Buckley set to sign new Connacht deal despite interest from Ulster

The 28-year-old loosehead is a key player for the western province.

CONNACHT ARE SET to secure another key squad member to a new contract, with loosehead prop Denis Buckley close to finalising an extension.

The 28-year-old’s current deal expires this summer and there has been interest in Buckley from elsewhere, including Ulster.

However, sources close to both provinces have told The42 that Buckley will pledge his future to Connacht.

Ultan Dillane and Denis Buckley celebrate after the game with fans Bryan Keane / INPHO Buckley after making his 150th appearance for Connacht last month. Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

The Roscommon man has become a stalwart for his native province since first breaking into the senior team during the 2011/12 season.

Buckley has made 151 appearances for Connacht so far but was unfortunate to miss out on the title run-in for their 2016 Pro12 crown due to an ankle injury, having played a central role in that campaign.

The Creggs RFC and Blackrock College product signed a two-year contract with the western province in 2017, rejecting offers from Premiership clubs at the time.

With that deal expiring at the end of the current season, there has been some concern that Buckley would leave Connacht, particularly with outside interest from several clubs again.

Ulster are in the process of rebuilding their squad under head coach Dan McFarland and it’s understood the northern province expressed their interest in signing Buckley as part of that strengthening process.

However, Buckley is now set to pen a new deal with Connacht, as their resurgence continues under Australian boss Andy Friend.

Buckley remains the clear first-choice loosehead prop at Connacht and has started 14 games this season.

Capped by Ireland at Schools and U20 levels, Buckley has previously stated his aim of winning senior Test caps.

Adeolokun Ultan Dillane and Denis Buckley with the Quilter Cup Inpho / Billy Stickland Buckley helped the Barbarians to a win over England last year, along with Connacht team-mates Ultan Dillane and Niyi Adeolokun. Inpho / Billy Stickland / Billy Stickland

He featured in a pre-season camp under Joe Schmidt last August and the Ireland head coach name-checked him as one of those unlucky to miss out on selection for the Six Nations squad this year, saying Buckley “has done well for Connacht.”

Buckley played for the Barbarians under former Connacht boss Pat Lam last year in a win over England. 

Confirmation of a new deal for Buckley would be the latest boost for Friend’s squad, with Jack Carty, Ultan Dillane, Niyi Adeolokun, Dave Heffernan and coaches Nigel Carolan, Peter Wilkins and Jimmy Duffy all having extended their contracts in recent times.

Wing Cian Kelleher will depart the province this summer to re-join his native Leinster, but Connacht continue to make positive steps on and off the pitch.

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