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Five New Recruits For Connacht Academy

Five New Recruits For Connacht Academy

Connacht Rugby have today confirmed that five new players will join the NUIG Connacht Academy for the 2014/15 season.

Four players have graduated to the senior squad next season with Darragh Leader, Jack Carty, Conor Finn and Finlay Bealham all signing one-year deals.    

It has been confirmed that tighthead prop Jamie Dever will rejoin the Academy this year. The Mayo man was released on sabbatical last season due to a lengthy battle with a foot injury. He will come into year 2 of the Academy having already completed a season in 2012/13.

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While Shane Layden has completed three years in the Academy, he unfortunately missed the majority of a season due to injury and so has been re-contracted for an additional year. Layden will train with the senior squad under head coach Pat Lam.

Of the five new recruits, three played with the Ireland Under-20s this year in both the U-20 Six Nations and IRB Junior World Championship.


Ciaran Gaffney (Back-Three)
Jack Dinneen (Hooker)
Marc Kelly (Back Rower)
Conor McKeon (Out-Half)
Peter Robb (Centre)

Ciaran Gaffney was one of the stand-out players in the recent IRB Junior World Championship in New Zealand. As one of two Connacht representatives in the squad, Gaffney was named to start on the right wing for all five games.

Born in Galway, he was educated at the Bish before moving to Cistercian College Roscrea for the last two years of secondary school. The young back plays his club rugby with Galwegians RFC.

Balancing his rugby with a Commerce & French degree in NUIG, Gaffney was a member of the Connacht sub-Academy this season and earned deserved recognition as a nominee for the Connacht Under-19 Player of the Year.

19-year-old hooker Jack Dinneen has also been promoted from the sub-Academy. Born in Limerick, Dinneen now plays his club rugby with Galwegians and studies Commerce in NUI Galway.

At the end of the 2013/14 season, Dinneen was drafted into the senior matchday squad following an injury crisis at hooker. Having only recently converted from the back row to hooker, the young forward took his opportunity when called on from the bench against Munster at the Sportsground.

He then went on to earn a second cap in the PRO12 as a replacement in the last game of the season away to the Ospreys.

Back rower Marc Kelly recently lined out for the Ireland Under-19s against France and was also nominated for the Connacht Under-19 Player of the Year award after a great season with the province. The Portumna native was educated at Cisteran College Roscrea where he captained the Senior Cup team.

Out-half Conor McKeon has been a regular for the Ireland Under-20s, playing the last ten games in both the U-20 Six Nations and Junior World Championship. A second cousin to Connacht’s Eoin McKeon, the 20-year-old was born and educated in Dublin where he played his club rugby with Lansdowne.

Hugely physical centre Peter Robb had a successful U-20 Six Nations campaign under Mike Ruddock. The Old Belvedere clubman started all five games in the tournament and was set to continue his form in the Junior World Championship, but had his season cut short when he sustained an injury in a warm-up game against Scotland.

Speaking about the upcoming season and the new crop of players, Connacht Academy Manager Nigel Carolan said: “When recruiting players to the Academy, we always go back to the objective which is to produce winning rugby players who will go on to play for Connacht and Ireland.

“I am delighted with this new crop of players we have coming through. All have achieved success at age-grade level and this will be another step up for them in terms of their development – both on and off the field.

“It was great to see Academy graduate Kieran Marmion earn his first two international caps in Argentina this month and we’ve also been keeping an eye on the progress of two other graduates, Michael Kearney and Eoin Griffin, with Dan McFarland in the IRB Nations Cup.

“To see those players as well as our representatives with the Ireland Under-20s achieve success at the top level is extremely encouraging and we want to see more and more Academy graduates on those teams going forward.”


YEAR 3 –

Ultan Dillane (Lock)
Shane Layden (Back-Three)

YEAR 2 –

James Connolly (Back Rower)
Jamie Dever (Tighthead Prop)
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)

YEAR 1 –

Ciaran Gaffney (Back-Three)
Jack Dinneen (Hooker)
Marc Kelly (Back Rower)
Conor McKeon (Out-Half)
Peter Robb (Centre)

RELEASED: Tadhg Leader (Boston Wolfhounds) Peter Reilly (Waimate RFC, New Zealand), Steve Macauley (Waimate RFC, New Zealand), Marcus Walsh (Life University, USA), Conor Kindregan.