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)

Ulster 32
Connacht 12

Connacht were defeated 32-12 in a physically intense interprovincial clash in Belfast tonight.

 

Despite tries from Oran McNulty and Alex Wootton and excellent performances from Conor Oliver and Cian Prendergast, it was the hosts – who secured a bonus-point win via tries from Robert Baloucoune(2) Greg Jones and Declan Moore – who sealed the win.

 

Connacht were temporarily reduced to 14 men early on when Peter Sullivan was shown a yellow card for a high tackle. They showed great defensive resolve, however, to keep Ulster at bay with Sammy Arnold completing a big defensive set by winning a penalty with some great work at the breakdown.

 

Similarly, brilliant work from Kieran Marmion prevented a certain Ulster try when he showed tremendous recovery pace to not only tackle Ethan McIlroy close to the try line but also to force a knock-on.

 

Ulster eventually did advantage of the extra man, however, just as the sin bin period was about to elapse. After a break from Mike Lowry, Jones managed to barge over for a try that Nathan Doak converted to give the hosts a 7-0 lead.

 

With their tails up, the hosts made it two tries in quick succession when Moore went over from close range from the tail of a maul. Doak made no mistake from the tee and the Westerners found themselves 14-0 behind with the first period halfway over.

 

With their line out an effective launchpad for attacks, Connacht worked their way back into the game. With two strong carries from Oliver after the set-piece, the Westerners gained field position deep in the Ulster 22. The ball was then worked quickly to McNulty – who replaced Sullivan earlier – who showed pace and awareness to touch down for an unconverted try that brought back into the contest at 14-5.

 

It was Ulster who would have the final say of the half, however, with their third try of the evening. With the clock in red, the Northerners flung the ball wide to Baloucoune and the Irish international winger showed great pace to touch down. Doak converted and the away team went into the interval 21-5 behind after a physical half of rugby.

 

Connacht began the second period looking to play with pace and directness and they had their second try of the night six minutes into the half. Brilliant work from Oliver snagged Connacht a turnover from which they went on the attack.

 

 

Big carries from Oliver and Tietie Tuimauga brought the away team into the Ulster’s 22 and a clever line from Fitzgerald broke closer to their line before the out half exquisitely offloaded to Wootton for the try. Fitzgerald then converted and Connacht brought the score back to 21-12.

 

Ulster managed to gain the upper hand thereafter and had two further Doak penalties to show their efforts, bringing the score to 27-12 in the hosts’ favour.

 

The home team then had the final say and wrapped up their bonus point when Baloucoune collected a cross field kick to touch for an unconverted try to bring the final score to 32-12 for Ulster.

Connacht team:

(15-9)

15: John Porch
14: Peter Sullivan
13: Sammy Arnold
12: Tom Daly
11: Alex Wootton
10: Conor Fitzgerald
9: Kieran Marmion

(8-1)

8: Jarrad Butler
7: Conor Oliver
6: Cian Prendergast
5: Oisin Dowling
4: Niall Murray
3: Tietie Tuimauga
2: Shane Delahunt
1: Denis Buckley

Replacements:
Jordan Duggan for Buckley
Greg McGrath for Tuimauga
Oran McNulty for Sullivan
Leva Fifita for Murray
Paul Boyle for Butler
Jonny Murphy for Delahunt
Cathal Forde for Fitzgerald

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

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

Connacht Academy player Oran McNulty has been named at full-back for Ireland’s U20 Six Nations opener against Scotland tomorrow night.
 
McNulty, who is in Year 2 of the Academy system, is one of four Connacht players in the overall Six Nations squad alongside Joshua Dunne, Diarmuid Kilgallen and Cathal Forde.
 
Ulster Academy back row David McCann will captain Ireland as one of five players who featured during last season’s Grand Slam-winning campaign named in McNamara’s first starting XV of the Championship, alongside Charlie Ward, Thomas Clarkson, Brian Deeny and Thomas Ahern.
 
There is a wealth of experience in the pack with Clontarf loosehead Ward and Ulster hooker Tom Stewart packing down in the front row alongside Leinster Academy tighthead and vice captain Clarkson, who started all five of last year’s Six Nations games.
 
Deeny and towering Munster Academy lock Ahern are named in the second row with Sean O’Brien and Mark Hernan joining captain McCann in the back row to complete the pack, with a further three Ulster players named in the backline.
 
Lewis Finlay starts at scrum-half and continues his exciting half-back partnership with Cork Constitution out-half Jack Crowley, who pulled the strings for Ireland Under-20s in their defeat of Munster Development over Christmas.
 
Ulster Academy centre Hayden Hyde and Dan Kelly, who has come through the IQ Rugby programme, are selected in midfield, with Connacht’s Oran McNulty, Ethan McIlroy and Leinster winger Andrew Smith forming the back three.
 
Hooker John McKee won seven caps during last season’s Six Nations and U20 World Championship campaigns and is the sixth returning player named in Friday’s matchday 23, as he provides front row cover alongside Ciaran Ryan and Ryan McMahon.
 
Joe McCarthy and Alexis Soroka will hope to make a big impact off the bench if called upon, while Ben Murphy, Tim Corkery and Luis Faria complete McNamara’s first selection of the 2020 season.
 
“The players have prepared very well since we first came together before Christmas,” McNamara said. “We had an excellent camp last week in Cork and are looking forward to the challenge that Scotland will bring this Friday night.
 
“Getting back down to Irish Independent Park is exciting for all involved. It’s a fantastic venue, a really fast surface and we’re ready to get the campaign underway in front of a partisan home crowd.”
 
Tickets for Friday night’s visit of Scotland to Irish Independent Park are available here.
 
Ireland Under-20 Team (v Scotland):
15. Oran McNulty (Millfield School / Corinthians RFC / Connacht)
14. Ethan McIlroy (Methody College / Queens RFC / Ulster)
13. Dan Kelly (Kirkham Grammar / Loughborogh University / IQ Rugby)
12. Hayden Hyde (Cranleigh School / Ballynahinch RFC / Ulster)
11. Andrew Smith (St Michael’s College / Clontarf FC / Leinster)
10. Jack Crowley (Bandon RFC / Cork Constitution FC / Munster)
9. Lewis Finlay (Down High School / Malone RFC / Ulster)

1. Charlie Ward (Tullow RFC / Clontarf FC / Leinster)
2. Tom Stewart (Belfast Royal Academy / Ballynahinch RFC / Ulster)
3. Thomas Clarkson (Blackrock College / Dublin University FC / Leinster)
4. Brian Deeny (Wexford Wanderers / Clontarf FC / Leinster)
5. Thomas Ahern (Waterpark RFC / Shannon RFC / Munster)
6. Sean O’Brien (Blackrock College / UCD RFC / Leinster)
7. Mark Hernan (St Michael’s College / Lansdowne FC / Leinster)
8. David McCann (RBAI / Banbridge RFC / Ulster)(captain)

Replacements:

16. John McKee (Campbell College / Old Belvedere / Leinster)
17. Ciaran Ryan (Rockwell College / Cashel RFC / Munster)
18. Ryan McMahon (Clongowes Wood College / Old Belvedere RFC / Leinster)
19. Joe McCarthy (Blackrock College / Dublin University FC / Leinster)
20. Alexis Soroka (Belvedere College / Dublin University FC / Leinster)
21. Ben Murphy (Presentation College Bray / Clontarf FC / Leinster)
22. Tim Corkery (Kilkenny RFC / Lansdowne FC / Leinster)
23. Luis Faria (Newpark Comprehensive / Dublin University FC / Leinster)

More at https://www.irishrugby.ie/2020/01/30/mcnamara-names-ireland-under-20-team-for-six-nations-opener/

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