Lansdowne's new stars ready to step up to pro game
Published 09/05/2015 | 02:30
The Lansdowne team that will take to the Aviva Stadium pitch this afternoon is an altogether different one than the side that won the AIL in 2013.
Mike Ruddock has lost 13 of his players, the vast majority of whom have gone on to win full-time professional contracts, and from a coach's point of view, there is nothing more satisfying.
The likes of Leinster duo Jordi Murphy and Marty Moore as well as Craig Ronaldson, Matt Healy, John Cooney and Kyle Tonetti - all of whom played with Connacht - have proved that standout performances in the AIL won't go unnoticed by provincial coaches.
Ruddock will have to plan without Conor McKeon today as the young out-half is set to make his first senior Connacht appearance from the bench against Zebre.
"We're delighted for him, he thoroughly deserves it. We've got a good record producing professional players," Ruddock says.
"If he goes on to be another one for us, that's a great selling point for the next generation coming through.
"Look at the likes of Marty Moore, Tom Sexton and Jack O'Connell. That was our front-row two years ago and they all went on to win professional contracts, and Marty has gone on to international level since.
"The more we can help showcase these guys, the more attractive we become as a club."
There is plenty of talent in the current crop and Cian Kelleher in particular looks set to follow the path to the pro game.
The full-back has blistering pace and is destined to wear a Leinster jersey before too long. Centres Tom Daly and Tom Farrell have both represented Ireland at U-20 level under Ruddock, as has winger Ian Fizpatrick.
All four youngsters are rising stars in the Leinster academy and Ruddock believes that they have what it takes to step up to the next level.
"Tom Daly and Tom Farrell are 6ft 3ins, 6ft 4ins, very quick, the modern centre if you like. They are certainly reaching the point where if they go well today, they'll do themselves a lot of good," Ruddock adds.
"Cian Kelleher has been in good form for us this season and has been a good underage player. Ian Fitzpatrick played in the U-20 team for me, all those kids have massive potential."
This afternoon is another ideal opportunity to further stake their claim in their pursuit of full-time professional contracts.
Ruddock's men can end 'Tarf's back-to-back dream
Lansdowne's two victories over Clontarf in the regular season as well as the fact that they topped the league table by 12 points has them rightfully confident for this afternoon's (1.0) Ulster Bank League Division 1A final.
Mike Ruddock's side have been the most consistent team this season and having come through an extra-time semi-final thriller against Young Munster, they will be buoyant.
Andy Wood is sweating over the fitness of David Joyce. The out-half will be given as much time as possible to prove his fitness but if he misses out, it will be a major blow to Clontarf's hopes.
'Tarf are seeking to back up last year's first ever title with another, while Lansdowne were their predecessors as champions in 2013.
Having played there several times this season, Lansdowne's familiarity with the Aviva Stadium might just tip a closely fought tie in their favour.