Cathal Forde, Shane Jennings, Oisin McCormack, Darragh Murray, Ciaran Booth, and Diarmuid Kilgallen have all signed pro contracts for Connacht.
Galway-born Cathal Forde can cover the 10 or 12 positions and played a significant role in Ireland’s U20 Six Nations campaign last year, earning plaudits for his performances. The 20-year old has represented Galway Corinthians RFC at club level and played school rugby with Colaiste Iognaid (The Jes).
Like Forde, Shane Jennings also made a big impact on the Ireland U20 scene last year. Another product of the Connacht pathway system, Jennings has played for Ballinasloe RFC and Garbally College and predominately plays centre. More recently he was a member of the Ireland Sevens squad at the World Sevens Series in Canada.
Oisin McCormack is another alumni of Garbally College and Ballinasloe RFC, playing with friend Shane Jennings from an early age. McCormack holds a unique accolade of scoring tries in consecutive Connacht Schools Cup finals, touching down in both the 2018 and 2019 Senior deciders. The 20-year old can play across the back row.
Darragh Murray is the second Murray brother to graduate from the Academy, following in the footsteps of his older brother Niall. A fellow lock, Darragh was a member of the 2021 Ireland U20s and captain of the Connacht U18s that won the 2018 Interprovincial Series. He came through the pathway at Buccaneers RFC and Colaiste Chiarain Athlone.
Ciaran Booth first joined the Connacht Academy in the summer of 2020, arriving from Sale Sharks. The 21-year old was born in Stockport and is Irish qualified, having played for Ireland in the 2019 U20 Rugby World Championship. Primarily a flanker, Booth can also play as a number 8 or in the second row.
Diarmuid Kilgallen is no stranger to Connacht supporters having already made 5 appearances with the Pro team. The back three player made his debut at the Aviva Stadium against Munster in August 2020, and Lansdowne Road was also the scene for his first try, scoring an intercept against Ulster last October.
Connacht Rugby Academy Manager Eric Elwood has paid tribute to the six players:
“I’d like to congratulate the six men on their impending move to the Pro team, and to their respective clubs and schools that have played a big part in their success. Everyone at Connacht Rugby has worked tremendously hard at all levels to give them the platform to succeed and I’d like to acknowledge the work done by the coaches as well as the wider Academy staff. That said, it’s up to the players themselves to take the opportunities afforded to them and they’ve done just that. I know they each have what is required to take that next step in their careers.”
Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has congratulated the six players on their contracts:
“This is a special day both for Connacht Rugby and for Ciaran, Cathal, Shane, Diarmuid, Oisin and Darragh. They have each forged their own paths to professional rugby through hard-work and dedication, and with the help of their coaches, parents and volunteers along the way. It’s particularly pleasing that 4 of the 6 players came through the Connacht pathway, playing their club and school rugby here in the West of Ireland. I’m looking forward to further integrating them into the Pro setup and help us challenge for honours in the years ahead”