mick Grealish R.I.P.
 
Women’s Player of the Year, sponsored by Genesys
Catherine Martin
Orla Dixon
Fiona Scally
 
Men’s Player of the Year, sponsored by Genesys
Mack Hansen
Conor Oliver
Cian Prendergast
 

Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce that Cian Prendergast has signed a long-term deal with the club until 2025.

Prendergast had 12 months remaining on his initial deal, but like Mack Hansen has also agreed to extend his time at the club by at least an additional two years.

The flanker has been a revelation at Connacht since first joining the Academy in the summer of 2020. After just a few months in the West he came on for his Professional debut away to Edinburgh in October 2020 – his first of 10 appearances for Connacht last season.

This year he has cemented his place in the first XV, starting at blindside flanker in 19 of Connacht’s 23 games this season. His consistently excellent performances also resulted in a call up to the Ireland squad as a development player for the start of their Guinness Six Nations camp.

Cian Prendergast has released the following:

“I’m delighted to commit to Connacht for at least another three years. I’ll be forever thankful to Eric Elwood and his Academy management for giving me the opportunity to join the setup when I wasn’t sure what the future held for me. A huge thanks also to Andy Friend and the coaches for giving me the chance to play regularly at the highest level.

We’ve got a really good group of players here and I firmly believe great things are on the horizon for us, and I can’t wait to play my part in it.”

Head Coach Andy Friend has added:

“Cian is everything you want in a rugby player. He’s a consummate professional and is consistent in everything he does on and off the field. It was clear from his early days in the Academy that he was ready to make an impact with the Pro team and since then he’s gone from strength to strength.

He’s still only 22 so will only get better, and it’s another show of faith in what we aim to achieve as a group in the coming years.”

Related

Five Connacht players named in Ireland’s tour of New Zealand

2022/23 EPCR pool draws reminder
Challenge Cup

2022/23 EPCR pool draws reminder

3 days ago
GALLERY: Mum & Me tag rugby with Loughrea RFC
Community

GALLERY: Mum & Me tag rugby with Loughrea RFC

4 days ago
GALLERY: 2021/22 Season highlights
#Gallery

GALLERY: 2021/22 Season highlights

4 days ago