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Eight Players To Join Connacht Academy Ranks

Eight Players To Join Connacht Academy Ranks

The Connacht Academy has been finalised for the 2013/14 season, with Ireland Under-19 captain Sean O’Brien and David Panter, who is currently away with the Ireland Under-20 squad at the IRB Junior World Championship, joining the ranks.

Five players have been promoted to the professional ranks from the Connacht Academy this season and this has paved the way for Academy manager Nigel Carolan to add in his new recruits.

The vision of the Connacht Academy is to produce winning rugby players who will go on to play for Connacht and Ireland.

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Robbie Henshaw and Kieran Marmion both had phenomenal seasons with Connacht; making the journey from the Academy right through to being starters in the province’s senior team.

Both were rewarded with senior contracts and last month, the uncapped youngsters were named in the Ireland squad and are currently touring North America.

Henshaw earned his first senior Ireland cap last Saturday night in Houston, Texas, starting at full-back in the 20-15 victory over the USA.

Joining Henshaw and Marmion in the Connacht senior squad next season are Academy products Aaron Conneely (back rower), David Heffernan (hooker) and Daniel Qualter (lock).

Meanwhile, the following eight players will join year one of the Connacht Academy for the upcoming season:

James Connolly (Back rower)
Conor Kindregan (Lock)
Rory Moloney (Back rower)
Saba Meunargia (Tighthead prop)
Sean O’Brien (Back rower/Lock)
David Panter (Back-three)
Rory Parata (Centre)
Jacob Walshe (Loosehead prop)

Speaking about the upcoming season, Academy boss Carolan said: “I’m very excited about the new crop of players we have coming in.

“Every one of them has proven that they are deserving of a place in the Academy and we now have a duty to do everything we can to develop these young men and help them reach their full potential.

“We had a good year with the Connacht Academy. Obviously the rapid progression of Robbie and Kieran to the senior team was fantastic. But we also had our first year in the British & Irish Cup competition and we took a lot from that.

“It was great to have our young players involved with the Connacht Eagles team and to gain that invaluable experience against quality opposition.

“Next year, Connacht will once again compete in the Heineken and British & Irish Cups and with the demands of the PRO12, we need depth in our squad. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what we can do with our new blend of signings.”


James Connolly, a dynamic back row player, was educated in Newbridge College and has played for the Connacht Under-19s and Under-20s, earning himself a nomination for ‘Player of the Year’ at both levels in successive years. Unfortunately, injuries ruled him out of contention for selection on the respective national teams.

A physical lock forward, Conor Kindregan, was a member of the Connacht Under-20 team that won the Interprovincial title in 2011. While completing his third year of Wood Science and Technology in University of Limerick this year, he played six times for the Connacht Eagles during the province’s inaugural year competing in the British & Irish Cup. This included the 31-16 win over Cross Keys and the narrow 16-6 loss to Newcastle Falcons.

Rory Moloney, an abrasive openside flanker, was a member of the Cistercian College Roscrea team that was narrowly beaten by eventual winners Blackrock College in the semi-final of the Leinster Schools Senior Cup this season. He has represented Ireland at Under-18 Schools level for the last two years.

Saba Meunargia, a monstrous tighthead prop, was born in Georgia and has being living in Athlone for the last five years. He played a big part in helping Marist College win the 2011/12 Connacht Schools Senior Cup for the first time in 35 years. The Buccaneers forward has represented Ireland at both Ireland Under-18 Schools and Under-19 level.

Sean O’Brien, from Clarinbridge in Galway, was captain of the Cistercian College Roscrea team that was narrowly beaten by eventual winners Blackrock College in the semi-final of the Leinster Schools Senior Cup this season. The Galwegians clubman has represented Ireland at both Under-18 Clubs and Schools level and he was also captain of the Ireland Under-19 team this season for their two internationals against England an France.

David Panter was identified through the Irish Exiles system. The Surrey-born full-back has previously represented Ireland at Under-18 Clubs level and played in four of the five Six Nations games with the Ireland Under-20s this year. He plays rugby for Corinthians RFC and is currently with the Ireland Under-20 squad competing in the IRB Junior World Championship in France.

Rory Parata, a versatile back, was a member of the Rockwell College team that was beaten by Crescent Comprehensive in the Munster Schools Senior Cup final this year. In helping the Connacht Under-19s win the Interprovincial title, he was selected to represent Ireland in their two Under-19 Internationals against England and France in April.

Jacob Walshe, a dynamic loosehead prop from Aughrim, was educated in Garbally College until this season when he attended Cistercian College Roscrea for his final year in school. The Ballinasloe man has represented Ireland at both Ireland Under-18 Clubs and Under-19 level.


YEAR 3 –

Jack Carty (Out-half)
Conor Finn (Centre)
Shane Layden (Back-three)
Tadhg Leader (Centre)

YEAR 2 –

Finlay Bealham (Loosehead prop)
Jamie Dever (Tighthead prop)
Ultan Dillane (Lock)
Darragh Leader (Back-three)
Steve Macauley (Back-three)
Peter Reilly (Tighthead prop)
Marcus Walsh (Scrum half)

YEAR 1 –

James Connolly (Back rower)
Conor Kindegran (Lock)
Saba Meunargia (Tighthead prop)
Rory Moloney (Back rower)
Sean O’Brien (Back rower/lock)
David Panter (Back-three)
Rory Parata (Centre)
Jacob Walshe (Loosehead prop)