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Eight Under-20 Grand Slam Winners Join Leinster Academy

Eight Under-20 Grand Slam Winners Join Leinster Academy

Liam Molony, Paddy McCarthy and captain Gus McCarthy celebrate following the Ireland Under-20s' Grand Slam-clinching win over England in Cork in March ©INPHO/Ben Brady

Leinster Rugby have confirmed that eight new players will join their Academy ahead of the commencement of the 2023/24 season.

Andrew Osborne (Naas RFC), Conor O’Tighearnaigh (UCD RFC), Fintan Gunne (Terenure College RFC), Gus McCarthy (UCD RFC), Henry McErlean (Terenure College RFC), Hugh Cooney (Clontarf FC), Liam Molony (Dublin University FC) and Paddy McCarthy (Dublin University FC) have all been added to Leinster’s Academy squad as Year One players.

All of the players were part of the Grand Slam-winning Ireland Under-20 squad that featured in the recent U-20 Six Nations Championship.

Osborne and Paddy McCarthy will have a certain familiarity with the set-up in UCD having their respective older brothers, Jamie and Joe, already in the Leinster senior squad. Molony’s first cousin, Ross, is a well-established player within Leinster ranks.

Gunne, O’Tighearnaigh and Molony will also be familiar with some of their new team=mates having toured South Africa in the BKT United Rugby Championship over the last few weeks. O’Tighearnaigh and Molony were capped off the bench against the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria.

Speaking to leinsterrugby.ie, Leinster Rugby Academy Manager Simon Broughton said: “I’d like to congratulate the eight players selected to join the Leinster Rugby Academy.

“This is a terrific opportunity for the province to continue to help these young men grow into excellent members of our community, while at the same time supporting them to achieve their rugby and academic potential.

“It’s important to acknowledge the contribution their clubs, schools and pathway coaches have played in fostering not only their talents but also their love for the game.

“From the countless hours spent on the training pitch to the emotional support provided off the field, these individuals have been instrumental in their development and deserve recognition for their efforts.

“Finally, to their parents and their families, thank you for your continued support which is greatly appreciated.”


Andrew Osborne (Naas RFC)
DOB – August 16, 2003

Andrew is currently studying Economics, Maths and Statistics in UCD and plays in the back-three.

He was a member of the Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam-winning squad this year, scoring a try in the win over Scotland at Scotstoun Stadium, which was also his debut at that level.

Like older brother Jamie, Andrew started his rugby with the Naas RFC minis, attended Naas CBS and lined out for the North Midlands Area in the Bank of Ireland Shane Horgan Cup.

Andrew earned his first Leinster representative cap in summer 2019 where he played for Leinster Under–18 Youths in the Interprovincial Championship at the University of Limerick. The same year he earned his first Ireland age grade cap for Ireland U-18 Clubs team against Italy.

His parents, Joe and Fiona, and his three other brothers, Jack, Adam and Will, are all still immersed in sport and in Naas RFC with their different age groups. Andrew acknowledges his dad, who was also his underage coach in Naas RFC, with much of the credit for his progression so far.

Conor O’Tighearnaigh (UCD RFC)
DOB – April 2, 2003

Second row Conor made his Leinster senior debut in the BKT United Rugby Championship game against the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in April.

It capped a remarkable few weeks for the young man, having also starred for Richie Murphy’s Ireland U-20s on their way to the Grand Slam. It was his second U-20 Grand Slam having also played in 2022.

He started his rugby journey with Bective Rangers FC minis before moving to Old Belvedere RFC, and he then attended St. Michael’s College where he went to school.

Interestingly, in his first year with the Leinster Under–18 Schools squad, he did not make the final panel for the Interprovincial Championship, while his second year was cancelled due to Covid-19. However, he played in all three Interprovincial games with the Leinster U-20s.

Conor is studying Medicine in UCD, and names Emmet MacMahon, Andy Skehan and Jimmy Duffy as coaches that have had an impact on his career to date.

Fintan Gunne (Terenure College RFC)
DOB – July 28, 2003

Fintan was a mainstay of the Ireland U-20s this season, with the all-action number 9 a constant thorn in the sides of those he met. He scored a try against England in the Grand Slam decider in Cork.

In April he was invited on the two-game tour of South Africa by Leo Cullen where he picked up valuable experience and will now enter the Leinster Academy in time for the 2023/24 season.

Fintan is studying Commerce in UCD and started his rugby in Old Belvedere RFC, before attending St. Michael’s College. He now lines out for Terenure College RFC in the Energia All-Ireland League.

As a youngster, he was also a talented golfer (Leinster development squad at Under-15) and swimmer (gold medallist in Leinster freestyle gala), before he turned his focus towards rugby where his dad Pat had also shown promise until a knee injury cut short his career shortly after leaving Castleknock College.

He has been capped by Leinster at Under-18 and Under-19 levels, before making his Ireland Under-20 debut in the 2023 U-20 Six Nations.

Fintan mentions his school coach Andy Skehan as having a huge influence on his career, in particular giving him the confidence as a young player to play above his age group.

Gus McCarthy (UCD RFC)
DOB – July 23, 2003

Gus was the captain of the Ireland U-20 Grand Slam-winning side, as the UCD RFC hooker led the team to a remarkable second title in as many years.

He started out his rugby journey with Old Belvedere RFC, before playing in Blackrock College where he captained the school to the 2022 Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup title after a win over Gonzaga College at the RDS.

Gus is now studying Commerce in UCD, where he is also lining out in the Energia All-Ireland League.

He played a number of other sports growing up, including GAA with Kilmacud Crokes, tennis and golf, but it was his coach Bobby O’Brien at Old Belvedere that left an indelible impression on the youngster, fostering a love of rugby that lasts to this day.

Interestingly, in that Old Belvedere team that O’Brien coached, there were four of the Academy inductees announced today – namely McCarthy, Gunne, Paddy McCarthy and O’Tighearnaigh.

Henry McErlean (Terenure College RFC)
DOB – February 13, 2003

Henry plays in the back-three and was the starting full-back in the Grand Slam decider against England in the U-20 Six Nations.

He grew up in Cushendall, County Antrim, and played rugby with Ballymena RFC and hurling with Ruairí Óg GAA Club before his family moved to Dublin, where he played Gaelic football with Clanna Gael and rugby in St. Michael’s College.

He won a Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Junior Cup title in 2019 after beating Blackrock College in the final at Energia Park.

He is currently studying Economics in UCD, and plays his club rugby with Terenure College RFC in the Energia All-Ireland League.

Henry’s dad played basketball for Ireland and his sister is part of the Under-19 Irish hockey team. His cousin, Harry West, is in the Connacht Rugby Academy and was a fellow member of the Ireland U-20 squad this year.

He singled out Charles Creagan and Ronan Joyce for their coaching influence on him when starting out with St. Michael’s College.

Hugh Cooney (Clontarf FC)
DOB – June 26, 2003

Hugh is a centre and is currently studying Sports and Exercise Management in UCD.

He won a Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup medal with Blackrock College in 2022, scoring a try in the final against Gonzaga College.

Later that same year he lined out for Leinster ‘A’ in a number of interprovincial games before making his Ireland Under-20 debut in the 2023 U-20 Six Nations. He played in every game of the campaign.

Growing up he was also a talented soccer player with St. James AFC and Beechwood FC. He represented South Dublin in the renowned Kennedy Cup.

Before attending Blackrock College, Hugh played minis rugby with Blackrock College RFC in Stradbrook and now lines out for Clontarf FC in the Energia All-Ireland League.

He does not need to go far to look for inspiration as his second cousin is former Leinster, Ireland and British & Irish Lions prop Jack McGrath.

He references David van Zuydam, his underage coach in the club, while John Creighton and Justin Vanstone had a huge impact on him while in school.

Liam Molony (Dublin University FC)
DOB – November 9, 2003

Like O’Tighearnaigh, Liam also made his Leinster senior debut while still a member of the sub-Academy. The back rower was invited on the two-game tour of South Africa by Cullen and came on in the second half against the Vodacom Bulls.

Having attended Blackrock College, where he won a Senior Cup title in 2022, Liam is now at Technological University Dublin, studying Business and Management, and wears the Dublin University FC colours in the Energia All-Ireland League.

He is a first cousin of Leinster lock Ross Molony, and his grandfather Jack was capped by Ireland against Scotland at Lansdowne Road in 1950.

Growing up, he played his minis rugby in Blackrock College RFC and his second love was soccer, playing with Mount Merrion FC.

Liam was selected for the Scotland and England games in the Grand Slam-winning campaign with the Ireland U-20s and has followed that up with a cap for Leinster in the BKT United Rugby Championship.

He credits Blackrock College’s Justin Vanstone and John Creighton as two coaches who helped him enormously throughout his development.

Paddy McCarthy (Dublin University FC)
DOB – May 28, 2003

The final member of the Year One intake is prop Paddy McCarthy, the younger brother of Leinster and Ireland lock Joe.

As mentioned earlier, he started out his rugby in Old Belvedere RFC minis with a number of the other Academy players before moving to Blackrock College where he won a Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup title in 2022.

He is now studying Global Business in Trinity College and playing for Dublin University FC in the Energia AIl-Ireland League.

Paddy played in all five of the Ireland Under-20s’ games on their way to the Grand Slam, wearing the number three or 18 jersey. He scored a memorable try in the win over France at Musgrave Park.

In terms of coaches, he credits Seamus Toomey in Blackrock College as a great source of knowledge around the scrum and someone that he really respects and appreciates for his time with him as a young player.