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)

Connacht have been boosted by the return of long-term absentees Gavin Thornbury and Dylan Tierney-Martin for Saturday’s URC trip to Benetton (k/o 12:00 Irish time).
 
Thornbury, who was one of Connacht’s stand-out players in 2020/21, has yet to play this season due to a long-term shoulder injury. Similarly Tierney-Martin has been absent for four months following a hamstring injury in a club game.
 
The pair have both been named among the replacements and will be expected to feature during the game.
 
The coaching team are also able to welcome back Irish internationals Finlay Bealham and Mack Hansen, with the pair coming straight into the starting XV. Bealham is joined by Matthew Burke and Dave Heffernan in the front row, while the other change in the pack sees Leva Fifita come in to partner Niall Murray in the second row. The back row sees Paul Boyle start at number 8 alongside flankers Cian Prendergast and Conor Oliver.
 
Captain Jack Carty is again alongside Kieran Marmion in the half-backs, while Sammy Arnold comes in at inside-centre to partner Tom Farrell. Hansen is named on the left wing with John Porch on the right wing and Tiernan O’Halloran at full back.
 
Commenting on the team announcement, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“In Finlay, Mack, Dylan and Gavin we’ve got four players returning for different reasons, but their return is a welcome boost at the right time. For Gavin and Dylan in particular they’ve worked incredibly hard to get back to full fitness for this key block of games, supported by our excellent medical team.
 
We fully appreciate the challenges we face in reaching the URC playoffs now, but the best preparation we can have for the Champions Cup games is to go to Italy, put in a performance good enough for a win, and keep ourselves in the hunt for a top 8 finish.”

 
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS BENETTON RUGBY
Saturday 2nd April, 12:00 @ Stadio Monigo
 
Number/Name/Caps
15. Tiernan O’Halloran (202)
14. John Porch (53)
13. Tom Farrell (74)
12. Sammy Arnold (34)
11. Mack Hansen (9)
10. Jack Carty (174) (C)
9. Kieran Marmion (203)
1. Matthew Burke (35)
2. Dave Heffernan (159)
3. Finlay Bealham (169)
4. Niall Murray (31)
5. Leva Fifita (10)
6. Cian Prendergast (25)
7. Conor Oliver (36)
8. Paul Boyle (71)

Replacements
16. Dylan Tierney-Martin (1)
17. Greg McGrath (5)
18. Tietie Tuimauga (8)
19. Gavin Thornbury (58)
20. Abraham Papali’i (21)
21. Caolin Blade (145)
22. Conor Fitzgerald (47)
23. Sean Masterson (16)

Jonny Murphy and Dylan Tierney-Martin have become the latest players to sign Pro contracts with Connacht Rugby for the 2021-22 season.
 
Murphy joined Connacht in the summer of 2018 following spells at Rotherham Titans and Ulster Rugby, and has made 14 appearances for the province.
 
Tierney-Martin becomes the latest Connacht Academy graduate to sign his first Professional contract. The Galway native came through the ranks at Corinthians RFC and The Bish and played a major role in the Ireland U20s Grand Slam-winning Six Nations campaign in 2019, finishing top try scorer with four tries.
 
Commenting on today’s news, Head Coach Andy Friend said:
 
“We’re really pleased to be in a position to retain both Jonny and Dylan for next season. They are both excellent players and will provide further depth at hooker alongside Dave Heffernan and Shane Delahunt.
 
Jonny has been a very dependable player for us the past few years and is a popular player in the dressing room, and in Dylan we have another local prospect who’s come through the ranks here. This is a proud day not just for Dylan but all the coaches and volunteers at Corinthians and The Bish who helped him along the way”.

The Connacht management team have again opted to shuffle their squad for Monday night’s Guinness PRO14 season finale against Scarlets in Llanelli (k/o 20:00).

The side is captained by Paul Boyle in a back row that also features Conor Oliver and Abraham Papali’i. Gavin Thornbury and Niall Murray continue their second row partnership after impressive showings last weekend, and a front row of Jordan Duggan, Shane Delahunt and Jack Aungier completes the pack.

Kieran Marmion is retained at scrum-half with Conor Fitzgerald alongside him, and there are no changes at 12, 13 or 14 which are filled by Tom Daly, Academy centre Sean O’Brien and winger Ben O’Donnell. Alex Wootton is named on the opposite wing with John Porch completing the side from full-back.

Galway native Dylan Tierney-Martin could be in line to make his Connacht pro debut, with the hooker named among the replacements.

This week the squad and management underwent two rounds of PCR testing with all negative results.

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

“This is our final chance to give game-time to some players before our Challenge Cup and Rainbow Cup outings so I know the whole squad will be eager to impress. Thankfully our injury situation is relatively good heading into those competitions which has allowed us to try out a few new combinations.

We’d love to travel to Leicester on Saturday week with a win behind us and it’s also important to finish any league campaign on a high, so we’re looking forward to travelling to Wales and see how they perform.”

CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS SCARLETS RUGBY
Monday 22nd March, Parc y Scarlets, kick-off 8.00pm

Name/Number/Caps ( * denotes uncapped)

15. John Porch (34)
14. Ben O’Donnell (3)
13. Sean O’Brien (Acad) (5)
12. Tom Daly (42)
11. Alex Wootton (17)
10. Conor Fitzgerald (30)
9. Kieran Marmion (180)
1. Jordan Duggan (9)
2. Shane Delahunt (94)
3. Jack Aungier (13)
4. Niall Murray (12)
5. Gavin Thornbury (54)
6. Paul Boyle (53) (C)
7. Conor Oliver (15)
8. Abraham Papali’i (8)

Replacements
16. Dylan Tierney-Martin *
17. Matthew Burke (19)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (61)
19. Oisin Dowling (3)
20. Sean Masterson (10)
21. Colm Reilly (5)
22. Jack Carty (153)
23. Peter Sullivan (10)

 

By John O’Sullivan 

 

Connacht Eagles 24-24 Munster A

 

A late Shane Jennings try earned the Connacht Eagles a 24-24 draw with Munster A in an entertaining clash at the Sportsground.

 

Tries from Dylan Tierney Martin and Diarmuid Kilgallen saw the hosts lead 12-0 midway through the first half, but Munster — with three tries and a penalty — turned the game around and lead 24-12 with fifteen minutes remaining.

 

However, Connacht never relented and claimed the draw after late tries from Stephen Kerins and Jennings saw them deservedly share the spoils after a thrilling attacking performance.

 

In the glorious Sportsground sunshine, Connacht were intent on playing with width and pace and this approach yielded scores early on. 

 

After a cutting line and offload from lock Cian Prendergast, the home team established field position in Munster’s 22. Building phases with hard carries close to the line, the ball was worked to Tierney Martin and the former Ireland under 20’s hooker powered his way over the line. Fitzgerald made no mistake in adding the extras from the tee and the Eagles found themselves in a deserved 7-0 lead. 

 

With their tails up, Connacht were playing with confidence and expression in the attack. Playing in the outside centre berth, Ben O’Donnell punctured through the Munster A defence and brought the hosts forward momentum. 

 

From there, the ball was worked wide and the Eagles — who had a man advantage after the away teams winger, Calvin Nash was yellow carded for an intentional knock-on — took advantage of the space and Kilgallen dived in over the line in the left-hand corner for 12-0.

 

Munster grew into the contest thereafter and when Connacht were reduced to 14 men after Oran McNulty’s yellow card, the visitors responded with a quickfire 17 points. Jake Flannery started the scoring with a penalty and tries followed from Nash and Coombes, both of which Flannery converted, and the away team lead 17-10 going into the interval. 

 

The away team began the second half in a similar manner to which they finished the first and they had their third try when Nash completed his brace by crossing the line in the right-hand corner to take the score to 24-10.

 

With fly-half Fitzgerald prominent in the creative stakes, Connacht grew into the game and began threatening the Munster defence. 

 

A powerful line out was a prominent feature of the Eagles’ game plan and they used it as a platform to score their third try. With a rolling maul trundling towards the line, Kerins identified a gap in the away teams defence and he jinked through it to touch down for a try that Fitzgerald converted to take the score to 24-17.

 

With time running out, the hosts seized the initiative and their perseverance was rewarded with a deserved late try.

 

A huge run from Peter Sullivan burst through the Munster defence and brought Connacht into the visitors 22. From there, the ball was worked wide and Jennings showed pace to touch down in the left corner and to draw the game with effectively the last play.

Eagles Team: 

(15-9)

15. Oran McNulty
14. Peter Sullivan
13. Ben O’Donnell
12. Cathal Forde
11. Diarmuid Kilgallen
10. Conor Fitzgerald
9. Colm Reilly

 

(1-8)

1. Charlie Ward
2. Dylan Tierney-Martin
3. Dominic Robertson-McCoy
4. Cian Prendergast
5. Ciaran Booth
6. Donnacha Byrne
7. Sean Masterson (c)
8. Abraham Papali’i

16. Declan Adamson
17. Eoin de Buitlear
18. Conor Kenny
19. Diarmuid McCormack
20. Oisin McCormack
21. Stephen Kerins
22. Shane Jennings
23. Hubert Gilvarry
24. Joshua Dunne

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

Head coach Noel McNamara has announced the Ireland Under-20 team, sponsored by PwC, to face Italy in Rieti on Friday in the third round of the Under-20 Six Nations Championship.
 
The game kicks off at 7pm local time/6pm Irish time and will be streamed live via the Irish Rugby YouTube Channel with thanks to PwC Ireland. There are two changes to the Ireland U-20 side that claimed a 24-5 win away to Scotland last time out.
 
Munster duo Jake Flannery and Jonathan Wren complete the back-three with the centre pairing of captain David Hawkshaw and Liam Turner, the man-of-the-match against Scotland, getting its third successive outing of the tournament.
 
Corinthians hooker Dylan Tierney-Martin, who is chasing his fourth try of the Championship already, features in an unchanged front row with Josh Wycherley and Thomas Clarkson, while Charlie Ryan and Niall Murray, the second Connacht player in the pack, team up again in the engine room.
 
Martin Moloney, Scott Penny and number 8 John Hodnett combine once more in the loose forwards, with back-up provided by Ronan Watters of St. Mary’s College – one of four potential debutants on the bench. Banbridge prop Callum Reid and Munster pair Billy Scannell and Ben Healy are the other players looking to win their first U-20 caps.
 
Speaking ahead of Friday night’s clash with Italy, McNamara said:
 
We’re pleased to have won our opening two games, but the players are ambitious, and they are constantly looking for improvements in their performance, both individually and collectively.
 
“Our previous meetings with Italy have been really challenging encounters, with only one score separating the sides in our past number of games. The down week allowed for the players to get some good recovery in, as well as reviewing the Scotland game and looking ahead to this weekend.
 
“We had a really positive session with the Ireland senior side last Friday at the Aviva Stadium, so the players are now looking forward to getting back into the green jersey on Friday night in Rieti.”

 
IRELAND UNDER-20 Team & Replacements (v Italy Under-20s, 2019 Under-20 Six Nations Championship, Stadio Centro d’Italia, Rieti, Friday, February 22, kick-off 7pm local time/6pm Irish time):
 
15. Jake Flannery (Shannon/Munster)
14. Angus Kernohan (Queen’s University/Ulster)
13. Liam Turner (Dublin University/Leinster)
12. David Hawkshaw (Clontarf/Leinster) (capt)
11. Jonathan Wren (Cork Constitution/Munster)
10. Harry Byrne (Lansdowne/Leinster)
9. Craig Casey (Shannon/Munster)
1. Josh Wycherley (Young Munster/Munster)
2. Dylan Tierney-Martin (Corinthians/Connacht)
3. Thomas Clarkson (Dublin University/Leinster)
4. Charlie Ryan (UCD/Leinster)
5. Niall Murray (Buccaneers/Connacht)
6. Martin Moloney (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
7. Scott Penny (UCD/Leinster)
8. John Hodnett (UCC/Munster)

Replacements:

16. Billy Scannell (Young Munster/Munster) *
17. Callum Reid (Banbridge/Ulster) *
18. Michael Milne (UCD/Leinster)
19. Brian Deeny (Clontarf/Leinster)
20. Ronan Watters (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) *
21. Cormac Foley (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
22. Ben Healy (Garryowen/Munster) *
23. Rob Russell (Dublin University/Leinster)

* Denotes uncapped at Under-20 level

IRELAND UNDER-20 2019 U-20 SIX NATIONS RESULTS/FIXTURES:

Friday, February 1:

IRELAND UNDER-20s 35 ENGLAND UNDER-20s 27, Irish Independent Park, Cork

Friday, February 8:

SCOTLAND UNDER-20s 5 IRELAND UNDER-20s 24, Netherdale, Gala RFC, Galashiels

Friday, February 22:

ITALY UNDER-20s v IRELAND UNDER-20s, Stadio Centro d’Italia – Manlio Scopigno, Rieti, 7pm local time/6pm Irish time (live Irish Rugby YouTube channel)

Friday, March 8:

IRELAND UNDER-20s v FRANCE UNDER-20s, Irish Independent Park, Cork, 7.15pm (live RTÉ Two)
Click here to buy your match ticket(s) from Ticketmaster.ie

Friday, March 15:

WALES UNDER-20s v IRELAND UNDER-20s, Zip World Stadium, Eirias Park, Colwyn Bay, 7.05pm (live RTÉ Two)

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