Connacht Rugby regret to announce that flanker Sean O’Brien has been advised to retire from rugby on medical grounds following a concussion injury.
 
A Galway native, O’Brien came through the Connacht Academy having represented Ireland at U18, U19 and U20 level. He was also named captain of the Ireland U20s for the 2014 Junior World Championships.
 
He made his pro Connacht debut away to Enisey-STM during the 2015/16 Challenge Cup, and came off the bench in the Guinness PRO12 Grand Final that same year. A first senior contract soon followed and in total he has made 60 appearances for his home province.
 
Sean O’Brien has released the following statement:
 
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Connacht Rugby for making a young boy’s dream come true. The memories and friendships made will last a lifetime.
 
I’d also like to thank all those in Wegians, Roscrea and Calasanctius who played their part in making it possible, and in particular my Dad Iain who coached me throughout my youth.
 
Not everyone gets a fairytale ending but I will never forget just how lucky I was to be a part of this club.
 
I am looking forward to cheering in the stands.
 
Sean”

 

Connacht Rugby can confirm the players that will depart the club at the end of the season.
 
As previously announced, Quinn Roux has moved on after 7 years at Connacht, Stephen Fitzgerald has announced his retirement from rugby due to injury, and Academy centre Sean O’Brien has joined Exeter Chiefs.
 
Conor Dean, Colm de Buitlear, Cillian Gallagher, Conor Kenny, Stephen Kerins and Paddy McAllister will also be departing the club.
 
Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has thanked all the players for their commitment during their respective contracts:
 
“There will always be comings and goings in Professional rugby. I’d like to wish all the players every success in the future, whether they are looking to further their playing careers or go down a new path. They have made a lot of sacrifices, particularly in the last year while we as a group dealt with the pandemic, so I thank them for that also. They will always be welcome back to The Sportsground.”
 
Connacht Rugby are continuing to shape the Professional squad for next season and further announcements will be made in due course.

Scarlets 41-36 Connacht

 

By John O’Sullivan

 

Despite a brilliant display of attacking rugby that yielded five first-half tries, Connacht fell to a narrow, 41-36, defeat to Scarlets in their final PRO14 game of the season.

 

John Porch, Abraham Papali’i, Kieran Marmion, Sean O’Brien and Dominic Robertson McCoy all touched down for first half tries for the away team, earning them both try and losing bonus points. Conor Fitzgerald and replacement Jack Carty added eleven points to Connacht’s total via four conversions and a penalty.

 

It was a night for Dylan Tierney Martin as the hooker — formerly of the Irish under ’20s — made his professional debut as a second-half replacement.

 

 

The Scarlets needed a win to help their Champions Cup qualifications hopes and they started with intent. After only two minutes, Aaron Shingler — the blindside flanker — touched down in the left-hand corner after a well-crafted move. 

 

Connacht settled themselves thereafter, however, and began to take control of the contest. With a rock-solid set-piece, the Westerners began to string phases of attacks deep in the Scarlets 22 together. 

 

After a typically sturdy scrum, the away launched an attack and Tom Daly combined with Fitzgerald and the fly-halves pass found Porch and the full-back showed great pace to touch down. Fitzgerald slotted the extras to give the away team a deserved lead. 

 

With their tails up, Connacht added a second try not long after. Kieran Marmion’s incisive break gave the Westerners’ field position and, with advantage accruing, Fitzgerald’s beautiful fizzing pass found Papali’i on the right-hand wing. The big number fended off a would-be challenger to touch down for an excellently constructed try. 

 

Two tries soon became three as Connacht showed all their attacking flair and pace. A huge break from O’Brien saw the centre pass to Porch. The full-back then made an incision of his own through the Scarlets defence before offloading back to O’Brien to score. It was a try of beautiful proportions and Fitzgerlad confidently added the conversion to bring the score to 19-5 in favour of the away team. 

 

The flow of the game was tit for tat and Scarlets were the next team to score when Steff Hughes — after a beautiful offload from Steff Evans — picked up near the line and dived over for a converted try to bring the score to 12-19.

 

Connacht were to have the last say in the half, however and scored two quickfire tries to bring their first-half total of tries to five. First, Robertson McCoy — whose set piece work, as well as his ball carrying, was superb — smashed his way over from close range. Fitzgerald, once again, made no mistake in adding the extras. 

 

Then, after a huge break from Niall Murray established Connacht field position, Daly offloaded to Marmion and the scrum-half — so sharp throughout the half — picked up and scored. Fitzgerald added the conversion and Connacht went into the interval 33-12 to the good. 

 

Needing the win to secure third place, Scarlets started the second half with ambition and they had their first try of the second period five minutes in. Centre Hughes completed his brace and touched for a try which Dan Jones converted. 

 

Another try followed five minutes later when scrum-half Dane Blacker — following a break and offload from second row Sam Lousi — ran in the converted score to bring Connacht’s winning margin back to seven points at 26-33.

 

With the momentum behind them, Scarlets added two more tries — via Tom Rogers and replacement prop Javan Sebastian — and a Jones penalty to take the win. 

 

Carty’s late penalty earned Connacht a losing bonus point to go with their try bonus point.

 

Connacht team:

1: Jordan Duggan

2: Shane Delahunt 

3: Dominic Robertson McCoy 

4: Niall Murray 

5: Gavin Thornbury 

6: Paul Boyle 

7: Conor Oliver 

8: Abraham Papali’i 

 

9: Kieran Marmion 

10: Conor Fitzgerald 

11: Alex Wootton 

12: Tom Daly 

13: Sean O’Brien 

14: Ben O’Donnell 

15: John Porch

 

Replacements: 

 

Dylan Tierney-Martin for Shane Delahunt, Matthew Burke for Jordan Duggan, Finlay Bealham for Robertson McCoy, Oisin Dowling for Gavin Thornbury, Sean Masterson for Papali’i, Colm Reilly for Marmion, Jack Carty for Fitzgerald, Peter Sullivan for Ben O’Donnell. 

 

By John O’Sullivan

 

Connacht 14-15 Edinburgh.

 

An Edinburgh try in the last play of the game condemned Connacht to a 14-15 defeat at a rain-sodden Sportsground. 

 

Tries from Sean O’Brien — who marked his first start in style — and Shane Delahunt — both of which Jack Carty converted — saw the hosts establish a 14-5 half time lead, with Edinburgh’s score coming from lock Magnus Bradbury.

 

However, the Westerners were reduced to 14 men early in the second half when captain Jarrad Butler was red-carded for a high tackle and the visitors took advantage, scoring eight unanswered points — via a try, conversion and penalty from out-half Nathan Chamberlain — to seal the win with a touch down in the last play of the game.

 

It was a big night for O’Brien and Cian Prendergast, who both had positive performances in their first starts, as well as Oran McNulty, who made his professional debut as a second-half replacement.

 

With the pre-match rain subsiding, Connacht looked to attack early on and run the ball. Their efforts were rewarded when O’Brien — in his first senior start for the province — ran a powerful, cutting line to meet Kieran Marmion’s pass and power over the line after the Westerners quickly recycled the ball when Edinburgh tackled Alex Wootton close to the line. Carty made no mistake in adding the extras and the hosts had a deserved 7-0 lead.

 

Connacht were intent on adding to their early try and enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession and territory for the majority of the opening half. The Scots were resolute in defence, though, and held out before launching a rare attack and scoring. 

 

Eventually, after a series of hard carries in the 22, lock Magnus Bradbury stooped over the line to touch down for an unconverted try, which brought the score to 7-5 in favour of the hosts. 

 

The Westerners — with second-row Niall Murray particularly impressive —  reacted well to the concession of this try and closed out the half with a score of their own.

 

Turning down the opportunity to kick at goal on the brink of half time, Connacht instead kicked to the line. Their ambition paid dividends when Delahunt, at the tail of a powerful, marching maul, touched down and Carty, despite the difficult angle, accurately slotted the extras to make the half time score 14-5.

 

The second half began in a similar fashion with Connacht looking to add to their two tries. Edinburgh, however, were sturdy in defence and held firm. 

 

After a red card for Butler reduced the Westerners to 14, the Scotsmen seized the initiative in attack. 

 

Chamberlain brought the score back to 14-8 with a penalty and then, in the last play of the game — after Connacht, with replacements Jordan Duggan and Conor Kenny especially impressive in defence, had remained airtight in defence — the out half ran in a try under the posts, which he converted, to give the away team the win.

 

Connacht team:

(15-9)

15:Alex Wootton

14:Ben O’Donnell

13: Sean O’Brien

12: Tom Daly

11: Matt Healy

10: Jack Carty

9: Kieran Marmion

 

(1-8)

  1. Denis Buckley
  2. Shane Delahunt
  3. Jack Aungier
  4. Niall Murray
  5. Gavin Thornbury
  6. Cian Prendergast
  7. Jarrad Butler (C)
  8. Eoghan Masterson

 

Replacements: Jonny Murphy f0r Delahunt, Jordan Duggan for Buckley, Conor Kenny for Aungier, Abraham Papali’i for Prendergast, Caolin Blade for Marmion, Oran McNulty for O’Donnell.

 

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 *

The Connacht management team have made four changes to their starting XV for Saturday’s crucial Guinness PRO14 interpro against Munster at The Sportsground (k/o 7.35pm).
 
After last week’s historic win at the RDS Arena, Andy Friend’s side have been further boosted by the return of a number of internationals and others after injury absences.
 
The first change comes in the front row where Finlay Bealham is restored to tighthead prop – he lines out alongside Denis Buckley and Shane Delahunt.
 
After coming off the bench last week, Ultan Dillane now comes into the starting side where he partners Quinn Roux in the second row, with Roux remaining as captain.
 
The pack is completed by Conor Oliver, Sean Masterson, and Sean O’Brien who has recovered from injury which has kept him out for the last six weeks.
 
Caolin Blade and Jack Carty continue at 9 and 10 respectively, as do Tom Daly and Sammy Arnold in the centre after brilliant performances last weekend.
 
The final change comes in the back three where Ben O’Donnell comes in for his first start in a Connacht jersey – forming an exciting trio with Alex Wootton and John Porch.
 
Among the replacements include the returning Paul Boyle and Irish international Dave Heffernan.
 
Connacht Rugby can also confirm that all Pro players and management returned negative results in this week’s round of PCR testing. A number of players who have spent the last period in self-isolation will return to training next week.
 
Commenting on the game, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“Last week’s win was a testament to the belief and determination that was still present in our squad despite a challenging few weeks. Now it’s all about backing that up and finding another win that will bring us right into contention for a Guinness PRO14 final spot.
We’ve had a very positive week with no news COVID cases and a few players available to us again, but we will still have to be at our best to overcome a Munster side that is full of quality.”

 
CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS MUNSTER RUGBY
Saturday 9th January, The Sportsground, k/o 7.35pm

Name/Number/Caps
15. John Porch (28)
14. Ben O’Donnell (1)
13. Sammy Arnold (11)
12. Tom Daly (35)
11. Alex Wootton (10)
10. Jack Carty (148)
9. Caolin Blade (119)
1. Denis Buckley (189)
2. Shane Delahunt (87)
3. Finlay Bealham (147)
4. Ultan Dillane (105)
5. Quinn Roux (105) (C)
6. Sean O’Brien (58)
7. Conor Oliver (11)
8. Sean Masterson (8)

Replacements
16. Dave Heffernan (135
17. Matthew Burke (17)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (59)
19. Gavin Thornbury (47)
20. Paul Boyle (47)
21. Kieran Marmion (173)
22. Diarmuid Kilgallen (2)
23. Peter Sullivan (6)

Andy Friend has named his side to face Benetton in the Guinness PRO14 tomorrow night, with the Head Coach making just one change to the team that was originally due to play Ospreys last week.
 
That game was postponed due to a COVID-19 case in the Welsh club, and the management have opted to stick with most of that same matchday 23, with some players looking to pick up some game time before a hectic period of Heineken Champions Cup and Christmas interpros.
 
The one change is at scrum-half where Caolin Blade has recovered from a recent hamstring injury to start his first game since late October, with Colm Reilly named among the replacements.
 
Paul Boyle is named as captain and will again get an opportunity to lead out the side for the first time – he’s at number 8 with flankers Sean O’Brien and Conor Oliver alongside him in the back row.
 
Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt and Jack Aungier make up the front row, while locks Eoghan Masterson and Gavin Thornbury complete the pack.
 
Conor Fitzgerald partners Blade at half-back, with Tom Daly and Sammy Arnold named at centre and Alex Wootton, Peter Sullivan and John Porch completing the side as the back three.
 
Among the replacements are Ultan Dillane who has been released from international duty, and Academy player Sean O’Brien who’ll get another chance to make his debut.
 
Commenting on his team selection, Andy Friend says:
 
“Last week’s late postponement was very disappointing and put us in a tricky position regarding our selection for this week. In the end we believe it’s only right that the squad selected last week will get another chance to impress. We’ve got 7 weeks of European games and interpros ahead of us, so we’d like to get minutes under the belts of as many players as possible.”
 
Regarding this week’s game, Friend added:
 
“Home games in the PRO14 are where we need to build up our points tally and tomorrow will be no different. It’s important we build on the Zebre win two weeks ago by showing that same level of physicality and taking our changes when they come. If we do that I know that’ll put us in a good place.”
 
CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS BENETTON RUGBY
Friday 4th December, The Sportsground, Kick-Off 7.35pm

Number/Name/Caps (* denotes uncapped)
15. John Porch (23)
14. Peter Sullivan (4)
13. Sammy Arnold (6)
12. Tom Daly (30)
11. Alex Wootton (6)
10. Conor Fitzgerald (27)
9. Caolin Blade (114)
1. Denis Buckley (184)
2. Shane Delahunt (82)
3. Jack Aungier (6)
4. Eoghan Masterson (96)
5. Gavin Thornbury (44)
6. Sean O’Brien (58)
7. Conor Oliver (6)
8. Paul Boyle (C) (44)

Replacements
16. Jonny Murphy (9)
17. Paddy McAllister (14)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (56)
19. Ultan Dillane (100)
20. Jarrad Butler (61)
21. Colm Reilly (3)
22. Sean O’Brien (Acad) *
23. Matt Healy (138)
 
NOTE: All players and management produced negative results in this week’s round of PCR testing.

Paul Boyle will lead out Connacht as captain for the first time on Saturday after he was named as skipper for the Guinness PRO14 clash with Ospreys at The Sportsground (k/o 7.35pm).
 
The 23 year old has enjoyed a brilliant rise through the Connacht ranks, making his debut as a Year 1 Academy player against Munster in January 2018. He was then rewarded with his first professional contract midway through the 2018/19 season and has gone on to play 44 times for the province.
 
Boyle captains the side from the number 8 position and will be flanked by Sean O’Brien and Conor Oliver at the back of the scrum.
 
The front five is unchanged from the side that defeat Zebre last Sunday, with Shane Delahunt starting at hooker alongside props Denis Buckley and Jack Aungier, and Eoghan Masterson pairing up with Gavin Thornbury in the second row.
 
At half-back Ballinasloe native Colm Reilly continues at scrum-half, while Conor Fitzgerald comes in for his second start of the season at out-half. The in-form Tom Daly remains at inside-centre with Sammy Arnold alongside him, and Peter Sullivan returns to the starting XV in a back three which features Alex Wootton on the opposite wing and John Porch at full-back.
 
Meanwhile Academy player Sean O’Brien is in line to make his professional debut. The centre has been named among the replacements and could feature for the province for the first time if called upon.
 
Commenting on his team selection, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
“Paul Boyle is a natural born leader and fully deserves the opportunity to lead out the squad for the first time. He’s been in tremendous form for us again this season and I’d like to congratulate him on the honour. We’ve also got Academy player Sean O’Brien potentially making his debut so it’s a big day for him too if called upon.”
 
Regarding the game itself, Friend added:
“It was really pleasing to see us bounce back like we did in Zebre, but now the focus is on backing that up with a similar display again this week. Ospreys are a very good side who have come on a lot since last season, so it’s crucial we get a good start and build from there.”
 
CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS OSPREYS RUGBY
Saturday 28th November, The Sportsground, Kick-Off 7.35pm

Number/Name/Caps (* denotes uncapped)
15. John Porch (23)
14. Peter Sullivan (4)
13. Sammy Arnold (6)
12. Tom Daly (30)
11. Alex Wootton (6)
10. Conor Fitzgerald (27)
9. Colm Reilly (3)
1. Denis Buckley (184)
2. Shane Delahunt (82)
3. Jack Aungier (6)
4. Eoghan Masterson (96)
5. Gavin Thornbury (44)
6. Sean O’Brien (58)
7. Conor Oliver (6)
8. Paul Boyle (C) (44)

Replacements
16. Jonny Murphy (9)
17. Paddy McAllister (14)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (56)
19. Cian Prendergast (1)
20. Jarrad Butler (61)
21. Stephen Kerins (11)
22. Sean O’Brien (Acad) *
23. Colm de Buitlear (5)

Irish international Ultan Dillane could make his 100th Connacht appearance on Sunday after he was named in the matchday 23 to face Zebre in the Guinness PRO14 (k/o 2.30pm Irish time).
 
Dillane is among the replacements for Andy Friend’s side, which shows six changes from the team that lost to Scarlets at The Sportsground last weekend. Dillane made his Connacht debut in December 2014 and was a starter in the Guinness PRO12 final 18 months later.
 
Meanwhile Sean O’Brien has ended a long injury absence to be handed his first starting jersey in nearly two years. The Galway native last started for Connacht in the 2018 Christmas interpro against Ulster, with his only appearance last season coming off the bench against Leinster in November before suffering serious shoulder and foot injuries.
 
O’Brien lines out in a new look back row with Sean Masterson at openside flanker and Jarrad Butler captaining the side from number 8.
 
Sean’s brother Eoghan is drafted into the second row alongside Gavin Thornbury, while there is a change of both props with Denis Buckley and Jack Aungier starting alongside hooker Shane Delahunt.
 
In the backs Colm Reilly and Jack Carty continue their half-back partnership, while Tom Farrell comes into the centre alongside Tom Daly with Sammy Arnold moving to the wing. Alex Wootton and John Porch complete the side.
 
Commenting ahead of the game, Head Coach Andy Friend said:
“While there was huge frustration and disappointment with last week’s result, we’ve parked that now and put all our focus and energy on picking up a win in Italy. Parma can be a tough place to go but first and foremost we need to return to the level performance I know we’re capable of.
 
I’d like to congratulate Ultan Dillane on potentially making his 100th appearance for Connacht, and I’m also delighted to welcome Sean O’Brien back in the side after his long layoff. I’ve seen first-hand the efforts he’s made to get back to full fitness, so his return is a big boost for us.”

 
CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS ZEBRE RUGBY
Sunday 22nd November, Stadio Lanfranchi, kick-off 14:30 Irish / 15:30 local
 
Number/Name/Caps
15. John Porch (22)
14. Sammy Arnold (5)
13. Tom Farrell (61)
12. Tom Daly (29)
11. Alex Wootton (5)
10. Jack Carty (143)
9. Colm Reilly (2)
1. Denis Buckley (183)
2. Shane Delahunt (81)
3. Jack Aungier (5)
4. Eoghan Masterson (95)
5. Gavin Thornbury (43)
6. Sean O’Brien (57)
7. Sean Masterson (4)
8. Jarrad Butler (C) (60)
 
16. Jonny Murphy (8)
17. Paddy McAllister (13)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (55)
19. Ultan Dillane (99)
20. Abraham Papali’I (3)
21. Stephen Kerins (10)
22. Conor Fitzgerald (26)
23. Peter Sullivan (3)

Following today’s team announcement, the Connacht medical team have released the latest squad update:
 
Caolin Blade (hamstring) will be unavailable for a number of weeks.
 
Dominic Robertson-McCoy (calf) will be available for selection over the coming weeks.
 
Peter Robb (groin) will look to integrate into training by the end of the month.
 
Tiernan O’Halloran (adductor) will be unavailable until mid-December.
 
Conor Dean (thumb) has undergone surgery and will be unavailable until January.
 
Stephen Fitzgerald (knee) continues his training integration after a long-term injury and is due to be available for selection in the coming weeks.
 
Oisin Dowling (back) is also stepping up his rehab from a long-term injury with an aim of returning in mid-December.
 
Sean O’Brien (foot) has resumed full training following a long-term injury.
 
Ben O’Donnell (knee), Niall Murray (shoulder) and Cillian Gallagher (shoulder) remain unavailable.
 

Meanwhile all Connacht players and essential staff tested negative in this week’s PCR testing.

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