Tom Daly and Beibhinn Parsons took home the flagship awards at the 2020/21 Connacht Rugby Awards which were held virtually last week.
 
In lieu of a physical award ceremony, accolades were announced across the week on the Connacht Rugby social media channels, starting and finishing with the Fans’ Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year which were both won by Tom Daly.
 
Daly, who is hoping to make his Ireland debut in the coming weeks, was nominated alongside Gavin Thornbury and Niall Murray for the Fans’ Player of the Year by the Connacht Clan. As well as winning that award, he was also chosen by his squad mates as their standout player in the 2020/21 season.
 
Meanwhile Beibhinn Parsons won the Women’s Player of the Year award for the first time. She was nominated alongside his Connacht teammates Nichola Fryday and Laura Feely, after all three played a part in the Women’s Six Nations campaign.
 
The final major award of the week was Academy Player of the Year which was won by Cian Prendergast. The backrow enjoyed a breakthrough season with the Pro squad, featuring 10 times and earning his first senior contract in the process.
 
The winners will receive their Galway Crystal commissioned award once pre-season training gets underway in the coming weeks.
 
CONNACHT RUGBY AWARD WINNERS 2020/21

Fans’ Player of the Year sponsored by Genesys – Tom Daly

Players’ Player of the Year sponsored by Heineken Ireland – Tom Daly

Women’s Player of the Year sponsored by Intersport Elverys – Beibhinn Parsons

Academy Player of the Year sponsored by Corrib Oil – Cian Prendergast

Try of the Year sponsored by Red Bull – Sean O’Brien (vs Scarlets)

#NeverStopCompeting Moment of the Year sponsored by Bank of Ireland – Peter Sullivan (vs Ulster)

Photo of the Year sponsored by Tribe Hospitality – Bundee Aki & Alex Wootton (vs Ospreys)

With Heineken Champions Cup rugby already secured, the Connacht management have opted for a much-changed squad to face Edinburgh at The Sportsground tomorrow night (k/o 7.35pm).

Three Academy players will mark milestones in the game, with Cian Prendergast and centre Sean O’Brien handed their first starts and Oran McNulty in line for his first pro appearance off the bench.

Yesterday it was announced that Prendergast and McNulty have both signed Professional contracts for the 2021-22 season.

Hooker Shane Delahunt is joined by props Denis Buckley and Jack Aungier in the front row, while in the second row Niall Murray partners Gavin Thornbury fresh off the back of a brilliant Player of the Match performance against Munster last week.

Jarrad Butler will lead the team out from openside flanker with Prendergast on the opposite flank and Eoghan Masterson at number 8.

Jack Carty continues at out-half where he’s partnered by Kieran Marmion, while Tom Daly joins Sean O’Brien at centre. There’s an exciting back three line-up of Matt Healy, Ben O’Donnell and Alex Wootton to complete the side.

Commenting on the team selection, Head Coach Andy Friend says:

“Securing a top 3 finish with games to spare gives us a really good opportunity to give more minutes to players who have been knocking on the door all season. That said, we are still going out there as eager as ever to pick up another win. It would be another positive step for us to secure 2nd place in the Conference so that’s what we’ll look to do, and the task for this group of players is to build on last week’s performance against Munster.”

All Connacht pro players and management again returned negative results in the latest round of PCR testing.

CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS EDINBURGH RUGBY
Saturday 13th March, The Sportsground, kick-off 7.35pm

Name/Number/Caps ( * denotes uncapped)
15. Alex Wootton (16)
14. Ben O’Donnell (2)
13. Sean O’Brien (Acad) (4)
12. Tom Daly (41)
11. Matt Healy (146)
10. Jack Carty (152)
9. Kieran Marmion (179)
1. Denis Buckley (195)
2. Shane Delahunt (93)
3. Jack Aungier (12)
4. Niall Murray (11)
5. Gavin Thornbury (53)
6. Cian Prendergast (5)
7. Jarrad Butler (69) (C)
8. Eoghan Masterson (105)

Replacements
16. Jonny Murphy (13)
17. Jordan Duggan (8)
18. Conor Kenny (10)
19. Abraham Papali’i (7)
20. Conor Oliver (15)
21. Caolin Blade (125)
22. Conor Fitzgerald (30)
23. Oran McNulty *

Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce that 21 players have re-signed for the province ahead of the 2021-22 season.

In all 19 players from the existing Professional squad have renewed deals for next season while a further two players, Oran McNulty and Cian Prendergast, have been promoted from the Connacht Academy.

Today’s announcement includes four Irish internationals – Finlay Bealham, Jack Carty, Ultan Dillane and Dave Heffernan – while joint-leading Guinness PRO14 try scorer Alex Wootton has signed on a permanent contract having joined on loan from Munster last summer.

Commenting on today’s announcement, Head Coach Andy Friend says:

“I am delighted to see so many of our current crop of players sign on for another season. This is still a very challenging time for everyone in Irish Rugby so to have them commit to Connacht Rugby again says it all about the belief we have as a group to continue the progress we’re making.

17 of the 21 players were once part of the Connacht Academy, and in that group we have a mix of established Irish internationals, experienced players within the province and plenty of young players still in the early stages of their careers.

I have been very impressed by Cian Prendergast and Oran McNulty, and their first Professional contracts is the culmination of years of work from grassroots level to where they are now. Congratulations not just to them but their parents, coaches and all the other volunteers who helped them along the way.

We are continuing to shape the squad for next season, with further discussions ongoing, and supporters should expect more positive news in the weeks and months ahead.”

Connacht Rugby’s retention and recruitment remains ongoing and further announcements will be made in due course.

CONFIRMED NEW CONTRACTS FOR 2021-22

Finlay BEALHAM
Paul BOYLE
Denis BUCKLEY
Matthew BURKE
Jack CARTY
Shane DELAHUNT
Ultan DILLANE
Jordan DUGGAN
Conor FITZGERALD
Dave HEFFERNAN
Eoghan MASTERSON
Sean MASTERSON
Oran MCNULTY
Niall MURRAY
Conor OLIVER
John PORCH
Cian PRENDERGAST
Colm REILLY
Peter SULLIVAN
Gavin THORNBURY
Alex WOOTTON

Six Connacht players have been handed their first starts of the season for Sunday’s trip to BT Murrayfield to face Edinburgh (k/o 7.35pm).
 
International call-ups and a number of injuries have meant there’s a reshuffle of Andy Friend’s side from the opening two games, with two players potentially making their debuts off the bench.
 
There’s a new-look half-back partnership of Conor Fitzgerald and Caolin Blade, while Tom Daly comes in for his first start of the season alongside Tom Farrell at centre. Sammy Arnold is named on the wing with Alex Wootton and John Porch completing the back three.
 
In the front row there’s a start for Shane Delahunt and Jack Aungier while Denis Buckley continues at loosehead. Some long-term injuries in the second row means Eoghan Masterson comes in to partner Gavin Thornbury, while Abraham Papali’i has been handed his first start of the campaign at number 8. Paul Boyle and captain Jarrad Butler complete the starting team from blindside and openside flanker respectively.
 
The replacements include scrum-half Colm Reilly and Academy lock Cian Prendergast who would both earn their first Connacht caps if called upon.
 
Commenting on his team selection, Head Coach Andy Friend said:
 
“Having seven players away on international duty is a great situation for Connacht Rugby, and it also provides an opportunity for others to step up and look to fill those vacancies over the next period of time. We’ve still got a core group of experienced players to select from within the squad, so I’m really happy with the depth that we’re building”.
 
Regarding the game itself, Friend added:
 
“There’s no doubt that Edinburgh have been one of the form teams in the competition for the last year and have quality all over the pitch. That said, we learned a lot from our game in Cardiff and we’re expecting this to be a similar type of encounter, so I’m confident we can build on that and put in a performance capable of getting a win”.
 
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY SQUAD VS EDINBURGH RUGBY
Sunday 25th October, 7.35pm @ BT Murrayfield
 
Connacht: John Porch, Sammy Arnold, Tom Farrell, Tom Daly, Alex Wootton, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade, Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Jack Aungier, Eoghan Masterson, Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle, Jarrad Butler (Capt), Abraham Papali’i
Replacements: Jonny Murphy, Paddy McAllister, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Cian Prendergast, Conor Oliver, Colm Reilly, Peter Robb, Tiernan O’Halloran

Connacht Rugby can confirm the 16 players who have so far been named in the Connacht Academy squad for the 2020/21 season.
 
Eight players will join the Year 1 programme, five of whom are Connacht-born and were part of the Connacht squad that won the U18 Club Interprovincial Championship in 2018.
 
They are Donnacha Byrne, Hubert Costello, Eoin De Buitléar, Cathal Forde and captain Darragh Murray.
 
Joining them in Year 1 is prop Charlie Ward, lock Cian Prendergast and back row Ciaran Booth.
 
Oisín McCormack and Shane Jennings, who also featured in the U18 squad of 2018, move to Year 2 of the Academy along with Declan Adamson.
 
Year 3 features local boys Colm De Buitléar, who has recovered from a serious achilles injury he sustained last summer, and U20 Grand Slam winner Dylan Tierney-Martin.
 
They’re joined by Oran McNulty – who started at full-back in all three of this year’s U20 Six Nations games for Ireland – as well as Joshua Dunne and Seán O’Brien.
 
Further additions may be confirmed in the coming months.
 
Year 1
Donnacha Byrne
Ciaran Booth
Hubert Costello
Eoin De Buitlear
Cathal Forde
Darragh Murray
Cian Prendergast
Charlie Ward

Year 2
Declan Adamson
Shane Jennings
Oisin McCormack

Year 3
Colm De Buitlear
Joshua Dunne
Oran McNulty
Seán O’Brien
Dylan Tierney-Martin

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