Saturday 20 January 2018

Connacht release Parata and O'Leary as Loughney fate hangs in balance

Rory Parata is leaving Connacht. Photo: Sportsfile
Rory Parata is leaving Connacht. Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon

Connacht have managed to hold on to most of their frontline players for next season but there will be a significant shift in personnel at the Sportsground for the start of the Kieran Keane era in the summer.

Rory Parata, who featured a dozen times last year in the march to the Guinness Pro12 crown, is leaving, along with Shane O'Leary and Rory Moloney.

Scrum-half John Cooney is joining Ulster, while second-row Danny Qualter last week completed a move to Ian Costello's Nottingham.

It is believed that prop Ronan Loughney, ruled out through injury for the remainder of the campaign, may have played his last match for the province, bringing to an end a Connacht career which goes back to being a member of the first academy squad assembled almost 15 years ago.

Difficulties

That situation could change given the legal difficulties being encountered by former Irish U-20 Denis Coulson in France, who had been expected to join from Grenoble in the summer; it remains to be seen if that move goes ahead.

Others with plenty of first-team experience, such as South African winger Danie Poolman, may also be departing.

Three members of the Academy who have been released will be playing rugby in New Zealand for the foreseeable future.

Two former Irish U-20 internationals, full-back Ciaran Gaffney and second-row Cian Romaine, have already left.

Hooker Jack Dinneen is due to go Down Under later this month.

Other members of the academy who will be departing include scrum-half Conor Lowndes and back-row Stephen McVeigh.

Keane will become Connacht's seventh coach in the professional era when he takes over when his role as assistant to the Chiefs comes to an end during the summer when they complete their Super Rugby campaign.

Jimmy Duffy, forwards coach for the past two season, and outgoing academy manager Nigel Carolan will form part of his backroom team.

That management team is likely to be strengthened, with Chiefs skills coach Andrew Strawbridge, who previously had a spell with Old Crescent in Limerick, being mentioned as a possibility.

The changes in Connacht will also include backs coach Conor McPhillips and head of fitness Paul Bunce following Pat Lam to Bristol when the season concludes next month.

Irish Independent

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