Connacht Rugby can confirm the following players will depart the club next month at the end of their respective contracts.
 
Tom McCartney has announced his retirement from rugby and has returned to New Zealand after six years with Connacht. The hooker has amassed 112 appearances for the province and started in the 2016 Guinness PRO12 Grand Final.
 
Fellow centurion and Connacht native Eoin McKeon departs Connacht having played 137 times since his debut in April 2010, and was also a member of the 2016 PRO12 winning team.
 
Back-three duo Niyi Adeolokun and Darragh Leader depart having also featured in the 2015/16 campaign, with the pair amassing 94 and 91 caps respectively.
 
Trio Kyle Godwin, David Horwitz and Joe Maksymiw have completed their two-year contracts after joining in the summer of 2018.
 
As previously announced, Colby Fainga’a and Robin Copeland will join French sides Lyon and Soyaux Angouleme respectively.
 
Finally front-rowers Rory Burke and Peter McCabe have completed their contracts, while Angus Lloyd departs to pursue a medical career – having passed his medical exams while under contract at Connacht.
 
Commenting on today’s announcement, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“The nature of professional rugby means there will always be comings and goings. I would personally like to wish all our departing players every success in the future and thank them for their contributions to Connacht Rugby, both on and off the field.
 
We all share in the players’ disappointment that they were unable to get a proper send-off at the Sportsground due to COVID, but they can be always assured of a warm welcome by the club and our supporters at any time in the future.”

The Board of the Guinness PRO14 has completed a significant strategic partnership investment from CVC Capital Partners Fund VII (“CVC Fund VII”) that will allow the league to work towards its full potential – for the benefit of fans, players, clubs and unions in these key rugby nations over the years ahead.
 
Under this agreement, CVC Fund VII will acquire a 28 per cent share of PRO14 Rugby from Celtic Rugby DAC, the Unions will retain the 72 per cent majority share.
 
The partnership commitment will allow both PRO14 Rugby and the Irish, Italian, Scottish & Welsh rugby unions to continue to invest in the sport, both professional and amateur, to achieve its potential over the long term.
 
A portion of the investment will also be held centrally at PRO14 Rugby, for the Board to invest in further capabilities for the business and in upgrading league operations in line with its growth ambitions.
 
As part of this agreement, the Federazione Italiana Rugby (FIR), will also become a member of Celtic Rugby DAC, and receive a share of the investment.
 
Martin Anayi, CEO, will continue to lead the management team at PRO14 Rugby, working closely with CVC and the unions on execution of the commercial plan. The unions will also remain independently responsible for the sporting and regulatory elements of the league, via the Sporting & Regulatory Committee.
 
In the past four years, the Guinness PRO14 has performed well both on and off the field; doubling distributions to clubs and facilitating record investment back into the sport from the league. This has been recognised by CVC, who share PRO14 Rugby’s vision for the long-term potential of the league.
CVC was selected by PRO14 Rugby and the unions as their partner due to the extensive experience of prior CVC funds investing in multiple sports businesses, such as Formula 1, Moto GP and Premiership Rugby.
 
Dominic McKay, Chairman of Celtic Rugby DAC and Chief Operating Officer of Scottish Rugby, said: “I am delighted that we have managed to welcome CVC into the Guinness PRO14 as our partner. As a Board, we have been ambitious in our outlook and have significantly developed the league in recent years. One of our key goals was to secure a strategic partner to help accelerate our plans and CVC bring a wealth of experience and great expertise in this regard.
 
“Sport, like all of society is dealing with major challenges currently that we could not have imagined just a few months ago, and it is testament to the strength of our partnership with CVC that they have committed to the game of rugby in a such a significant way.
 
“Their enthusiasm and commitment is a welcome vote of confidence in the future of the sport and the Guinness PRO14 as an international competition. Completing this partnership with CVC is testament to the hard work invested by many people who have focused to deliver a bright vision for PRO14 and enable it to realise its commercial value in the global sports market.
 
“We are also delighted that the FIR has now joined Celtic Rugby DAC as a shareholder after 10 years of participation in the league. Alongside my PRO14 Board colleagues at the Irish, Italian, Welsh and South African rugby unions I would like to warmly welcome CVC to the Guinness PRO14.”

 
Martin Anayi, CEO of PRO14 Rugby, said: “CVC’s show of faith has been impressive and is in keeping with their proven track record of success when it comes to sports investment, including Formula 1, Moto GP and Premiership Rugby. This partnership allows all of our stakeholders to plan for a sustainable period of growth, which will benefit the fans, the players and the game.
 
“We are very pleased to partner with CVC, who saw us as an ambitious, fast paced and innovative organisation, situated across a number of core rugby nations that can deliver an increasing impact.
 
“We have been clear that we believe the Guinness PRO14 is a world-class club league, that is still in its growth phase and we are confident that it will become a major standard bearer in our sport. We are excited that CVC clearly shares that ambition and we look forward to working with them to deliver on the league’s promise in the years ahead.”

Connacht Rugby are pleased to confirm the signings of Munster duo Sammy Arnold and Conor Oliver, and Leinster pair Jack Aungier and Oisin Dowling.
 
The quartet will become Connacht Rugby players from July 1st with Arnold, Dowling and Aungier penning two-year deals.
 
Irish international Sammy Arnold has made 44 appearances for Munster since joining the province from Ulster in 2016, scoring 8 tries in the process. The 24-year-old centre has been named both Ulster Academy Player of the Year and Munster Young Player of the Year, and made his International debut against USA in the 2018 Autumn Internationals.
 
Back row Conor Oliver has featured 28 times for Munster since making his debut in February 2016 and was named Munster Academy Player of the Year the following season. The 24-year-old can play on either flanks or as a number 8, expanding the coaching team’s options heading into the new season.
 
Oliver and Arnold both featured for Ireland in the 2015 World Rugby U20 Championship, who were then coached by current Connacht Attack Coach Nigel Carolan.
 
Jack Aungier made his Leinster senior debut last November and has gone on to make 5 appearances for the side in the current Guinness PRO14 season. The prop has also impressed at underage level, featuring for the Ireland U20s and U18 Clubs squad.
 
Oisin Dowling arrives from the Leinster Rugby Academy having played 6 times for the senior squad in the past two seasons. The 6’5’’ lock has also been capped at Irish U20 level.
 
Commenting on today’s announcement, Head Coach Andy Friend says all four players can make significant contributions to the squad ahead of the new season.
 
‘“In Sammy, Conor, Oisin and Jack we have secured the signings of four very talented and promising young Irish rugby players. They each have unique skillsets which will enhance our squad for next season and beyond, and will allow us to continue to grow as a program. We’re all looking forward to welcoming them to The Sportsground and integrating them into our playing squad.”

We have been blown away by the response to the release of our limited-edition Heroes jersey in aid of ALONE and the Galway and Mayo/Roscommon hospices. We truly appreciate the generosity from our fantastic supporters.

Thanks to your kindness and support we have raised much-needed funds to support them as they continue to help our community.

This jersey represents the hard work that they put in every day to help our most vulnerable in society. We look forward to seeing our supporters wearing this jersey with pride in support of our Heroes.

For now, the game will be won by staying at home, there will be brighter and healthier days ahead, when we can all venture out to support Connacht Rugby at home in The Sportsground once again.

Connacht Rugby, along with our partners Elverys and BLK, have collaborated to create a special and unique, Limited-Edition ‘Heroes’ jersey in aid of ALONE and the Galway and Mayo/Roscommon Hospices.

During these unprecedented times, ALONE and the Hospices are unrelenting in their support of our most vulnerable in society. To support their trojan efforts and by way of support to all our front-line workers, 100% of profits from this Limited-Edition jersey will go directly to ALONE and the two Connacht-based Hospices.

The jersey sports a unique design inspired by Superheroes, reminding us that they are not the only ones who wear capes and is our way of saying thanks to all Superheroes fighting day in, day out to makes the lives of the most vulnerable better.

The caption ‘Home Advantage’ reminds us that for now, this game is won by staying at home, but is also a nod to what will be brighter and healthier days ahead, when we can all venture out to support Connacht Rugby at home in The Sportsground once again, wearing this ‘Heroes’ shirt with pride.

Connacht Rugby would like to thank all our sponsors who donated their normal logo space to help make this jersey possible.

ALONE’s support line is available at 0818 222 024 from 8am-8pm, seven days a week, supporting the clinical advice and information being provided by the HSE.

The ALONE helpline offers advice and support for COVID-19 and other issues that are coming up for older people at this time, including difficulties in relation to physical and mental health, loneliness, isolation, finance, safety, and housing. For more information see www.alone.ie 

Galway Hospice can be contacted on 091 77 0868 for general enquires or if you wish to help with fundraising, volunteering or recruitment.

The Mayo/Roscommon Hospice are available on 094 938 8666 and you can visit www.hospice.ie for further enquiries.

Where can I get this jersey?
The limited-edition jersey is available exclusively on a pre-order basis from Wednesday 13th May on www.elverys.ie and costs just €70 for an adult and starts at €48 for kids. But hurry, only a limited number of these once-off jerseys will be produced and orders will be fulfilled on a first come, first serve basis.

All orders have to be place by 23rd May.

There is an expected delivery time of five to six weeks as these jerseys are being produced specifically for each individual once orders are placed.

Thank you for playing your part by supporting the Connacht Rugby Limited-Edition Heroes Jersey in aid of ALONE and the Galway & Mayo/Roscommon Hospices.

#StrongerAtHome #HomeAdvantage

PURCHASE THE LIMITED-EDITION HEROES JERSEY HERE

Aidan O’Flynn is a Personal Development Officer at Connacht Rugby. As part of his role, he regularly meets with pro players, academy players and staff to help them in their mental well-being off the field, to help them perform on the field or in the office.
 
Due to the current COVID-19 outbreak, Aidan has been kind enough to pen the below article and share a few ideas to help Connacht Rugby supporters cope with any stress and uncertainty they are experiencing.
 
 
These are indeed challenging times where all our resources are being called on.
 
Our mental fortitude in particular is being tested in an ever changing and evolving situation. We are in a foreign country with no roadmap. Anxiety and fear are our constant companions as we wonder what the future holds for ourselves and our loved ones. Uncertainty is the breeding ground for anxiety and fear.
 
As humans, when we feel uncertain and under threat, a system called our ‘fight or flight’ response is activated. This is a stress response system that super-charges us, in readiness to repel any physical threat. However this system is also activated when we are under emotional stress. In this state our thinking often shifts from logic and reason to emotional thinking. Here we fall into the many thinking traps associated with emotional thinking. A few of these common thinking traps are ‘catastrophizing’ ‘all or nothing’ and ‘predicting the future’ thinking traps. Emotional thinking is often irrational…as witnessed by the panic for toilet paper in recent weeks! So, what can we do to lessen the impact of stress and steer a clearer path through this difficult time? Here are some ideas that you and your family might find helpful.
 
Identify what’s important
As our lives shrink it can be important to connect with the core principles that guide our lives, namely, our Values. Staying connected to our values can help create meaning and ground us emotionally. In this storm, our values are like our lighthouse that help us steer a path to calmer water. It might be useful to identify 3 values that you hold and see how you can activate these values to serve your present circumstances. If for example kindness is a value for you, then perhaps see where in your daily life you can activate your kindness towards others and yourself.
 
Make room for fear and anxiety
It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious and fearful in these uncertain times. In reality we don’t like to feel pain…especially emotional pain. We use all kinds of strategies to avoid it. (e.g. alcohol, overworking, overeating, excessive exercise). This avoidance can cause us to bottle-up unwanted feelings. In the long term this can have a poor effect on our mental wellbeing. If we allow ourselves to connect with our difficult feelings, even though it feels uncomfortable, we tend to alleviate the growing stress within us. Perhaps you could try writing down in a diary or journal how you are truly feeling. Alternatively, take time to check-in with yourself and ask “what am I feeling right now”. Simply acknowledging your feeling in this way can have a truly positive effect.
 
Control what you can
While a lot of control has been taken away from us right now, we still have lots we can control. We can control our time on social media, our routines, our physical and emotional wellbeing, and our goals for each day. We can make decisions on how we will act and behave. Spending too much time on ‘what if’s’ can lead to overwhelming feelings and feelings of helplessness. Try to avoid spending time and emotional resources on things that are out of your control.
 
Practice being Present
It’s not possible to stay in the present all the time and it is important to plan your future. By connecting to your present you are anchoring or grounding yourself. In reality the only moment you really have is this present moment…the past is gone and your future has not arrived… yet. This might be a great time to start that mindfulness practice that you didn’t have time for before. I might touch more on some practical and fun ways you can practice mindfulness in the future. Many apps are now offering free access to their services. One of my favourites is ‘Headspace’ and is used by many of our players.
 
Turn to your creative side
We have long understood the positive benefits that the arts have on our mental wellbeing. Now is the time to take out those art materials that have been hiding in your cupboard waiting for your attention. Write that short story that has been brewing away inside. Search for that tin whistle or dusty guitar that you keep tripping over when looking for something else! Go for a walk with your camera and take some photographs of things that grab your attention. Whatever art activity you do, try and approach it with the attitude and mindset that your 5 year old self would take. Leave the art critic outside the door!
 
My final thought is that you will discover in this difficult time inner strengths that you never knew you had….I know this for sure!!
 
Stay safe, stay kind.

On the 19th of March the IRFU announced the formal conclusion of the domestic rugby season on the grounds of public safety, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The IRFU has also acknowledged that this situation has placed some clubs in a difficult financial situation.

Irish Rugby has moved to ensure the survival of clubs by establishing the Club Continuity Fund.

The purpose of €500,000 fund is to provide grants to those clubs who are most at risk due to the pandemic. Such clubs may apply for a grant of up to €5,000.

A Club Continuity Fund Application Form has been issued directly to the Honorary Secretary of each club and is also available in the Club Funding section of the IRFU website. For more information on the application process – click here.

The IRFU, Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster Rugby, in agreement and partnership with Rugby Players Ireland and its members, have today agreed a payment deferral model for all employees.
 
These deferrals, based on an equitable sliding scale which ranges from 10% – 50%, will be effective from April, and beyond if required, but will remain subject to constant review of the financial circumstances of the IRFU and Provinces.
 
The IRFU hopes to return to full pay, and repay any deferrals, as soon as possible.
 
IRFU CEO Philip Browne said,
 
“We are entering uncharted waters as the Covid-19 crisis continues to unfold but we remain hopeful that something of this season can be retrieved later in summer. This is important as the whole game, amateur and professional, is financially dependent on the resumption of the professional tournaments and the revenues that they generate. With postponement of these tournaments the IRFU and the Provinces are facing some daunting financial challenges around loss of revenue and cash flow and we must cut our costs.
 
The IRFU has worked closely with our provincial colleagues and our partners in Rugby Players Ireland to move to protect the future of Irish Rugby and this arrangement will allow Irish Rugby the breathing space required in relation to cashflow that can ensure that when this crisis abates, we still have a business that can deliver for all those that play and love rugby. The situation will obviously remain under continuous review in case further action is required.
 
I thank all our partners, Rugby Players Ireland and all our employees for standing with us at this time.”

 
RPI CEO Simon Keogh said,
 
“We recognise the need to work with the IRFU with respect to these payment deferrals in light of the current circumstances. All endeavours have been made to contact those affected on an individual basis. Our members appreciate that such moves are necessary in order to protect the future of the game in this country. The health and safety of the public is the priority at this time. We will continue to work with the IRFU as this situation develops.”

Following yesterday’s statement from the IRFU, Connacht Rugby wishes to reaffirm that the decision to conclude the 2019/20 season applies immediately to all domestic rugby within Connacht Rugby.
 
As is the case with the Men’s and Women’s Energia All-Ireland Leagues, there will be no promotion or relegation in the respective Connacht Rugby Leagues for 2019/20. All teams will remain in the leagues they are currently in for 2020/21.
 
In the respective Cup competitions where the two finalists are known, the cups will be shared with the two teams who have reached the final. In particular, this applies to the Connacht Junior Cup.
 
This also applies to the respective Connacht Schools competitions as there were a number of cups & leagues outstanding.
 
In total 69 leagues and cups were held across Adult, Schools and Youth Rugby. Of those competitions:
25 competitions have been completed with one winner.
15 competitions have ended with shared winners, based on the criteria set out by the IRFU Rugby Committee.
25 competitions have been declared incomplete.
4 competitions are listed as non-competitive.
 
The final status of each competition is listed below. While Connacht Rugby shares in the deep disappointment of the Club & Schools rugby community that the season was unable to conclude, we are fully supportive of the decision by the IRFU to put the physical welfare of our rugby community above all else.
 
We would encourage every member of our Clubs & Schools to continue to adhere to the advice of the HSE and the Irish Government in relation to the current COVID-19 outbreak, particularly with regards to social distancing at all ages.
 
Never before has the sense of community been more important to all of us. Please continue to look out for the vulnerable people within your localities and above, stay safe.
 
CONNACHT RUGBY COMPETITIONS CONCLUSION 2019/20
 
ADULT RUGBY

Women’s League – Westport RFC
Women’s Invitational Plate – Westport RFC 2nd XV
Women’s Invitational Bowl – Ballinasloe RFC
Women’s Cup – Incomplete

Senior League – Sligo RFC
Senior Cup – Sligo RFC
Cawley Cup – Creggs RFC
Curley Cup – Ballinasloe RFC & Corrib RFC shared
Ard na Cregg Cup – Incomplete
Junior Cup – Connemara RFC & Castlebar RFC shared
Junior Plate – Tuam RFC & Westport RFC shared
J1A League – Incomplete (Won by Connemara RFC prior to conclusion)
J1B League – Incomplete
J1C League – Incomplete
J2 League – Portumna RFC & Westport RFC 2nd XV shared
 
SCHOOLS RUGBY

Girls Junior 10s League – Incomplete
Girls Senior 10s League – Incomplete

U14 A League – Incomplete
U14 B League – Athlone CC
U14 C League – Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin
Junior A League – CBS Roscommon
Junior B League – Athlone CC
Junior C League – Gort CS
Senior A League – Sligo Grammar
Senior B League – St. Muredach’s College
Senior C League – Gallen CS

Junior A Cup – CBS Roscommon
Junior B Cup – Athlone CC & Coláiste Éinde shared
Junior C Cup – Enniscrone & Sancta Maria shared
Senior A Cup – Garbally College
Senior B Cup – St. Muredach’s College
Senior C Cup – St. Joseph’s Foxford & Gallen CS shared
 
YOUTH RUGBY

U14 Girls Div. 1 – Non-competitive
U14 Girls Div. 2 – Non-competitive
U16 Girls Div. 1 – Claremorris RFC
U16 Girls Div. 2 – Corinthians RFC & Westport RFC shared
U18 Girls Div. 1 – Ballinasloe RFC & Connemara RFC shared
U18 Girls Div. 2 – Corinthians RFC & Portumna RFC shared

U13 Boys Div. 1 – Non-competitive
U13 Boys Div. 2 – Non-competitive
U14 Boys Div. 1 – Buccaneers RFC (Black team)
U14 Boys Div. 2 – Ballinasloe RFC
U14 Boys Div. 3 – Gort RFC & NUIG RFC shared
U15 Boys Div. 1 – Sligo RFC
U15 Boys Div. 2 – Ballinasloe RFC
U16 Boys Div. 1 – Creggs RFC & Corinthians RFC shared
U16 Boys Div. 2 – Incomplete
U17 Boys Div. 1 – Ballina RFC
U17 Boys Div. 2 – Corrib RFC
U18.5 Boys Div. 1 – Ballinasloe RFC
U18.5 Boys Div. 2 – Corrib RFC & Westport RFC shared

U14 Girls Cup – Ballinasloe RFC & Creggs RFC shared
U14 Girls Plate – Incomplete
U16 Girls Cup – Ballina RFC & Claremorris RFC shared
U16 Girls Plate – Incomplete
U18 Girls Cup – Incomplete
U18 Girls Plate – Incomplete

U13 Boys Cup – Incomplete
U13 Boys Plate – Incomplete
U14 Boys Cup – Incomplete
U14 Boys Plate – Incomplete
U15 Boys Cup – Incomplete
U15 Boys Plate – Incomplete
U16 Boys Cup – Incomplete
U16 Boys Plate – Incomplete
U17 Boys Cup – Incomplete
U17 Boys Plate – Incomplete
U18.5 Boys Cup – Incomplete
U18.5 Boys Plate – Incomplete

Irish Rugby’s 2019/20 domestic season is to conclude with immediate effect due to ongoing concerns over coronavirus.
 
Government action in combatting the virus looks set to continue beyond March 29th. Irish Rugby wants to play its part while giving clubs the chance to put plans in place for the 2020/21 season.
 
The directive applies to all incomplete national and provincial competitions. It was ratified by the IRFU Rugby Committee on Thursday March 19th 2020.
 
Cups will be shared by finalists, where cup competitions have reached the final fixture.
 
There will be no promotion or relegation in any of the five divisions of the Energia Men’s All-Ireland League.
 
The planned expansion of the Energia Women’s All-Ireland League for the 2020/21 season remains in place.
 
There will be no league or cup winners in any competition organised at a national level including the Energia All-Ireland Leagues, Energia Women’s All-Ireland Cup and the Energia Bateman Cup.
 
The Fraser McMullen U20 Cup, the Junior Interprovincial Championships and the round-robin qualifiers for the Energia All-Ireland League will not take place.
 
Speaking about the announcement, IRFU Director of Rugby Development Colin McEntee said:
 
“The decision to end the domestic rugby season for 2019/2020 season has not been made lightly. All options were discussed and the IRFU is satisfied it has arrived at the only equitable solution.
 
These are challenging times for us all and we know clubs will be impacted by this directive, but we will look back at this season as one where we put the physical welfare of our rugby community above all else.
 
Clubs are now in a position to make plans for the 2020/21 season. We look forward to marking the 30th anniversary of the All-Ireland League.”

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