Every day we’re shining a light on one of our newest arrivals over the summer, and help you get to know each of them before we return to the field later in the month.

Today it’s the turn of our newest pro scrum-half, Ballinasloe’s Colm Reilly.

How have your first few weeks been back at The Sportsground, what has it been like?

I found it very enjoyable, it has been brilliant to get back training and get back playing with the lads having not seen them in the last three months. It was strange working in silence to now being able to get a ball back in your hands and being able to pass it to each other and getting back on the pitch.

Did you find it strange initially coming back as a professional rugby player and training with such a small group?

The first day was weird, there were just five of us, we couldn’t do any skills and we were just doing conditioning. It is getting back to normal now, we can do contact and implement game plans and match situations. Now that we are in week six of training you can see all the plans coming together.

Is training all ball work and what is the balance like at the moment?

We are preparing for those first few games and implementing the system. We are learning our detail and making sure that we are prepped in the attack, defence, and restarts. The first few weeks were skilled-based and now it is game focused, we are getting into match mode now.

I imagine there is a lot of excitement around the August Interpros, by the time the games come around the team will not have played in 6 months.

There is a real competitiveness, everyone is feeling fresh and ready to go. Those 3 months in quarantine gave the players a chance to reset. No one is burnt out and is rearing to go, there is a real competitive edge to training and everyone is giving it their best shot.

In terms of your position as a scrum-half, you have three others in that position, what is the relationship like between the four of you and what is it like when it comes to competing with them for a place in the squad on game day?

I have a great relationship with all three, I have learned a lot off of Kieran, Caolin, and Stephen. I have done a lot of work with Stephen throughout the Academy, I know him well from doing sessions with him and Mossy Lawler in the Academy. Kieran was my senior mentor last year and Bladey is always there for advice when I need him. It will be tough getting there selection wise, I need to keep doing what I can do best and focus on what I can control, and whenever I get my chance I will take it.

Did you find it beneficial coming from the Academy to the PRO team having been integrated with the Senior team a few times and knowing the coaches already?

There wasn’t much of a transition because I have been around the Sportsground for the past two years. I am familiar with the surroundings and all the faces. It was a smooth transition for me. My first year in the Academy was spent in the PRO squad quite a bit, I am used to training with everyone.

How have you found working with Andy and the rest of the coaches?

I have learned a lot off Nigel in the attack and Pete on defence. Jimmy has been giving me a few tips around catching lineouts and delivering a ball to the scrum. It’s different coming up from the academy in terms of the systems and learnings. There is a huge opportunity to learn from the senior members in the squad also.

As a local how does it feel to represent your province?

It is my dream to represent my province and I am looking forward to putting on the green jersey when that day does come. I started playing with Ballinasloe when I was four and played with my brother on the Under 8’s team. When I went to school in Garbally the focus was always on winning the senior cup and once I did that it was another dream come true. I have always been on a pathway in Connacht and have developed from playing club rugby to the Academy and now the Senior team. I want to keep pushing on until I get to put on that green jersey.

Connacht Rugby are delighted to confirm that six players have signed professional contracts with the province having come through the Connacht Academy.
Niall Murray, Colm Reilly, Seán Masterson, Conor Dean, Jordan Duggan and Peter Sullivan will all be integrated into the professional squad ahead of the new season.
Niall Murray has come through the Connacht grassroots system having played for Buccaneers RFC. The lock made his professional debut in December – coming off the bench in the victory over Gloucester in the Heineken Champions Cup – before his first start against Leinster during the Christmas interpros. Murray was also a member of the Ireland U20s squad for the 2019 Six Nations and World Championships.
Colm Reilly is another product of the Connacht clubs. The scrum-half has represented Ballinasloe RFC and won a Top Oil Connacht Senior Schools Cup with Garbally College. He also featured for the Ireland U20s team of 2019, scoring the crucial Grand Slam-winning try in the final game away to Wales.
Like Murray, Seán Masterson also has experience in the professional squad. The back-rower made his debut in the Guinness PRO14 victory over Treviso, replacing his brother Eoghan. The 22-year-old then featured during the Christmas interpros, coming off the bench against Leinster.
Out-half Conor Dean has already been capped for Connacht, starting in Thomond Park against Munster in the final game of the 2018/19 Guinness PRO14 regular season. He also impressed for the Connacht Eagles in the most recent Celtic Cup campaign when the squad won 5 of their 7 games.
Prop Jordan Duggan has been capped at Ireland U19 and U20 level, and played for Ireland at the U20 World Championship which also featured Connacht teammates Paul Boyle, Seán Masterson, Oisin Dowling and Conor Dean.
Peter Sullivan joined the Connacht Academy last season having impressed in the Energia All-Ireland League. The winger also stood out for the Connacht Eagles in the 2019/20 Celtic Cup campaign.
Head Coach Andy Friend says today’s announcement confirms the belief the coaching staff have in the Connacht Academy system.
“We are delighted to confirm today’s news as we build for the future. I am a firm believer that a club’s lifeline is its Academy structure, and this exciting group of young players proves that the Connacht Academy is extremely healthy, and will continue to have a positive impact on our squad going forward”.
I would like to say congratulations to the six men named, as well as a special thank you to all the people who have helped them get to their point of their careers – particularly the Academy department led by Eric Elwood, their respective clubs and schools, and most importantly their family and friends”.

Connacht Academy Manager Eric Elwood says today is a proud day for the players.
“I would like to congratulate the six players on their first professional contracts and joining up with the pro squad for next season. It has been a pleasure to watch the players develop and grow over the years and we wish them well on the next step of their journey in their rugby careers.
It’s particularly pleasing to see two more local lads come through the grassroots programme, which is a testament to the great work being done at all levels at Connacht Rugby.”


Get To Know: Conor Dean

Six Connacht Academy Players Sign First Pro Contracts

Six Connacht Academy Players Sign First Pro Contracts

4 months ago