The make-up of the Connacht Academy squad for the 2011/12 season has been confirmed, along with the appointment of Jimmy Duffy as Elite Player Development Officer.
The Connacht Rugby Academy is a programme that identifies and develops indigenous players with the potential to play for Connacht and Ireland.
Players such as Ronan Loughney, Andrew Browne, David Nolan, Dermot Murphy and Eoin Griffin have graduated through this system into the professional ranks in recent years. Eoin McKeon has made the step up this year.
The 2011/12 inductees include Ireland Under-20 players David Heffernan, Kieran Marmion and Michael Kearney.
Heffernan hails from Ballina and went to school in Blackrock College. He played with Connacht at Under-19 and Under-20 level before getting the call-up for the Ireland U-20s’ Six Nations match against France earlier this year.
Kearney, a lock from Raheny in Dublin, was a regular member of the Ireland U-20 team throughout their RBS U-20 6 Nations and Junior World Championship campaigns.
Marmion, who is from Brecon in Wales, has a grandfather from Loughrea. The young scrum half played for the Connacht ‘A’ team against Enisei STM of Russia in April, before getting drafted into the Ireland U-20 Squad for the Junior World Championship in Italy.
Also contracted to the Academy are Ireland Under-19 players Jack Carty, an out-half from Athlone playing for Buccaneers, and Tadhg Leader, an out-half/centre from Castlegar in Galway who went to school in the Bish.
Shane Layden from Carrick-on-Shannon and Conor Finn from Aughrim were both members of the Cistercian College Roscrea side that lost out to Clongowes Wood in the 2011 Leinster Schools Senior Cup final.
Meanwhile, this year sees former Connacht back rower Jimmy Duffy join the province’s Academy structure as Elite Player Development Officer.
Commenting on Duffy’s appointment, Academy Manager Nigel Carolan said: “Having Jimmy on board is a huge addition to our set-up.
“He brings a wealth of knowledge from his playing days as well as his exceptional coaching credentials. I’m sure he can help us drive the Connacht Academy forward and help mould the stars of the future.”
2011/12 CONNACHT ACADEMY PANEL:
YEAR 1: Jack Carty (out-half), Tadhg Leader (out-half/centre), Michael Kearney (lock), Kieran Marmion (scrum half), David Heffernan (back rower), Shane Layden (back-three), Conor Finn (centre/back-three)
YEAR 2: Aaron Conneely (back rower), Daniel Qualter (lock), Callum Boland (back-three)
YEAR 3: Shane Conneely (back rower), Denis Buckley (prop), Mark Dolan (scrum half)