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Connacht confirm signing of fullback Kelleher from Leinster

The 21-year-old prospect has signed a two-year deal with the western province.

CONNACHT HAVE CONFIRMED the signing of fullback Cian Kelleher from Leinster on a two-year contract.

The 21-year-old will join Pat Lam’s squad this summer.

Cian Kelleher Kelleher is heading west this summer. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Kelleher has played for Ireland at U18, U19, U20 and Emerging levels, as well as featuring for Joe Schmidt’s Ireland XV in the uncapped clash with the Barbarians at Thomond Park last year.

He has made seven senior appearances for home province Leinster in the Guinness Pro12, scoring one try.

Given that St. Michael’s College alumnus Kelleher is regarded as one of the most exciting young players in the country, his signing is a coup for Connacht.

“Having watched the brand of rugby Connacht have been playing, I was really excited by the opportunity Pat presented to me,” said Kelleher of his decision to move. “I cannot wait to get started down in Galway this summer where I’ll have to compete with a very talented and competitive backline for a starting spot.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone from Leinster Rugby, Lansdowne FC and St. Michael’s College who have always supported me. I’m extremely grateful to everyone for their time and input along the way.”

Kelleher also has experience playing on the wing and at outside centre, and Lam is excited to start working with the 21-year-old.

“It’s great to have someone with Cian’s versatility joining our squad for next season,” said Lam. “As a fullback who can also play on the wing and outside centre, his arrival will bring more competition and depth in the backs as we prepare for Champions Cup rugby.

“I was really impressed when I first saw Cian play for Lansdowne and Ireland U20s a couple of seasons ago. He showed real x-factor qualities with some of the tries he scored as well those he set up for his teammates.

Ireland’s Cian Kelleher Kelleher played for an Ireland XV under Joe Schmidt last year.

“With the way we train and play the game I have no doubt he will be able to showcase his ability on the Pro12 and Champions Cup stage to chase his big goal of representing Ireland.”

Kelleher’s move to Connacht has already attracted controversy, with Leinster expressing their unhappiness over the transfer when speaking to the Sunday Independent.

IRFU performance director David Nucifora is understood to have played a key role in Kelleher’s shift to the west, after Leinster had offered the fullback a development contract for next season.

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Connacht CEO Willie Ruane alluded to that situation when welcoming the capture of Kelleher, underlining that the IRFU is keen to ensure promising young players are afforded ample playing opportunities.

“We are delighted to have Cian joining the Connacht squad next season,” said Ruane.

“Passing up on an offer of a development contract with Leinster was obviously a difficult decision for Cian but it reflects an ambition and hunger for opportunity that not only Connacht Rugby but everyone involved in Irish Rugby is looking for.

“He is a very exciting, young Irish player and we believe he will add a lot to our squad. We’re looking forward to welcoming him to the Sportsground in pre-season.”

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