Greencore Academy players Stephen Fitzgerald, Dan Goggin, Bill Johnston, Conor Oliver and Brian Scott have all been rewarded with Munster senior development contracts for next season.
Stephen Fitzgerald, Brian Scott and Dan Goggin graduate after completing three years of the province’s Academy programme, while Conor Oliver and Bill Johnston advance after completing two years.
21-year-old full-back/winger Fitzgerald made his GUINNESS PRO12 debut in September 2015, scoring a try against the Ospreys. With two senior caps, the Shannon and former Ireland Under-20 player has made 13 appearances for Munster ‘A’ in the British & Irish Cup, playing his part in the title-winning campaign this season. In securing further game-time, the Limerick native joined Bond University in Australia for the summer months.
Centre Goggin’s progression accelerated during his final season of the Academy after the 22-year-old made his PRO12 debut starting against the Scarlets last September. Going on to make 14 appearances for the season, including seven starts, the former Ireland Under-20 and Sevens player was nominated for Academy Player of the Year. On the B&I Cup front, the Young Munster clubman has played on 16 occasions, including five 80-minute appearances during this season’s successful run.
Fellow third year player Scott can play on both sides of the scrum as a tighthead or loosehead prop. The 24-year-old made his PRO12 debut against the Scarlets in the opening round and went on to make his Champions Cup debut against Glasgow Warriors in October. The former Ireland U-20 player has 12 Munster ‘A’ caps, and the Dolphin clubman started every game in this season’s B&I Cup-winning series. Scott’s impressive form led to a nomination for Academy Player of the Year this season.
Although his progress has been hampered by a number of injuries, the 20-year-old Johnston has shown his potential and talent when previously lining out for the Ireland U-20s, Munster ‘A’ and club side Garryowen. This season the young out-half made his PRO12 debut when coming on as replacement against Zebre in Parma in March. In his five B&I Cup appearances to date, the Clonmel native has kicked 42 points.
In just his second year with the Academy, Oliver stood out as one to watch for the future and was deservedly named the Academy Player of the Year at the start of May. Making his PRO12 debut against Glasgow Warriors in February 2016, just over a year later the back rower won the man-of-the-match accolade against the same opposition in a season where he made 15 appearances, scoring four tries. The 21-year-old also played an integral role in Munster ‘A’ claiming their second B&I Cup title, crossing for a brace of tries in the semi-final win over Ealing Trailfinders at CIT.
The departing Rory Burke will continue his professional rugby career with Nottingham in England, while Shannon’s Greg O’Shea will continue his involvement with the Ireland Sevens programme.
The second year trio of Cork Constitution’s Ned Hodson, Young Munster’s Ben Kilkenny and Steven McMahon of Garryowen have also completed their time with the programme. McMahon most recently joined O’Shea when lining out for the Ireland Sevens side at the Amsterdam 7s tournament last week.
Munster’s first year Academy intake will be confirmed in the coming weeks.
MUNSTER RUGBY GREENCORE ACADEMY:
Year 3: Liam O’Connor (Prop/Cork Constitution), JP Phelan (Prop/Garryowen).
Year 2: Gavin Coombes (Back rower/Young Munster), Shane Daly (Centre/Cork Constitution), John Foley (Back rower/Shannon), Calvin Nash (Centre/Winger/Young Munster), Vincent O’Brien (Hooker/Cork Constitution), Sean O’Connor (Lock/Garryowen), Fineen Wycherley (Lock/Young Munster).
Year 1: To be confirmed