Thursday 22 March 2018

Skerries man making mark with Munster

Paul Byrne

Skerries native Conor Oliver could be in the shake-up for Munster's upcoming European Champions Cup quarter-final at home to Toulon after some superb performances for the province in the Pro14.

Oliver is making up for lost time now that he has recovered from a shoulder injury that saw him sidelined for a number of months and indeed he has earned rave reviews ever since he joined their academy in 2015.

The 22-year-old flanker first took to the rugby pitch in Skerries with their under-8 side and played right through the age grades until leaving for Blackrock College during his Leaving Cert year.

While there he won a Leinster Schools Senior Cup, but with options limited in this province Oliver took the unusual route of trying his luck with Munster and it proved to be a good decision and he has gone from strength to strength in recent years, winning the Academy Player of the Season award last May.

Previous head coach Rassie Erasmus was a big fan of the flanker and Oliver was on the verge of making a breakthrough in the first team when he suffered a shoulder injury at the end of last season which kept him out until just after Christmas.

With Erasmus recently leaving his post, Oliver was determined to show new head coach Johann Van Grann what all the fuss was about and he did that in spades with a man-of-the-match performance in his first game back against Connacht just after Christmas. Oliver was named man of the match against the Westerners and followed that up with another barnstorming display against Zebre last month in the Guinness Pro14.

After the match the new Munster coach described Oliver's performance thus: 'I thought he was exceptional. I'm very pleased for him to come back after that injury and play 80 minutes.

'One of his biggest threats is his poach threat. He didn't really go for the ball because we had to adapt to the breakdown, but his carrying ability and line-speed was excellent.'

It's been a good couple of months for the former Skerries underage player, having also recently signed a two-year contract extension with the Thomond Park outfit and speaking after signing his new deal Oliver thanked everybody who had helped him get this far in his career.

'I'm thrilled to commit to Munster for another two years. Couldn't ask for a better club and people to be involved with. Big thanks to everyone who helped me get here.'

Fingal Independent