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Connacht's 21-year-old scrum-half Colm Reilly impresses in Italy

Head coach Andy Friend is pleased to see some young players coming through.

Scrum-half Colm Reilly was man of the match for Connacht last weekend.
Scrum-half Colm Reilly was man of the match for Connacht last weekend.
Image: Sighinolfi Luca/INPHO

CONNACHT HEAD COACH Andy Friend has praised the impact of 21-year-old scrum-half Colm Reilly on just his second start for the province last weekend.

Reilly was named man of the match for his impressive showing in Connacht’s bonus-point win away to Zebre in Italy as he earned his third cap.

The former Ballinasloe RFC and Garbally College halfback was part of the Ireland U20s squad that won a Grand Slam in 2019, with Reilly scoring a crucial try off the bench in the final game against Wales. 

Reilly, who moved onto a senior professional contract over the summer, made a similar dart for Alex Wootton’s first try last weekend but Friend was impressed with his all-round performance.

“I thought he was brilliant,” said Friend. “He’s a very quiet young bloke but he’s very, very confident. 

“You go back to when he was with the Ireland 20s and they needed to score to win their Six Nations and they bring on Colm Reilly, take off young Craig Casey, and what does he do? He just takes off like we saw on Saturday and scored a brilliant try.

“That turn of speed that he’s got but more so, he’s just an unassuming sort of a bloke. He gets the job done.

“His kicking, I thought, was unbelievably accurate on the weekend, his speed of pass, speed of decision-making, launching himself in the defensive line, he’s brave. All the things you want in a number nine, he gave them to us.

“We were very, very impressed with his performance on Sunday.”

colm-reilly-receives-the-guinness-pro14-man-of-the-match-award-along-side-jarrad-butler Reilly with Connacht captain Jarrad Butler. Source: Sighinolfi Luca/INPHO

Reilly’s team-mates have also been delighted to see the youngster showing his promise. 

“It’s brilliant,” said prop Denis Buckley. “Connacht and all the provinces are bringing through academy players and we’ve seen him in training for the last while, so it wasn’t a surprise for us to see him perform like that.

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“Fair play to him, only his second start, to get a man of the match is pretty special for him. He nailed the basics – his kicking, his exits. He did that stuff so well and when his opportunity came to make a linebreak or some off-the-cuff stuff, that’s when he shines a bit.

“He’s a really good talent and it’s exciting to see how he develops over the next while.

“There are a lot of young lads coming through so it’s really great to see.”

22-year-old flanker Sean Masterson made his first start for Connacht against Zebre and Friend was similarly pleased with the Portlaoise man, who also came through the province’s academy.

“Seanie Masterson, it was great to get him out there and I thought he did really well,” said Friend. “Like every young player, there are things to work on but what you’ll always get from Seanie is his energy.

“His bounce around the field for us defensively, he continually launches hard and moves well in both defence and attack. It feels like you’ve got an extra body out there, so I was really pleased for him.”

sean-masterson Masterson has impressed in the back row. Source: Sighinolfi Luca/INPHO

Friend said he is thrilled to see young players like Reilly coming through to impress at senior level.

“That’s a key part of our model – the more homegrown we can have, the better it is for us,” said Friend.

“Firstly because they’re from here and it means a little bit more to wear the jersey. Secondly, it’s financially easier for you because you’re not outside shopping. And thirdly, it’s another link to the clubs that are out there in the five counties. 

“It shows that if you start here and play your rugby in Connacht, you could end up playing for your province and hopefully your country. It’s really important that we keep producing homegrown talent.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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