Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce that scrum halfs Caolin Blade and Conor McKeon and props Peter McCabe and Dominic Robertson-McCoy have signed contract extensions with the province ahead of the 2018/19 season.

Connacht native Caolin Blade came through the club structures in the province, playing for his local club Monivea RFC and from there went on to join the Connacht Academy. The 23 year old has now made 60 appearances in the Connacht jersey including 16 so far this season.

Conor McKeon graduated from the Connacht Academy last year after converting from the out half to scrum half position. He was a key player in the Connacht Eagles campaign this season in the B&I Cup.

Peter McCabe joined Connacht for a period on loan last season and signed a full time contract last summer. He has gone on to make 11 appearances during the current campaign.

Dominic Robertson-McCoy is now in his second season with Connacht. The New Zealand born Irish qualified tight head has made 5 appearances this season.

Welcoming the latest contract extensions, Connacht Rugby CEO, Willie Ruane said: “The signings of these four players are a further boost to our ambitions for next season. Caolin Blade and Conor McKeon have both come through our academy system and we are delighted that they have extended their contracts. Dominic Robertson-McCoy and Peter McCabe are two props that have settled in well in the Sportsground over the past two seasons. They will continue to provide increasing options in the front row next season.”

Commenting on the latest contract signings, Connacht Head Coach Kieran Keane added: “These are another four important players to have on board for next season. Caolin Blade has featured heavily for us this season and has performed well. Conor McKeon, Peter McCabe and Dominic Robertson-McCoy will also give us additional options over the long season.”

 

Our senior squad returned to training on Monday as pre-season for the upcoming campaign began with the countdown now on for our fixtures against Wasps and Bristol next month.

Decked out in the new training kit, which will be available in Elverys Sports stores from July 20, there were a number of new faces settling in with the squad over the last three days.

Scrum-half James Mitchell, prop Peter McCabe and second row Gavin Thornbury have all been training along with Academy graduates Conor McKeon (scrum-half), Cormac Brennan (utility back) and Pat O’Toole (hooker).

Today, a number of the squad will be out among our local clubs with 12 senior players visiting Connacht Rugby Summer Camps, sponsored by Galway Free Range Eggs.

Two fixtures are lined up in August and Season Ticket holders for the 2017/18 season have free access to the pre-season fixture against Bristol at the Sportsground on Saturday, August 26 (3pm).

That game will be new coach Kieran Keane’s first home game at the helm with Pat Lam leading the opposition and tickets will be available to purchase shortly with a high demand expected.

Prior to that clash, Connacht travel to the Ricoh Arena on Wednesday, August 23, to take on Premiership runners-up Wasps.

 

Connacht Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to announce that Academy players Conor McKeon, Cormac Brennan and Pat O’Toole have all been rewarded with senior contracts for next season.

23-year-old Conor McKeon earns his promotion to the senior squad after three years in the Academy. Having joined the Connacht set up in the summer of 2014, he made his senior and Guinness PRO12 debut away to Zebre that same season. He earned another PRO12 cap from the bench last season before making the switch from outhalf to scrumhalf.

Recently named the Academy Player of the Year, the former Ireland under-20’s international had a standout season with club side Buccaneers who he helped reach the AIL Division 1B title.

Back three player Cormac Brennan from Ballyvaughan in County Clare has been rewarded with a senior contract after two seasons in the Academy. The former Cistercian College Roscrea student has played with Galwegians RFC from a young age and went on to represent the Ireland Under-18’s Schools team in 2013. A student of Law at NUIG, 22-year-old Brennan has trained with the senior squad on a number of occasions but is yet to be capped.

Pat O’Toole will add further competition to the hooker position next season with Tom McCartney, Dave Heffernan and Shane Delahunt all vying for the number 2 shirt. 22-year-old O’Toole from Louisburgh in County Mayo started playing rugby with Westport RFC at six years of age. The former Gaelic footballer was capped at Ireland U19 level and completed two years in the Academy, playing with both the Connacht Eagles and Corinthians RFC.

Commenting on the new contracts, CEO Willie Ruane said:

“The talent coming through from our underage and Academy set up is vital for the future success of Connacht Rugby. It is really exciting for us to have three more young players coming through from the Academy into the senior squad.

“Conor, Cormac and Pat have shown that they have the desire and potential to succeed in a professional set up and we believe they have big futures in the game and with Connacht.”

Former Academy Manager and now Backs Coach for the new season, Nigel Carolan, added:

“I’m delighted for all three players that will take the step in to the professional squad next season. They make it 38 the number of graduates from the programme over the years which is something we’re really proud of.

“Conor has shown his sheer determination and drive to succeed by making the positional move from outhalf to scrumhalf. He refused to give up on his dream of professional rugby and I’m delighted he has got his opportunity.

“Cormac came under our radar when he started playing with Galwegians RFC at underage level. He returned to the province as part of the IRFU and Connacht Rugby’s succession plan and the move has paid off thanks to his own commitment and determination to continuously develop.

“Pat has come right through our pathway from under-15’s level when he was part of our regional development squad in Westport. He is the epitome of our vision of Grassroots to Green Shirts and his move in to the senior squad will provide inspiration for so many of our young lads looking to succeed.

“I’m really looking forward to working with these players at the next stage of their career.”

Connacht back Tiernan O’Halloran was voted the Connacht Rugby Players’ Player of the Year by his fellow team mates and received the accolade at the annual Connacht Rugby Awards Ball in Galway on Sunday night.

26-year-old O’Halloran has had a phenomenal season as a leader in Connacht’s young back line. The Clifden man has featured in 24 games for the province this season, starting all but one. In the Guinness PRO12, he holds the record for the most carries and the most metres made this season. He earned his third international cap against Canada in the 2016 November Series, touching down for a brace of tries in the Aviva Stadium win.

O’Halloran was up to the stage for a second time on Sunday night to pick up the award for Back of the Year while Connacht captain John Muldoon, who this season celebrated his 300th cap for the province, was the deserved recipient of Forward of the Year for the second year in a row.

Ballina RFC were awarded the Connacht Club of the Year following an outstanding season of success and development across every aspect of the Mayo club from regenerating the facilities at Heffernan Park to a thriving schools and competitive youths’ programme.

Their remarkable success underpins the senior men’s team who, as well as winning the Cawley Cup, claimed a first Connacht Junior League title in 32 years.

Chris Davies was presented with the Outstanding Contribution to Rugby award for his commitment to schools rugby in Connacht over the past decade. He steps away from the role as Chairman of the Schools Committee having played a massive part in the development of schools rugby with the number of games played tripling in recent years.

Awards Winners

CONNACHT U18 PLAYER OF THE YEAR, sponsored by Top Oil
Niall Murray

CONNACHT U19 PLAYER OF THE YEAR, sponsored by Edward Holdings
Sean Masterson

CONNACHT U18 GIRLS PLAYER OF THE YEAR, sponsored by Mongey Communications
Sarah Dent

CONNACHT WOMEN’S CLUB PLAYER OF THE YEAR, sponsored by Eventus
Emma Clery, Galwegians RFC

CONNACHT WOMEN’S PLAYER OF THE YEAR, sponsored by My Club Finances
Grainne Egan

CONNACHT COACH OF THE YEAR, sponsored by Deloitte
Brett Wilkinson, Buccaneers RFC

CONNACHT CLUB OF THE YEAR, sponsored by Ulster Bank
Ballina RFC

CONNACHT REFEREE OF THE YEAR, sponsored by Golden Eye Security
Karol Collins

CONNACHT JUNIOR CLUB PLAYER OF THE YEAR, sponsored by Radisson Blu Hotel
John O’Brien, Connemara RFC

CONNACHT SENIOR CLUB PLAYER OF THE YEAR, sponsored by Keller Travel
Jordan Conroy, Buccaneers RFC

OUTSANDING CONTRIBUTION TO RUGBY, sponsored by AIB
Chris Davies

CONNACHT ACADEMY PLAYER OF THE YEAR, Sponsored by RDJ
Conor McKeon

CONNACHT RUGBY FORWARD OF THE YEAR, sponsored by Heineken
John Muldoon

CONNACHT RUGBY BACK OF THE YEAR, sponsored by Deep RiverRock
Tiernan O’Halloran

CONNACHT RUGBY TRY OF THE YEAR, sponsored by Irish Independent
James Connolly, Connacht v Ulster

CONNACHT RUGBY TEAM MAN OF THE YEAR, sponsored by Mazda
Jake Heenan

CONNACHT RUGBY PLAYERS’ PLAYER OF THE YEAR, sponsored by Bank of Ireland
Tiernan O’Halloran

 

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