Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce that Connacht Attack Coach Nigel Carolan, Forwards Coach Jimmy Duffy and Defence Coach Peter Wilkins have all signed two year contract extensions to take them up to the end of the 2020-21 season.
Making the announcement Friend said: “One of the first things that struck me when I took up the position of Head Coach of Connacht Rugby was the strength of the coaching team that was already in place. They are an exceptional team and one of the best collective groups I have worked with in my coaching career. Obviously a major priority for us has been to retain the services of these guys into the future and I am delighted that we are now in a position to announce this great news. We can now continue to focus on producing an exciting, attacking and ultimately winning brand of rugby for the seasons ahead.
Attack Coach Nigel Carolan was Connacht Academy Manager from 2004 to his appointment with the professional team in 2017. He is also former Head Coach of the Ireland Under 20 squad. Commenting on his contract extension, Carolan said: “We have a very clear focus on where we are going as a team and a province, and we are determined to deliver further success in the seasons ahead. We pride ourselves on our attacking style and I am excited about the contribution I can make to that in the coming years.
Forwards Coach Jimmy Duffy has held his current role since 2015 and was part of the coaching team that won the PRO12 Championship in 2016. He previously worked as Elite Player Development Officer in the Connacht Academy for a four year period. He has also worked with numerous age grade sides within Connacht as Head and Assistant Coach, along with seven seasons with the Ireland Under 18 side. Following his contract signing, Duffy added: “Connacht Rugby is an exciting place to be, both on and off the field. We have made progress this season on all aspects of our game and are continuing to improve. There is even more potential in the squad and I believe that we can maximise that potential in the coming seasons.
Also extending his contract is Defence Coach Peter Wilkins who joined Connacht from Edinburgh ahead of the 2017/18 season. He previously worked in Australia with the Queensland Reds Super Rugby side and as Head Coach of Queensland A. Commenting on his contract extension, Wilkins added: “I am extremely honoured to be part of Connacht Rugby and I am delighted to have extended my contract for another 2 years. I am proud of the progression we have made defensively this season and I look forward to working with all of the coaches and the squad to continue that progression in the seasons ahead.

The Month of Champions continues this weekend as we welcome Zebre to the Sportsground.

Ahead of the game, backs coach Nigel Carolan spoke about the importance of getting the season’s first win and not taking the Italians lightly.

Don’t forget juniors under the age of 16 go FREE when accompanied by an adult! Tickets available here.

Connacht are boosted by the return of Irish international Quinn Roux for their PRO14 clash with Edinburgh in the Sportsground on Friday (Kick off 7:35pm). Bundee Aki, Kieran Marmion and Ultan Dillane are all rested after their involvement with Ireland’s Grand Slam winning Six Nations squad.

Flanker Eoin McKeon has also returned to the starting XV having been unavailable through injury since November. McKeon joins a back row that includes openside Jarrad Butler and Sean O’Brien at number 8.

Out-half Jack Carty and scrum half Caolin Blade continue their partnership which has been a regular feature over the past few weeks in Marmion’s absence.

Winger Niyi Adeolokun joins a back three that includes fullback Tiernan O’Halloran and Matt Healy. Healy became Connacht’s record try scorer after scoring twice against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

At the pre game Press Conference, Connacht backs coach Nigel Carolan told reporters that Edinburgh will bring a big challenge on Friday night. “They made life really difficult for Munster last Friday night. They turned them over several times at the breakdown and that’s uncharacteristic for Munster”, said Carolan.

“You can see that there’s a real bite to them, there’s a real high level of fitness and physicality. They’re a tough team to play against. They very direct and confrontational and they’re a tough team to break down. That’s where our biggest focus has been this week, particularly around the breakdown”, he added.



Kick-off 7.35pm:

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Eoin Griffin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney (Capt), Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Eoin McKeon, Jarrad Butler, Sean O’Brien.

Replacements (16-23): Dave Heffernan, Denis Coulson, Dominic Robertson McCoy, James Cannon, Eoghan Masterson, James Mitchell, Craig Ronaldson, Darragh Leader.




Following the bonus point win away to Brive last weekend the squad are busy preparing for the return fixture this Saturday in the Sportsground (K.O. at 3pm).


Below are some of the best pictures from training this week.




Ahead of our game against Toyota Cheetahs tomorrow in the Sportsground (K.O. 7:35pm) Backs Coach Nigel Carolan and centre Tom Farrell spoke about the challenge of maintaining the momentum from winning the last three games in a row as we face into a two week break of PRO14 action.


It’s promises to be an exciting game with two of the most attacking teams in the competition going head to head. This morning KK announced his matchday 23.


Tickets are still available online here.



With only days remaining until the historic first visit of the Toyota Cheetahs to the Sportsground. Preparations are well underway as the players have been put through their paces. There is a confident mood in the camp following our recent run of results but everyone is aware of the threat posed by the Cheetahs.


After losing their opening two games, the Cheetahs have gone on a good run which has seen them sitting in third place in Conference A and are one of the top try scoring teams in the championship with 27 tries.


This form hasn’t gone unnoticed by backs coach Nigel Carolan who is fully aware of the threat they pose.

“When the lost their first two games some people started writing them off immediately, but I noticed the likes of Rassie Erasmus, who would know them better than most, predicted this improvement. They were well beaten against Ulster and Munster when they fell apart, but they had a great win at home to Leinster and that really kick started their season. They are a really attacking, exciting team and we will need to be at our best to beat them.”


Following his match winning try last weekend, Tom Farrell is also conscious of that attacking style and the challenge that will pose from a defensive point of view:

“We have had a good look at them and looked at plenty of footage of them and they are a really attacking team. They love to run with the ball and score tries and they have scored plenty of them so far. We will really need to put in a big defensive display and prevent them getting a foot hold. We did well in defence in the win against Munster, but we also made mistakes, so we were left with plenty to work on”.


Tickets for the game are still available with only a handful of spots remaining in the Main Terrace.


Check out some of the pictures from preparations at the Sportsground this week.


The team are on their way to Wales for the big game against Dragons tomorrow night (7.30pm).

We currently lie third in Conference A with six points from two games, hear the thoughts of Assistant Coach Nigel Carolan and Kieran Marmion on the threat of the Dragons and our start to the season.

Having represented the province in his playing days and managed the Academy for 13 years, Nigel Carolan knows Connacht Rugby inside out.

The Galway native also spent two years as the Ireland U20s Head Coach, so Carolan has no shortage of experience and rugby expertise and he has been delighted with the first four days of pre-season in his new role as Assistant Coach.

How are you finding your new role?

“It’s very interesting and it’s been with sort of nervous excitement. The new regime got together last week when KK (new Head Coach Kieran Keane) was over and we crammed a lot into the week. It was great to share our ideas and  expectations and what’s important to us with the new regime.

“Everyone has been aligned and there is a smile on everybody’s face. Everybody’s working really hard but enjoying the experience, which I think is most important. Guys don’t mind working and putting in the hours and the hard effort knowing that everybody is working really hard for each other and it has been very positive. The first few days have been really tough for the guys, their training volume has been particularly high but they’re enjoying that and they’re starting to see the benefits already.”

Fresh new coaching team…

“It’s inevitable in professional sport that there is always going to be change but it’s just fresh ideas, it’s new, it’s a different voice. There are no pre-conceived notions or expectations on players so starting from day one everyone is on an even keel again and with that it just brings that level of excitement.

“There is probably a new way we will be looking to play the game and the players are certainly excited by that and we’re certainly excited as coaches to be facilitating that.”

Continuity in the playing squad…

“When you get so much change happening at management and coaching level it’s important to have the core of the players remain. 80-85% of the squad is still intact and for them it’s just a new voice but it’s always good to get fresh blood in the playing group too.

“We must ensure we have a competitive squad in each position and that players are chomping at the bit to work their way up the rankings. That level of competition among the players will hopefully make us a formidable side this year.”

John Muldoon in his 15th pre-season at the province… 

“It’s like it’s his first. The attitude that he brings, he’s just so enthusiastic. He doesn’t have to say much but when he does, the guys listen. He’s enjoyed his first few days. He enjoyed meeting KK last week and seeing the road that he wants to take this team down and he’s very enthused by it so you wouldn’t think it’s his 15th pre-season.

“He’s a seasoned pro at this stage but he’s certainly leading by example and he’s enjoying his first few days back.”

Getting to know Kieran Keane…

“We had a week with him last week and we crammed a lot into it. It wasn’t all rugby, it is important that we get to know the man and find out what he’s like away from rugby and we had a couple of opportunities for that and he’s great.

“For him, the only disappointing thing was that he had to head back to New Zealand, he wanted to stay and get his teeth stuck into pre-season here. We had a Skype this morning at 7am and we filled him in on what’s happening and the mood in the camp so he’s not too far away and is keeping a close eye on things.”

Tick Tock . . .

5pm tomorrow evening (Friday, July 7) is the deadline to purchase a Season Ticket if you wish to be included in our first delivery of Season Ticket cards. If you purchase before the deadline, you will have your card in time for the pre-season friendly against Bristol at the Sportsground – which is included in the Season Ticket offer.

Sign-up now to be included in the first delivery here!

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 Rugby Academy players confirmed for 2020/21 season

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