Irish coaches abroad add another layer of interest for new URC season

Nigel Carolan, Hugh Hogan, and Noel McNamara moved abroad over the summer.

Nigel Carolan, Noel McNamara, and Hugh Hogan.
Nigel Carolan, Noel McNamara, and Hugh Hogan.

Updated Sep 30th 2021, 9:36 AM

THIS SEASON, THE four provinces will have a few Irishmen plotting against them in the United Rugby Championship.

Ulster opened their season with a 35-29 win at home to Glasgow last weekend but were given a real fright late on as the visiting Scots pushed them all the way until the final minute.

There was much for new Glasgow attack coach Nigel Carolan to be pleased with as his side notched four tries and showed glimpses of their promise. 

Ex-Ireland U20s boss Carolan joined the Scottish side this summer for what is his first coaching job outside Ireland. The 46-year-old is a legend of Connacht rugby, having played for the province and then been in charge of the academy before moving into the senior coaching set-up.

Coming towards the end of last season, Carolan decided it was time for a new challenge and opted to end his 26-year stint with Connacht. He’s now part of Danny Wilson’s staff in Glasgow as the club goes about rebuilding and Carolan is sure to have a big influence with his intelligent coaching.

Last Saturday, Noel McNamara had his first matchday involvement with the Sharks of South Africa, having linked up with the franchise in the last month. 

He too is now an attack and backs coach having joined from his position as Leinster academy manager. Like Carolan, Clare native McNamara had success as Ireland U20s head coach, leading a talented team to a Grand Slam in 2019.

noel-mcnamara McNamara at Thomond Park last weekend. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

McNamara started his coaching career in the schools game with Glenstal and Clongowes – where he had notable success. His rise continued with Leinster and Ireland underage teams and he was appointed Leinster academy manager in 2019.

He was to push into senior professional rugby this season and thanked Leinster and the IRFU for helping to facilitate his move to the Sharks on a two-year contract. Working under head coach Sean Everitt, McNamara will enjoy the increased responsibility.

Glasgow and the Sharks’ clashes with Scarlets this season promise to be intriguing given that the Welsh region now have Irishman Hugh Hogan in charge of their defence.

A legend of St Mary’s College RFC, Hogan also left Leinster at the end of last season. His coaching career had taken in Leinster and Ireland underage teams before he was appointed as an Elite Player Development Officer by the province in 2013.

Four years later, Hogan was integrated into Leo Cullen’s senior Leinster coaching staff as contact skills coach and earned rave reviews from the province’s players.

Scarlets were rebuilding their staff under new head coach Dwayne Peel ahead of this season and Hogan was an ideal candidate for the defence role. The Welsh side started their season with a defeat away to Edinburgh last weekend but will be hopeful of victory this Friday as the Lions visit Parc y Scarlets.

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michael-bradley-before-the-game Michael Bradley has been working to push Zebre forward. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

Of course, another Irishman was already in place as a head coach in the URC, with Michael Bradley continuing in his role with Zebre.

The Italians have struggled to progress in recent years and fell to an opening-round defeat at home to the Lions last weekend, but Bradley plays a very ambitious and exciting style of rugby.

Ulster visit Parma this weekend and ex-Connacht boss Bradley will be aiming for a shock victory.

It remains to be seen if any of these Irish coaches return home at some stage in the future but for now, they add another layer of interest for the new URC season.

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Murray Kinsella

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