Tony Butler in Munster training. Ben Brady/INPHO
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Munster promote academy trio while Casey, Ahern, and Loughman report for URC duty

Ennis RFC men Tony Butler and Ethan Coughlan, as well as Midleton’s Mark Donnelly, have signed senior contracts.


MUNSTER HAVE CONFIRMED that academy trio Tony Butler, Ethan Coughlan and Mark Donnelly will be promoted to the senior squad in the summer, while hooker Scott Buckley has also signed a contract extension.

Half-backs Butler and Coughlan, both 21, and 22-year-old loosehead Donnelly have all signed two-year professional deals with their native province after completing three years each in Munster’s academy.

Clare men Butler and Coughlan are the first two products of Ennis RFC to earn senior Munster contracts.

They, along with Corkonian Donnelly, made their first-team debuts in Munster’s away victory over Wasps in the Champions Cup in December 2021.

Hooker Buckley — a Munster Schools Senior Cup-winning teammate of Donnelly’s with Christians in 2019 — was player of the match that day in Coventry. The Kinsale RFC man, 23, has signed a one-year deal which will keep him at Munster until the end of next season.

Meanwhile, Ireland boss Andy Farrell has released Craig Casey, Tom Ahern, and Jeremy Loughman from his Six Nations squad and they’ll be at Graham Rowntree’s disposal for Zebre’s visit to Virgin Media Park on Friday night.

Scrum-half Casey started Ireland’s win over Italy in round two of the Six Nations but missed out on involvement in the matchday 23 against Wales last weekend, while loosehead prop Loughman featured off the bench in the Italian game.

The uncapped 24-year-old Ahern was initially invited into Ireland camp as an additional training player before the Six Nations but was then named in the official squad ahead of the Wales game.

Casey, Loughman, and Ahern will be keen to get game time for Munster, who beat Harlequins in a friendly game in England last weekend.

Munster boss Graham Rowntree can also call on academy back row Ruadhán Quinn against Zebre, with the 20-year-old having completed the return-to-play protocols after a head injury.

However, academy wing Shay McCarthy suffered an ankle injury against Harlequins, while academy back row Daniel Okeke picked up an elbow issue. Both youngsters will go for scans and won’t feature against Zebre.

While Munster’s injury crisis has eased recently, they still have a lengthy list of absentees that includes Simon Zebo [knee], Pa Campbell [shoulder], John Hodnett [finger], Paddy Patterson [knee], Jack O’Donoghue [knee], Dave Kilcoyne [shoulder], Diarmuid Barron [foot], Jean Kleyn [eye/knee], Liam Coombes [shoulder], and Roman Salanoa [knee].

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