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Dublin: 10 °C Saturday 22 February, 2020

Three promising homegrown players sign pro contracts with Connacht

Conan O’Donnell, Cillian Gallagher and Peter Claffey have all penned new deals.

CONNACHT HAVE ANNOUNCED that academy players Cillian Gallagher, Peter Claffey and Conan O’Donnell will all move onto senior professional contracts with the province for the 2018/19 season.

Confirmation of the deals for three highly-promising homegrown players is positive news as Connacht look to build towards next season and the longer-term future.

pjimage Claffey, Gallagher and O'Donnell have all signed new contracts.

Tighthead prop O’Donnell came through the ranks of Sligo RFC and Summerhill College and was impressive for the Ireland U20s across two seasons in 2015 and 2016.

O’Donnell earned his senior Connacht debut in the Pro12-winning 2015/16 season under Pat Lam and has gone on to make a total of nine appearances for the province, including one appearance off the bench under head coach Kieran Keane this season.

Fellow Sligo RFC man and Summerhill College alumnus Gallagher is capable of playing in the back row or second row and has made five appearances for Keane’s side in the current campaign, including a Guinness Pro14 start against Munster.

Gallagher’s potential was clear as he rose through Connacht’s underage teams and he also played two seasons for the Ireland U20s.

Second row Claffey is a native of Portumna who played with Ballinasloe RFC and in school at Garbally College as a youth, going on to represent the Ireland U20s alongside O’Donnell and Gallagher in 2016.

Claffey has yet to win a senior cap for Connacht but has been heavily involved in their British and Irish Cup campaigns in recent seasons.

The development of players from our club and school system and through our academy is essential for the future success of Connacht,” said CEO Willie Ruane.

“We are delighted that three more players are making the step up to full-time professional contracts next season.  Our vision of ‘Grassroots to Green Shirts’ sets out a clear strategy of developing homegrown players through the structures in place in the province.

“All three have come through that path and they will be an important part of the senior squad next season.”

- This article was updated at 2.57pm to correct an error stating that Conan O’Donnell had not played for Connacht this season, as well as correcting his number of senior appearances.

Source: The42 Podcasts/SoundCloud

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Murray Kinsella

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