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Dublin: 9 °C Saturday 15 December, 2018

A Sligo 19-year-old could make his Connacht debut this weekend

Conan O’Donnell is included in a matchday squad for the very first time.

O'Donnell has been part of the Irish U20 set-up in 2015.
O'Donnell has been part of the Irish U20 set-up in 2015.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

CONNACHT COULD HAND a debut to 19-year-old Sligo prop Conan O’Donnell for tomorrow’s return to PRO12 action against Cardiff Blues.

The Academy prop – who played for Ireland’s U20′s in this year’s Six Nations and Junior World Championship – has been named on the bench, with Pat Lam’s side currently in the middle of a front-row shortage.

Lam has made three changes to his side from their dramatic 33-32 defeat to champions Glasgow Warriors.

There’s just one change in the backline, with Irish international Kieran Marmion in for John Cooney, linking up with Jack Carty in the half-backs.

Academy centre Rory Parata retains his place in the centre alongside Bundee Aki after impressing in the opening two games, while the usual trio of Matt Healy, Danie Poolman and Tiernan O’Halloran make up the back three.

Rory Parata tackled by Chris Fusaro Parata has impressed in his two starts this season. Source: Russell Cheyne/INPHO

In the pack Rodney Ah You’s injury means a first start of the season for Finlay Bealham at tighthead alongside Tom McCartney and Denis Buckley.

Quinn Roux and Andrew Browne continue in the second row, and it’s also unchanged on the flanks with Nepia Fox-Matamua and captain John Muldoon starting.

The final change comes at number eight, with Eoin McKeon slotting in for the injured Eoghan Masterson.

Connacht head coach Pat Lam says that while he hadn’t planned to introduce the 19-year-old Conan O’Donnell to first team rugby so soon, he’s confident he can hold his own against the Blues.

Conan OÕDonnell presented by Eamonn Molloy O'Donnell was Connacht's u19 Player of the Year last season. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“We are low on tightheads with Nathan (White) away at the World Cup. It’s probably a bit earlier than Conan expected to be playing PRO12 rugby but he is a talented player who has a lot of experience with the Under-20′s.

“He has prepared well this week in training and I have no doubt he will grab the opportunity with both hands if he’s called on tomorrow,” Lam said.

“The boys can’t wait to get back out and play again tomorrow and having our home support behind us will certainly help in our fight for points. Cardiff are a good side who have had a similar start to the season as us,” Lam added.

Connacht (v Cardiff Blues)

15. Tiernan O’Halloran

14. Danie Poolman

13. Rory Parata

12. Bundee Aki

11. Matt Healy

10. Jack Carty

9. Kieran Marmion


1. Denis Buckley

2. Tom McCartney

3. Finlay Bealham

4. Quinn Roux

5. Andrew Browne

6. John Muldoon (captain)

7. Nepia Fox-Matamua

8. Eoin McKeon



16. Dave Heffernan

17. JP Cooney

18. Conan O’Donnell

19. Aly Muldowney

20. George Naoupu

21. John Cooney

22. Craig Ronaldson

23. Fionn Carr

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Neil Treacy

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