Brothers Niall and Darragh Murray. James Crombie/INPHO
in the family

'They'll play a lot of games for this club' - Connacht's high hopes for Murray brothers

Niall and Darragh Murray have caught the eye when paired together in the Connacht second row.

GOOD NEWS STORIES have been thin on the ground in Connacht this season but the emergence of 21-year old Darragh Murray to partner his older brother Niall in the second row has been a great boost, according to head coach Pete Wilkins.

The brothers hail from a GAA stronghold in south Roscommon — they both played Gaelic football for St Brigid’s in Kiltoom as did Connacht captain Jack Carty — but have progressed rapidly through Buccaneers and into Connacht and Irish underage teams.

The pair linked up for the first time on the field last month when 23-year old Niall, who made his Connacht debut just over three years ago against Gloucester and now has 48 appearances, came on at half-time in Brive to partner his younger brother Darragh, who was making his senior competitive debut in that Challenge Cup game in France.

And while the likes of Damian Browne and younger brother Andrew have played in the second row for Connacht, they never played together at the same time, and the Murray brothers are the first to form a lock partnership in the professional era for the province.

“They have done brilliantly to come through the ranks here at Connacht, they have done brilliantly to earn an opportunity to play together in the first team and we continue to be impressed by them,” said Wilkins.

Niall is a year or two ahead in terms of his rugby development but from the minute we gave Darragh an opportunity in pre-season he looked like he belonged. He didn’t look like a young academy graduate that was struggling to cope either physically or mentally with that challenge.

“We are excited by the pair of them. I think they will play a lot of games for this club and it’s a bonus to have both of them firing this season.”

Connacht need more to step up to the mark if they are to rescue their season, having won just four of their eleven games in the URC but they are boosted ahead of this Saturday’s clash against the Lions at the Sportsground with Irish internationals Mack Hansen and Finlay Bealham, along with summer signing Josh Murphy, recovering from illness.

Bundee Aki was rested for the 41-12 loss away to Leinster, where David Hawkshaw and Jarrad Butler picked up injuries which rule them out of this weekend’s clash and could sideline them for some time.

head-coach-peter-wilkins Connacht head coach Pete Wilkins. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Wilkins said the progression by the Murray brothers — their surname where they are from in Roscommon is pronounced ‘Murr-ay’ rather than ‘Murry’ — is a great example of how young talent can come through in Connacht.

“They are progressing well ahead of schedule and the fact they are getting selected as much as they are at the minute reflects that.

“The fact that they predominantly play in the second row for us shows their physical development is on track and they are able to handle that.

“Darragh has played some games for Buccaneers in the AIL in the back row and did really well there. So, that’s another little piece of his rugby development and we have kept an eye on that.

“And for them to hold their own physically amongst other big locks in this competition and in Europe as well is a good sign of how well they are going I suppose.

“I think it is an important part of what Connacht is about as well. It shows our academy is producing talent and that the local talent is being recognised and is being nurtured,” he added. 

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