Sport Rugby

Monday 23 April 2018

Connacht fury at exodus

Hugh Farrelly

Connacht are deeply frustrated by having to "start from scratch" following the departure of their top players to Munster and Leinster at the end of the season.

The western province had been operating on a one-year contract basis until the IRFU announcement last December that their future was secure for three years.

However, the subsequent departure of Sean Cronin, Jamie Hagan and Fionn Carr to Leinster, combined with Ian Keatley's switch to Munster, diluted optimism in the province and forwards coach Dan McFarland has questioned the wisdom of those transfers for the players, and for Irish rugby.

"Bringing players on is 100pc about game time and they get that with Connacht. Will they get the same with Munster and Leinster? It's massively frustrating," said McFarland.

"Having our future secured for three years was a big boost and evidence of the good work being done, but now it feels like we are starting from scratch again.

"We are trying to play rugby. Ian Keatley and Fionn Carr are key backs for us and have improved immensely with that responsibility, now they are going to provinces where there is no guarantee of first-team rugby.

"Sean Cronin is our main forward strike-runner and now we have to plan without him just as he is hitting his peak. I believe Sean is the best hooker in Ireland and he has got to that level through his performances with Connacht. At Leinster he will have major competition from Richardt Strauss, who has been one of their best players.

"Jamie Hagan has come on hugely but there is still work to be done, we hadn't finished yet and he's gone too. It's really frustrating to have to rebuild again.

"I think it must be somewhat embarrassing for provinces to have had these players and not got anything out of them and then see them come through into the international picture with us.

"But we have our own case to fight and it all comes back to money. If we can hold onto players and attract big-name players then we can compete with the bigger sides, but we need to generate funding to make that happen."

While losing their frontline stars has been a major blow, Connacht have been successful in signing fringe players from the other provinces, with Leinster and Clontarf scrum-half Paul O'Donohoe believed to be the latest to agree to join Eric Elwood's men next season.

Irish Independent

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