Connacht Rugby’s CEO Gerry Kelly has announced that he is to step down at the end of the 2011/12 season.
Having been involved with Connacht Rugby at committee level for many years, the former Garbally College teacher became the President of the Connacht Branch in 1995.
In 1999 he became the first Chief Executive Officer of the province and has been at the helm of Connacht Rugby throughout the professional era.
Commenting on his decision to retire from the provincial set-up, Gerry Kelly said: “I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of Connacht Rugby for the last 30 odd years and I have seen the game grow at every level since then.
“I feel that it is the right time for me to pass on the reins and, by doing so right now, it leaves the path clear for the recruitment process to start so the right candidate can be in place for the start of next season.
“I have seen dramatic changes to the sport over the years. I remember there being less than 1,000 people at the Sportsground for Challenge Cup games in 1999 and then you had this season where we had over 9,000 in the same venue for a Heineken Cup match – that’s a tremendous growth figure.
“For me personally, I am delighted to see the expansion in youth and schools rugby across the province. As a former Irish Schools selector that area has always been close to my heart.
“To see new clubs springing up across the province and rugby being developed in schools that would never have traditionally had a rugby team is a source of great pride to me and the evidence is there to support further growth into the future.”
He added: “It is also very promising to see the promotion of indigenous players to coaching positions within the province.
“Eric Elwood, Dan McFarland, Tim Allnutt and Nigel Carolan have all played with Connacht and their experience and knowledge of Connacht are helping to shape the future and define the very being of the province.
“The last number of years have been very exciting for Connacht Rugby and this season is no exception with our first ever Heineken Cup campaign and the redevelopment of the Sportsground being just two of the highlights.
“The PGB have brought a new energy and skill-set to their task and their progress is already evident throughout the club.
“The future of Connacht Rugby looks bright with the Connacht Branch Management Committee, the PGB and the IRFU working together to push on to new levels.”