Three talented All Ireland League players have been given the opportunity to display their talents at Connacht Rugby after being awarded development contracts with the province. Brian Murphy, Matt Healy and JP Cooney have been drafted in as Head Coach Eric Elwood puts the finishing touches to the 2012/13 squad.
With the first block of pre-season training finished and the season almost upon us the squad is taking shape in more ways than one. Last year saw a new look Connacht team with 16 players joining the club but the season ahead will see a much more settled Connacht side take to the pitch.
Connacht's participation in the British & Irish cup, the Heineken Cup and the RaboDirect PRO12 have led to considerable investment in players and a number of astute signings have bolstered the squad in key areas. There have also been several internal promotions from the Connacht Academy to the senior setup highlighting the commitment of the club in developing it's own indigenous players.
Connacht put together some extraordinary performances last season, finishing eighth in the league and toppling Aviva Premiership winners Harlequins in the Heineken Cup, and the future looks even brighter for the western club. Season ticket sales have soared and overtaken last year's record breaking figure already and crowds are expected to flock to the Sportsground to see the new recruits in action.
As well as seasoned campaigners such as John Muldoon, Michael Swift and Johnny O'Connor, Connacht fans will have the opportunity to see Scottish international Dan Parks, Heineken Cup finalists Nathan White and Willie Faloon and the Stormers Danie Poolman line out in the green of Connacht this season.
The latest additions to the squad include former Leinster and Bristol hooker Jason Harris-Wright, Lansdowne RFC's flying winger Matt Healy, centre Brian Murphy from Galwegians and Garryowen's Bateman Cup winning prop, JP Cooney. They will join some of Connacht's brightest young talents when Connacht kick start their RaboDirect PRO12 campaign in early September.
Head Coach Eric Elwood is delighted with the way the squad has taken shape saying:
"The new guys have slotted into our setup very nicely. Tom (McLoughlin) is putting the squad through a tough preseason programme which should see us in good shape come the start of the season. It's an exciting time for everyone with our second year in the Heineken Cup and competing in the British & Irish Cup for the first time. It's great to see the Academy players coming through and integrating into the senior squad."
"We went through some major restructuring last season and we still finished in our highest ever league position so we're all looking forward to what we can achieve this year."
Connacht Rugby squad 2012/13
Brett Wilkinson, Ronan Loughney, Denis Buckley, Rodney Ah You, Nathan White, JP Cooney
Adrian Flavin, Ethienne Reynecke, Jason Harris Wright
Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy, Andrew Browne, Dave Nolan, Dave Gannon, Mick Kearney
John Muldoon, Johnny O'Connor, Willie Faloon, TJ Anderson, Eoghan Grace, Eoin McKeon, George Naoupu
Frank Murphy, Dave Moore, Paul O'Donohoe
Miah Nikora, Matthew Jarvis, Dan Parks
Eoin Griffin, Kyle Tonetti, Danie Poolman, Dave McSharry, Brian Murphy, Mata Fafita
Mark McCrea, Fetu'u Vainikolo, James Loxton, Matt Healy
Gavin Duffy, Tiernan O'Halloran