By John O’Sullivan 

 

Connacht finished their season with a 26-19 bonus point victory over the Ospreys in The GuinnessPRO14 Rainbow Cup at the Sportsground tonight. 

 

Tries from Shane Delahunt — who marked his 100th appearance in style — Bundee Aki, Ultan Dillane, and Peter Sullivan, with Jack Carty tagging on six points from the kicking tee, sealed a deserved win for the Westerners.

 

The Ospreys, meanwhile, scored three tries of their own — via Morgan Morris, Tom Botha, and Sam Parry — in a game they needed to win to keep their Rainbow Cup hopes alive.

 

The victory also provided the ideal send-off to coaches Nigel Carolan and Jimmy Duffy — two loyal servants to the province, both on and off the pitch — who will depart the province before the start of the season.

 

Both teams looked to feel each other out early with the opening five minutes seeing a lot of kicking. Connacht — with Ben O’Donnell and Alex Wootton especially impressive in the air — were safe under the high ball and they used this security to build their way into the game. 

 

After a searing break involving O’Donnell, who burst an initial tackle in his 22, Tom Daly and Caolin Blade, the home team went from their own 22 to the Ospreys’. From there, they won a penalty and, after kicking to the corner, a powerful maul rumbled towards the line. Delahunt then picked and dove over the line. Carty slotted the extras and the home team established a deserved lead. 

 

To their credit, the Welshmen — who needed a win to qualify for the latter stages of the competition — responded in kind. Flanker Morgan Morris dove over after picking off the back of a maul. The conversion was wide so the home team still help their lead after a high octane opening to the game.

 

Connacht dusted themselves off and, from the subsequent kick-off, they scored their second. With Carty hanging the kick in the air, O’Donnell expertly won the possession by tapping it back onto the home team’s side. 

 

After establishing field position, the Westerners went on the attack. Aki and Jordan Duggan carried powerfully, allowing Blade the room to grubber kick through to find Aki to touch down. Carty nailed a difficult conversion and the hosts stretched their lead to 14-5. 

 

With their tails up, the home team went in search for more scores and their ambitious approach yielded another score in a try sodden opening twenty minutes. A huge Cian Prendergast carry punctured through the Ospreys defence and gave Connacht front foot ball in their 22. From there, the forwards carried hard before Dillane eventually touched down from close range. Carty made no mistake once again the Westerners were 21-5 to the good. 

 

The scoring was tit for tat and Ospreys registered their second try when Botha went over from minimal distance to reduce the deficit to 21-12.

 

The Westerners wrapped up a first-half bonus point when Carty’s beautiful pass found Sullivan and the winger raced home for the try in the right corner. It was the away team who the final say of the half, though, when Sam Parry — taking advantage of the extra man after Dominic Robertson McCoy was sin-binned —  barged over from close distance for a converted try that left the half time score at 26-19.

If the first half was marked by so many tries, the second period proved to be entirely different. 

 

Defence was the name of the game and with the Ospreys needing the win, the Welsh team continued to turn the screw in search of scores. 

 

However, Connacht — with Aki particularly strong in his tackling — resisted all their attempts, both in the set-piece and in open play, held out to end their season with a win and provide the perfect going away present for coaches Nigel Carolan and Jimmy Duffy.

 

Connacht team: 

 

(15-9)

 

15: Alex Wootton 

14: Peter Sullivan 

13: Bundee Aki 

12: Tom Daly 

11: Ben O’Donnell 

10: Jack Carty 

9: Caolin Blade 

 

(8-1)

 

8: Eoghan Masterson 

7: Jarrad Butler 

6: Cian Prendergast 

5: Ultan Dillane 

4: Niall Murray 

3: Dominic Robertson McCoy 

2: Shane Delahunt 

1: Jordan Duggan 

 

Replacements: Jonny Murphy for Delahunt, Matthew Burke for Duggan, Jack Aungier for Robertson McCoy, Oisin Dowling for Murray, Sean Masterson for Masterson, Kieran Marmion for Blade, Sammy Arnold for Daly.

By John O’Sullivan 

 

Connacht 21

Leinster 50

 

Connacht fell to a 21-50 defeat to Leinster in a GuinnessPRO14 Rainbow Cup clash at The Sportsground.

 

Despite the hosts leading 16-0 early in the first half, the away team recovered to score eight tries in an impressive performance. Caolin Blade and Peter Sullivan touched down for tries for the home team and the boot of Conor Fitzgerald tacked on eleven points through three penalties and a conversion.

 

The home team began with a physical and attacking intent and their ambition yielded early points through two Fitzgerald penalties, both of which were slotted home with conviction. 

 

If Connacht’s beginning to the game was marked by aggression in attack, they were equally hungry to impose themselves on the other side of the ball. 

 

With their defensive line keen to blitz, the hosts forced an interception and Blade — showing an intelligent reading of the game — plucked a Leinster pass and ran in for the try. Fitzgerald once again showed composure with the boot and the Westerners lead 13-0.

 

With their tails up, Connacht continued to push and probe for more scores. A puncturing run from Sean O’Brien blasted through the visitor’s defence and established field position for the hosts in the 22. From there, they earned a penalty and Fitzgerald kept his 100% rate off the tee up with a kick that nudged the home team into a 16-0 lead. 

 

To their credit, though, Leinster recovered and began to exert themselves into the game after a powerful opening 15 minutes from Connacht. The Eastern province ran in five tries in a twenty-five-minute period with Irish international Hugo Keenan(2), and James Treacy touching down while Ross Molony and Cian Kelleher also crossed the whitewash. Ross Byrne was accurate with four of his five conversions and the away team went into the halftime break leading 33-16.

 

The away team began the second half in a similar manner and they had their sixth try when recently selected Lion Andrew Porter touched down at the tail of a rolling maul and — with Byrne adding the extras — Leinster broke the forty-point mark.

 

With all the momentum behind them, the away team added their seventh score of the evening when Scott Fardy touched down after a rolling maul surged towards the line. 

 

Connacht — with replacement Abraham Papali’i prominent in the ball carrying stakes — improved thereafter and they dotted down their second try after Fitzgerald’s looping pass found Sullivan and the winger showed both pace and strength to burst through the defence and touch down to take the score to 21-45.

 

Leinster had the last say when Keenan completed his hattrick and capped the win for the Eastern province at 21-50.

 

Connacht team: 

 

(15-9)

 

15: John Porch 

14: Peter Sullivan 

13: Sean O’Brien

12: Tom Daly 

11: Matt Healy 

10: Conor Fitzgerald

9: Caolin Blade

 

(8-1)

 

8: Jarrad Butler(C)

7: Conor Oliver

6: Eoghan Masterson

5: Gavin Thornbury 

4: Niall Murray

3: Finlay Bealham

2: Dave Heffernan 

1: Denis Buckley 

 

Replacements: Jonny Murphy for Dave Heffernan, Matthew Burke for Denis Buckley, Dominic Robertson McCoy for Finlay Bealham, Cian Prendergast for Conor Oliver, Abraham Papali’i for Jarrad Butler, Kieran Marmion for Blade, Sammy Arnold for John Porch, Oran McNulty for Matt Healy.

By John O’Sullivan 

 

Ulster 24

Connacht 26

 

Connacht began their Rainbow Cup campaign with a dramatic 26-24 win over Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast.

 

A brace of tries from Caolin Blade as well as tries from Paul Boyle and Peter Sullivan secured the away team both the win and the try bonus point in a gutsy attacking performance. 

 

Trailing 24-21 going into the final play of the game, the visitors turned down a shot at goal and the possibility of drawing the game. Instead, they bravely kicked to the corner and — after securing the line out — they worked a move with culminated in Sullivan diving in to win the game with the last play of the game.

 

With the ball quick and track dry, Connacht started the game with an attacking ambition and their efforts were rewarded eight minutes in. 

 

After securing clean line out ball, the visitors launched a patient, probing move. With Boyle, Eoghan Masterson and Ultan Dillane making big incisions into Ulster territory, the Westerners established field position in the 22. 

 

The ball was eventually worked to Boyle and the captain — who recognised a gap in the host’s defensive line — burst through a would be tackle to touch down for a try that Carty converted with aplomb. 

 

Ulster worked their way back into the contest thereafter, however, and — after a period of sustained pressure — Irish international Jacob Stockdale crossed for a try in the corner after a well-constructed move. The conversion went wide, though, and Connacht held onto their lead at 7-5.

 

The home team pressed for more scores, but they found the Connacht defence — with Ben O’Donnell particularly impressive — stubborn and well drilled. 

 

But the Northern province didn’t relent and their pressure did eventually tell, however, when Rob Herring, at the tail of a rolling maul, touched down for a try. John Cooney made no mistake adding the extras and Ulster found themselves in the lead at 12-7, a score they held going into the half time break. 

 

The home team began the second half in a similar manner to which they ended the first and they only had to wait four minutes to dot down their third try of the evening. Irish international Billy Burns was the benefactor of quick ball and he crossed for the score near the touchline. The conversion was wide, but Connacht found themselves 17-7 down. 

 

With the introduction of Abraham Papali’i, the Westerners wrestled back the momentum. With a huge carry from the base of a scrum, the number 8 punctured through the Ulster defence. Blade, sensing a break was on, then showed a brilliant burst of speed and step to cut through and score a try. Tom Daly — who took over kicking responsibilities after Carty was yellow-carded — slotted the extras and Connacht brought themselves back into an entertaining contest, only trailing by three points at 17-14.

 

With their tails up, Connacht were attacking with pace and power and Papali’i was especially prominent in ensuring go forward ball. Dillane — whose line out prowess and ball carrying was sublime all evening — thought he was over when he burst through the defence and almost touched down. 

 

Once again, Blade was alive to the opportunity and picked from the next phase and crossed for the try. Replacement Conor Fitzgerald converted and Westerners retook the lead at 21-17.

 

In a tit for tat contest, Ulster were the next to score when replacement scrum-half Dave Shananhan showed pace to run in a converted try and the lead swapped hands again with Ulster leading 24-21 with five minutes remaining.

 

But Connacht weren’t to be denied and they showed intelligence and bravery to win the game at the death. Firstly, a captain’s calls saw the Westerners awarded a penalty in the Ulster half for hands on the ground. 

 

Fitzgerald turned down the shot at goal and the draw and kicked the corner. The line out was accurate and the away team established themselves position in the Ulster 22. The ball was worked wide and Marmion stabbed a grubber kick in behind and Sullivan — showing acrobatic skills — touched down for the game-winning score in the last play. 

 

Connacht team:

 

(15-9)

15: John Porch 

14: Ben O’Donnell 

13: Sean O’Brien 

12: Tom Daly 

11: Matt Healy 

10: Jack Carty

9: Caolin Blade 

 

(8-1)

8: Paul Boyle © 

7: Conor Oliver 

6: Eoghan Masterson 

5: Gavin Thornbury 

4: Ultan Dillane 

3: Finlay Bealham 

2: Dave Heffernan 

1: Jordan Duggan 

 

Replacements: Shane Delahunt for Dave Heffernan, Matthew Burke for Duggan, Dominic Robertson McCoy for Finlay Bealham, Niall Murray for Gavin Thornbury, Abraham Papali’i for Boyle, Kieran Marmion for Blade, Conor Fitzgerald for Carty, Peter Sullivan for Matt Healy.

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 10-16 Munster

 

By John O’Sullivan

 

Despite almost completing a sensational late turnaround, Connacht fell to a narrow, 10-16, defeat to Munster at the Sportsground in a keenly-contested Guinness PRO14 interprovincial clash.

 

A Peter Sullivan try and a penalty and a conversion from Jack Carty accounted for the hosts’ points after a strong team performance, in both attack and defence.

 

But Munster — who registered their sixteen points via a Chris Farrell try and eleven points from the boot of J.J. Hanrahan — held on and sealed their victory after weathering a late Connacht storm in their 22 while being down to 13 men.

 

 

The visitors, who started the game one place ahead of the Westerners in Conference A of the PRO14, started well and they had their first points when Hanrahan made no mistake in slotting a penalty from just outside the hosts 22. The home team, meanwhile, played with 14 men in the opening period after Shane Delahunt was yellow carded.

 

Connacht reacted well to the concession of the first score and went in search of scores of their own. Munster, though, were solid in defence — especially at the breakdown, where Tadgh Beirne was prominent — and weathered the home teams’ early attacks.

 

At the other end, the Southerners took advantage of their opportunities and they scored the first try of the evening when Farrell crashed over from close range after a line out gave Munster territory in Connacht’s 22. Hanrahan made no mistakes from the tee and the hosts found themselves 10-0 down.

 

An extremely physical encounter was mostly played between both teams’ 22’s and Connacht were giving as good as they got on and off the ball, with Sean Masterson, Tom Daly, and Sean O’Brien all making big hits and denting carries.

 

The home team’s scrum was functioning well and it was via that avenue that Connacht registered their first points of the night. A strong collective push from the pack yielded a scrum penalty and Carty — in the last action of the half — was composed from the kicking tee and the Westerners went into the break trailing 3-10.

 

Munster started the second period in a strong fashion and they stretched their lead even further when Hanrahan successfully kicked his second penalty of the evening.

 

The Connacht scrum — where Denis Buckley, Finlay Bealham, and Shane Delahunt were impressive — was a source of penalties for the home team. But Munster’s well-orchestrated defence kept the hosts’ attack at bay with the Westerners pushing hard for a try of their own.

 

Against the run of territory and possession, Munster stretched their lead further when Hanrahan continued his 100% kicking rate for the evening with another successfully struck penalty.

 

With 20 minutes remaining, the hosts kept their intensity high and continued to probe. Enjoying the lion’s share of territory and possession, the pressure eventually told.

 

Munster were reduced to 14 men when Rory Scannell was yellow carded with Connacht — with Sammy Arnold and Tom Daly regular and effective ball carriers —  upping the ante. With a man advantage, the hosts spun the ball wide in the visitors 22, and John Porch’s pass fed Sullivan to dive in. Carty, despite the difficulty of the angle of the conversion, slotted the extras to set up a tense finale.

 

The visitors’ task was made even harder when substitute Nick McCarthy was yellow-carded, but Munster withstood Connacht’s late pressure and forced a knock-on to end the game.

 

Connacht team:

 

(15-9)

15: John Porch

14: Ben O’Donnell

13: Sammy Arnold

12: Tom Daly

11: Alex Wootton

10: Jack Carty

9: Caolin Blade

(8-1)

8: Sean Masterson

7: Conor Oliver

6: Sean O’Brien

5: Quinn Roux(C)

4: Ultan Dillane.

3: Finlay Bealham

2: Shane Delahunt

1: Denis Buckley

 

Replacements: Matthew Burke for Buckley, Dave Heffernan for Delahunt, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Gavin Thornbury for Masterson, Kieran Marmion for Blade, Sullivan for O’Donnell.

 

By John O’Sullivan

 

Connacht 31-14 Benetton Rugby

 

Connacht made it consecutive Guinness PRO14 wins after they defeated Benetton Rugby 31-14 at the Sportsground.

 

It was a special night for Paul Boyle, who not only lead the team out for the first time as captain but also scored a hat-trick of tries in a man of the match performance. Peter Sullivan and Alex Wootton also crossed for tries in a performance of equals parts physicality and attacking efficiency. Conor Fitzgerald also added three conversions to the scoreline.

 

Despite difficult weather conditions, it was apparent from the kick-off that the hosts intended on attacking. After the front row won three scrum penalties on the bounce, Connacht were dominant at the set-piece. They made it count when Boyle — picking from the back of a powerful scrum — powered through some would-be tacklers to open the try scoring account for the evening. Fitzgerald, showing composure in swirling wind, slotted the extras to give the home team a lead they fully merited.

 

The scrum was going well, but so was the line out and it was through that avenue that the Westerners scored their second try. A powerful rolling maul surged towards the line and winger Sullivan was the benefactor as he put the finishing touches on the well constructed forward effort. The conversion was wide from a difficult angle.

 

To their credit, the visitors reacted well to the concession of two tries and they scored one of their own when tight-head prop Filippo Alongi burrowed over from close range for the third try — which former Connacht player Ian Keatley converted — in an entertaining opening half an hour.

 

Benetton were reduced to 14 men in the aftermath of their try and the hosts took advantage of their man advantage almost straight away when Wootton showed a great turn of pace to touch down. Fitzgerald’s arching pass found Sullivan on a looping line and one winger fed another when the former academy player passed to the number 11 to touch down. The conversion fell narrowly wide, but the move was an excellent exhibition of the class of Connacht’s backs.

 

The Sportsground men closed out the half in style when Boyle intelligently exploited a virtually unmanned blindside by picking from the base of a solid scrum and stepping an attempted tackle to touch down. From a hugely difficult angle, Fitzgerald bisected the posts with the conversion and the home team went into the interval 24-7 to the good.

 

Connacht started the second half with a similar physical and ambitious mindset and they had their fifth try of the evening ten minutes after the restart. Boyle, once again showing a huge degree of physicality, burst over for this hattrick try from close range. Fitzgerald made no mistake in adding the extra points and the hosts found themselves 31-7 up.

 

After a host of changes, including centre Sean O’Brien making his debut after replacing Sammy Arnold, the Westerners pushed for more tries but Benetton’s defence held firm as the weather conditions deteriorated. And it was the Italians who had the last score when their captain Dewaldt Otto Duvenage went over for a try — which he converted from himself — from short range.

 

Connacht team: 

 

(8-1)  

8: Paul Boyle(C)

7: Conor Oliver 

6: Jarrad Butler 

5: Gavin Thornbury 

4: Eoghan Masterson 

3: Jack Aungier 

2: Shane Delahunt 

1: Denis Buckley 

 

(15-9)

15: John Porch

14: Peter Sullivan 

13: Sammy Arnold 

12: Tom Daly 

11: Alex Wootton 

10: Conor Fitzgerald 

9: Caolin Blade 

 

Replacements; Jonny Murphy for Shane Delahunt, Dominic Robertson McCoy for Aungier, Paddy McAllister, Ultan Dillane for Gavin Thornbury, Cian Prendergast for Jarrad Butler, Matt Healy for Peter Sullivan, Sean O’Brien for Sammy Arnold, Colm Reilly for Caolin Blade.

Irish International Bundee Aki will make his 100th appearance for Connacht on Sunday after he was named to start in the Guinness PRO14 clash with Ulster at the Aviva Stadium (k/o 4.30pm).
 
Aki joined Connacht in 2014 and has gone on to play a central role in the province’s fortunes since then. He was named Guinness PRO12 Player of the Season in 2015/16, the same year he helped the team to their first ever title.
 
His form was rewarded with a first call-up to the Ireland squad in the 2017 Autumn Internationals. He has been an ever-present member of the squad since then, making 26 appearances and starting every game in the Grand Slam victory of 2018.
 
Elsewhere at least two players will make their Connacht Rugby debuts on Sunday with Alex Wootton and Academy graduate Peter Sullivan both named on the wings. They form a back three with John Porch who slots in at full-back.
 
Tom Farrell will partner Aki in the centre with Irish international Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty forming a formidable half-back partnership.
 
In the forwards there’s a return to action for prop Finlay Bealham after sustaining a serious injury against Edinburgh in February, and he makes up an experienced front-row with Denis Buckley and hooker Dave Heffernan.
 
Ultan Dillane and Gavin Thornbury have been named in the second row, and the starting XV is completed by flankers Eoghan Masterson and captain Jarrad Butler, with Paul Boyle named at number 8.
 
Three more players could make their Connacht debuts off the bench, with props Jordan Duggan and Jack Aungier, and back row Conor Oliver all included.
 
The remainder of the replacements is made up of Jonny Murphy, Niall Murray, Stephen Kerins, Conor Dean and Tom Daly.
 
Connacht Rugby Head Coach Andy Friend says there’s huge excitement about returning to action:
 
“It has been almost 6 months since our last game and 2 months since we commenced pre-season training, so we are delighted our return has finally arrived. I have been really impressed with how the squad as a group have reacted to the uncertainty of the last few months, and it’s now our opportunity to show that hard work against an opposing team.”
 
Commenting on his team selection, Friend added:
 
“We have selected a squad of 23 that we believe can win this fixture. We have a neat blend of experience & youth, with the potential of five new debutants for Connacht, along with Bundee making his 100th appearance. It’s therefore a special occasion in many ways, and we intend to put out a performance that warrants that.”
 
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS ULSTER RUGBY
16:30, Sunday 23rd August @ Aviva Stadium

15. John Porch
14. Peter Sullivan
13. Tom Farrell
12. Bundee Aki
11. Alex Wootton
10. Jack Carty
9. Kieran Marmion
1. Denis Buckley
2. Dave Heffernan
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Ultan Dillane
5. Gavin Thornbury
6. Eoghan Masterson
7. Jarrad Butler (c)
8. Paul Boyle

16. Jonny Murphy
17. Jordan Duggan
18. Jack Aungier
19. Niall Murray
20. Conor Oliver
21. Stephen Kerins
22. Conor Dean
23. Tom Daly

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 we speak to Peter Sullivan, who joined the Academy last year after some stand-out performances in the Energia All-Ireland league.

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

It was great to be back, being in small groups at the start was strange, but we are back now fully and it is great to see everyone and get some ball work in. It has been good catching up with the lads after not seeing them in so long.

You are at the stage of Pre-Season where the hard work around S&C is done and dusted and because you are back as a full squad you can now get some clarity on the pitch?

There is a huge focus on our matches coming up in the next couple of weeks, the bulk of the conditioning was done on the first two weeks and then it progressed to rugby conditioning. We have been working with the ball now for the last few weeks and it has been very much rugby focused. The first week was gym and running with no sign of a ball but it is great to be back now as normal.

You joined the academy last season, you were a year in the Academy before singing your first PRO contract. Tell me about what that year was like?

All the Academy staff are brilliant to work with, Mossy and Cully are unbelievable coaches and they work on your game to get you ready for PRO level. They really focus on the details and they are driven to make every player in the Academy better. I cannot thank the Academy staff enough for getting me into this position.

You trained a bit with the Seniors last year, this must have made it easier for you to transition?

I worked with both sets of coaches last year, I got to learn from Andy, Mossy, Nigel and Pete, I was getting as much information as I could and tried to prove myself as much as I could while I had the chance.

In terms of your goals for the next couple of weeks and heading into the Interpros, I am sure you will be looking to play a part in that?

I am hoping to get a starting jersey for the next couple of games and get the head down. There is a lot of quality in the back three this year, that competition is great as it pushes you as a player and as a team to be better. I will put my best foot forward and try my best.

Once the seasons starts in October, there will naturally be more injuries and some international games. Will you be looking at this as an opportunity to claim your spot?

Training is where you prove yourself as being a consistently good player, you would hope to get those opportunities before those games come around and try get as many matches as possible.

You are from Wicklow originally, have you got to experience much of Connacht since you moved here last year?

I really love living on this side of the country, I would holiday in Connemara with my family when I was younger. Not only is the place brilliant but the people are fantastic aswell. You can get a sense of community spirit when you walk around the town. You can see how much Connacht Rugby means to the community.

Whenever we do get supporters in the Sportsground I am sure you would like to be playing in front of your home supporters whenever that may happen?

Hopefully that is not too long away, the atmosphere in the Sportsground is incredible. You can sense how much it means to everyone and you can tell that it drives the team on and it is a big motivation for the team to impress the crowd and the supporters.

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.”

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Shane Delahunt to make 100th appearance in season finale with Ospreys
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Shane Delahunt to make 100th appearance in season finale with Ospreys

4 months ago
PREVIEW: Connacht V Ospreys
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PREVIEW: Connacht V Ospreys

4 months ago