Connacht winger and former Leinster academy player Cian Kelleher looks set to rejoin his native province for the start of next season. His three-year contract is set to expire and Connacht are believed to have offered him a new contract, but he has chosen to rejoin Leo Cullen’s Leinster.
Kelleher first caught the eye while playing for Lansdowne FC in the AIL during the 2014/15 season. The Dublin club went on to win the Ulster Bank title that year and Kelleher was rewarded with a call up to the Leinster squad for a trip to Edinburgh. Connacht snapped up Kelleher for the 2016/17 season. However, Kelleher had an injury-interrupted first season in the west. He began to establish himself under Kieran Keane last season and under new coach, Andy Friend, Kelleher has become a first choice player. His recent form has been good, and he has scored six tries for Connacht so far in this campaign.
He travels a well-worn path of Leinstermen who have gone west to Connacht in search of game time and later returned to Leinster with ambitions of cementing a first-team place. One such player was Fionn Carr, who came to Connacht from Leinster in 2008 and quickly established himself in the team. His scintillating form, which saw him score 34 tries in 73 appearances, convinced Leinster to resign him in 2011. Carr found game time harder to come by on his return to Leinster. He managed 8 tries in 37 appearances, before returning west for a second stint in Connacht where he became their record try scorer with 42 tires in 110 appearances.
Kelleher, who can also play at full-back, faces stiff competition from the likes of James Lowe, Jordan Larmour, Rob Kearney, Dave Kearney, Adam Byrne and Barry Daly for a starting spot under Leo Cullen. However, Kelleher’s chance to impress Cullen may come fairly quickly, as at the start of next season Leinster will be short their Irish players who will be committed to Ireland’s World Cup campaign in Japan.