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Could loan moves lift talented duo out of Leinster limbo?


Max Deegan and Jack Kelly

Max Deegan and Jack Kelly

Max Deegan and Jack Kelly

Scour this island and you will find a number of professional players left in limbo.

They may just need a break to show what they can do at the PRO14 League level.

In the lead up to Christmas, Ireland’s Sevens captain Tom Daly agreed to move on loan from Leinster to Connacht.

Last week, 2018 Ireland under-20 prospect Stephen Fitzgerald made a similar move from Munster to Connacht.

The ‘loan system’ is a handy tool for the province holding the rights to the player to find out what exactly they have on their hands.

For instance, the time Daly spends at Connacht will be a good measure of how the centre rates in a different environment.


The Carlow man has been afflicted with serious injuries that have stalled his progress from his debut in November 2016, playing a dozen times for the Blues, just twice from the bench this season. 

The challenge out West is to push for game-time, especially when star man Bundee Aki is away for the duration of the Six Nations.

The blockage that exists at Leinster is not the same anywhere else in Ireland and 25-year-old Daly could be front and centre at Connacht quicker than expected. 

The fact that Leo Cullen can call on Noel Reid, Conor O’Brien, Rory O’Loughlin and Jimmy O’Brien, even when Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw and Joe Tomane are unavailable, speaks of a depth chart that leaves little wriggle room.

On-loan Ian Nagle made Ulster his third province when he made  his debut against Munster last Friday night in what is becoming an increasing trend.

Here are two other Leinster men, who could have their progress accelerated by the same arrangement.


(Leinster to Ulster?)

Age: 22

Leinster debut:

v Dragons, Dec 3, 2016

Caps: 31

The 2016 Junior World Player of the Year has been patiently waiting for an extended period in the first team.

The retirement of Jamie Heaslip and injuries to Seán O’Brien looked like paving the way for Deegan to make his play to challenge Jack Conan this season.

Instead, coach Cullen has tended to prefer Caelan Doris, Ireland’s Under-20 captain from the summer. Doris has already had four starts from six caps this season without really hitting his stride.

Deegan has accumulated ten caps with four starts, two at No 8 and two at blindside in his third season, racking 10 starts from 18 caps last season.

Marcel Coetzee has been worryingly fragile for Ulster. Nick Timoney is the next man up in the position and Deegan would be likely to rank above the Blackrock man.


(Leinster to Connacht?)

Age: 21

Leinster debut:

v Ospreys, Nov 23, 2018

Caps: 1

The Trinity law student was summoned to Ireland training by Joe Schmidt along with Jordan Larmour back in November 2016.

“What I noticed from it was that every training session is as important as the next,” said Kelly.

“The senior players were striving for 100 per cent at every training session. They were never just thinking, ‘this is a training session, the game will come and that’s when we will switch on’.

“That’s what I took away from it, you have to try to reach a certain intensity in training that you would look to get to in a real match.”

Since then, Larmour has become part of the Ireland furniture and a nominee as 2018 World Rugby Breakout Player of the Year.   

In contrast, the versatile Kelly is halfway through the final year of the Academy with just one Leinster cap to his credit as a replacement against The Ospreys in November.

To hold out any reasonable hope of making the senior squad, it would do Kelly and Leinster the world of good to see him gain more regular match minutes.

This has a better chance of happening at Connacht, where Kelly’s versatility as a centre, wing and full-back is a strength.

Herald Sport

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