...O'Connor Comeback Close...Sunday's Well Book Launch...McClean "Delighted" With UCD Under-20s' Progress...Murphy Earns His Tiger Stripes...Keane And McDowell For Sevens Duty...
O'CONNOR COMEBACK CLOSE: Ireland flanker Johnny O'Connor is closing in on his comeback game for London Wasps. The 26-year-old has been out of commission since last April, when he injured his neck in the first-minute of the Powergen Cup final defeat of Llanelli.
O'Connor has started contact training with Wasps in recent days, and the club's head physio Roger Knibbs admitted: "Johnny is making good progress. If all goes well, he should be back playing in the next three to four weeks."
The Galway man has not played for Ireland since coming on as a substitute in the Triple Crown-clinching victory over England on March 18.
SUNDAY'S WELL BOOK LAUNCH: Sunday's Well RFC officially launched their 'Centenary Season' on Monday night, as the club celebrated the publication of its Centenary Book "Away The 'Well" which was edited by Irish Examiner journalist Declan Colley. Celebrations will continue with a player's reunion at Rochestown Park Hotel on Friday night.
The launch night took place at Thomas Crosbie Holdings in Cork city and proved to be very successful with a big turn-out. Amongst those present was new Munster captain Paul O'Connell, who also had the Heineken Cup with him for the occasion. Paul's father Michael was also in attendance and was a great servant to the club, with another of his sons, Justin part of the highly successful side in the 1990s.
Numerous players past and present and members were also present as was the Deputy Lord Mayor of Cork and the President of the Munster Branch.
Great credit must go to Declan and the Centenary Committee; headed up by Doc Carroll for managing to create an excellent publication. The book gives a comprehensive history of the club, with pictures dating back to the Tramway Cup winning team of our first season in 1906/07. There are also contributions from members who have been involved at various levels in the club.
Details of the availability of the book will be on the Sunday's Well RFC website, www.sundayswellrfc.com, shortly, while Centenary ties are currently available for 20 from the club.
MCCLEAN "DELIGHTED" WITH UCD UNDER-20S' PROGRESS: A total of eight UCD players were part of the Leinster squad that swept to victory in last Saturday's IRFU Under-20 Interprovincial Championship.
Centre Eoin O'Malley, winger Vasily Artemiev, half-backs Ian Keatley and Paul O'Donohoe, lock and captain Conor McInerney and number eight Sean O'Brien all started in the 20-18 win over Ulster in Athlone, while David Gilchrist and Brian Cawley were amongst the replacements.
UCD's Director of Rugby John McClean, the man who oversaw the development of Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll at the Belfield college, has been pleased with the efforts shown by his current crop of youngsters.
"We are all delighted with the contributions that the UCD players made to Leinster's winning of the U-20 Interprovincial trophy. It is another stage in their development," he told IrishRugby.ie.
"They are all on scholarships with the college, and the programme here runs alongside the Leinster IRFU Academy. We are both working towards the development of the players."
Not wishing to single anyone out or divulge the secrets of UCD's success, he added: "Like all students, their academic work comes first and their training programme works in tandem with this.
"Conor (McInerney) and Sean (O'Brien) both played on the UCD 1st XV last season and we would hope that others would come through in the near future. All bar one of our first team squad have come through our Academy system and have played Under-20 rugby in the club."
When pushed, he did admit that Leinster's youngest gun Luke Fitzgerald and highly rated Russian-born winger Artemiev, who is part of the Leinster Academy and has played for Ireland at Schools and U-19 levels, are both "fine young men with a great degree of potential."
MURPHY EARNS HIS TIGER STRIPES: Another young player showing plenty of promise is the 21-year-old Johnny Murphy - the Naas man made his debut for Leicester Tigers in their Guinness Premiership win over Harlequins last weekend.
The 6ft 1in full-back never floundered under the high balls kicked his way at the Stoop and is hoping to build on the confidence gained from his first start.
Contrasting the game with his reguular run-outs in the Guinness 'A' League, Murphy admitted: "The pace was quicker and the hits were bigger, but basically it was how I expected it to be.
"Now I've got a taste of it, I definitely want more. The lads were fantastic all week and everyone wished me well. It was a big help having guys like Cozza (Martin Corry) tell me that I've earnt my place, and that's definitely been a boost to my confidence. It was great to get that first game under my belt and now I'll be looking to take it further."
Murphy is not the only young Irishman on form at Welford Road. Out-half Ian Humphreys, whose older brother is Ulster talisman David, kicked 19 points to help the Tigers Development XV to a 54-5 success over Northampton in the 'A' League on Monday night.
The 24-year-old Ireland Sevens star has been pressing for inclusion in Leicester's senior squad, having made a handful of appearances last season.
KEANE AND MCDOWELL FOR SEVENS DUTY: Both David Keane and Simon McDowell have been appointed as match referees for the 2006/07 IRB World Sevens Series.
The Dublin-based Keane will officate at the opening tournament of the Series in Dubai (December 1-2) and again, a week later, in George in South Africa (December 8-9).
Belfast man McDowell is to be part of seven-strong refereeing panels at the two final tournaments in the Series - he will whistle at the London event (May 26-27) and a week later at the climax of the Series, with the final European destination yet to be decided upon.
McDowell is part of the IRB Touch Judge/TMO Panel and was the man in the middle for the recent IRB Women's Rugby World Cup final between New Zealand and England in Edmonton.