Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce that six Academy players have signed Pro contracts beginning in the 2022/23 season.
 
The six players are Cathal Forde, Shane Jennings, Oisin McCormack, Darragh Murray, Ciaran Booth and Diarmuid Kilgallen, and represents another substantial seal of approval for the Connacht pathway system.
 
Galway-born Cathal Forde can cover the 10 or 12 positions and played a significant role in Ireland’s U20 Six Nations campaign last year, earning plaudits for his performances. The 20-year old has represented Galway Corinthians RFC at club level and played school rugby with Colaiste Iognaid (The Jes).
 
Like Forde, Shane Jennings also made a big impact on the Ireland U20 scene last year. Another product of the Connacht pathway system, Jennings has played for Ballinasloe RFC and Garbally College and predominately plays centre. More recently he was a member of the Ireland Sevens squad at the World Sevens Series in Canada.
 
Oisin McCormack is another alumni of Garbally College and Ballinasloe RFC, playing with friend Shane Jennings from an early age. McCormack holds a unique accolade of scoring tries in consecutive Connacht Schools Cup finals, touching down in both the 2018 and 2019 Senior deciders. The 20-year old can play across the back row and has played for Ireland and U18 Schools, U18 Clubs and U20 level.
 
Darragh Murray is the second Murray brother to graduate from the Academy, following in the footsteps of his older brother Niall. A fellow lock, Darragh was a member of the 2021 Ireland U20s and captain of the Connacht U18s that won the 2018 Interprovincial Series. He came through the pathway at Buccaneers RFC and Colaiste Chiarain Athlone.
 
Ciaran Booth first joined the Connacht Academy in the summer of 2020, arriving from Sale Sharks. The 21-year old was born in Stockport and is Irish qualified, having played for Ireland in the 2019 U20 Rugby World Championship. Primarily a flanker, Booth can also play as a number 8 or in the second row.
 
Diarmuid Kilgallen is no stranger to Connacht supporters having already made 5 appearances with the Pro team. The back three player made his debut at the Aviva Stadium against Munster in August 2020, and Lansdowne Road was also the scene for his first try, scoring an intercept against Ulster last October.
 
Connacht Rugby Academy Manager Eric Elwood has paid tribute to the six players:
 
“I’d like to congratulate the six men on their impending move to the Pro team, and to their respective clubs and schools that have played a big part in their success. Everyone at Connacht Rugby has worked tremendously hard at all levels to give them the platform to succeed and I’d like to acknowledge the work done by the coaches as well as the wider Academy staff. That said, it’s up to the players themselves to take the opportunities afforded to them and they’ve done just that. I know they each have what is required to take that next step in their careers.”
 
Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has congratulated the six players on their contracts:
 
“This is a special day both for Connacht Rugby and for Cathal, Shane, Oisin, Darragh, Ciaran and Diarmuid. They have each forged their own paths to professional rugby through hard-work and dedication, and with the help of their coaches, parents and volunteers along the way. It’s particularly pleasing that 4 of the 6 players came through the Connacht pathway, playing their club and school rugby here in the West of Ireland. I’m looking forward to further integrating them into the Pro setup and help us challenge for honours in the years ahead”
 

The Connacht Rugby Academy Squad for 2021/22 can be confirmed.
 
Included are the six indigenous Connacht players who represented Ireland in the U20 Six Nations squad this summer, as well as new Year 1 recruits Will Reilly and Josh O’Connor.
 
Connacht Rugby Academy Manager Eric Elwood says:
 
“We are really pleased with the talent we have in the Academy squad this season. Six players gained huge experience on the international scene over the summer which is a testament to their development the past few years. This was Connacht’s highest ever representation at this level which speaks volumes of their quality.
 
The lack of club & schools rugby last season has proved a challenge for us all, but with our U18s and U19s competing in the Interpro Series, more players both in and out of our Academy will gain vital playing time and given an opportunity to impress.
 
There’s been plenty of changes behind the scenes with new staff and structures to help support our Pathway players, so we’re really excited by what can be achieved in the years ahead.”

 
CONNACHT RUGBY ACADEMY SQUAD 2021/22
 
Declan ADAMSON – Hooker
Ciaran BOOTH – Back Row
Donnacha BYRNE – Back Row
Eoin DE BUITLÉAR – Hooker
Cathal FORDE – Out-Half/Centre
Shane JENNINGS – Centre
Diarmuid KILGALLEN – Back Three
Oisin MCCORMACK – Back Row
Darragh MURRAY – Lock
Josh O’CONNOR– Back Three
Will REILLY – Scrum-Half
Charlie WARD – Prop

 

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

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