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'The sky's the limit for that one' - Wexford man Paul Boyle shines for Connacht

The 21-year-old was man of the match as Connacht earned a bonus-point win against Zebre.

“THIS PAUL BOYLE guy is pretty good, eh?”

So said one Connacht fan on the Clan Terrace as the crowd began to filter out after their team had wrapped up a bonus-point win against the visiting Zebre, with Wexford man Boyle named man of the match for his superb two-try performance.

The 21-year-old academy back row was at Connacht last season too, getting his Guinness Pro14 debut against Munster in January, but his form in the early stages of this campaign has been making people sit up and take notice.

Paul Boyle acknowledges fans after the game Boyle was man of the match in Galway. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

His all-action display against Zebre will have earned him plenty of new fans, with Connacht excited about Boyle’s potential.

“He’s done it in every game he’s played,” said head coach Andy Friend after his side’s 32-13 win.

“The first performance against Brive in pre-season, it was, ‘Who the hell is this bloke?’ and off he went, but he’s continued doing that. The message to the whole squad when I came in was, ‘Age is not a barrier for you, fellas.’

“If you’re good enough then we’ll pick you and Boyler is a testament to that. He’s just continued to deliver.

“He’s tough and when you watch his game, he’s just workmanlike in everything he does. He carries hard, he tackles hard, he knows his role and he knows where he’s meant to be.

“He bounces off the ground quickly and works hard off the football. It’s a pretty simple formula but he’s doing it really well and he definitely deserved that man of the match today.”

A product of Gorey RFC, Boyle came through the Leinster underage ranks and captained the Ireland U20s in 2017.

Paul Boyle scores a try Boyle scored two tries against Zebre. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

He spent time in Leinster’s sub-academy while playing club rugby with Lansdowne but never got brought onto full academy terms in his native province, prompting Connacht to make a move before the 2017/18 season.

Having spent much of last season working hard to improve himself as an athlete, Boyle has started the new 2018/19 campaign in barnstorming form.

He was excellent through pre-season and impressed at blindside flanker last weekend against Glasgow.

Friend shifted him to number eight for today’s clash with Zebre and Boyle delivered a superb performance, carrying aggressively and ending up joint-top of the tackle charts alongside Sean O’Brien with 12 tackles. 

There was a simple try-assisting pass for Niyi Adeolokun late on and a brilliant lineout steal in the first half too in a complete performance.

Boyle is clearly unawed by the task of stepping into his first full season of senior rugby even as an academy player and is already showing signs of leadership.

“You have got to have young blokes pushing the older fellas above and Boyle has done that,” said Friend. “He’s captained his country, he’s captained the Ireland U20s. He’s got leadership quality but what I love about him is that in a meeting, he’s prepared to talk up. 

Paul Boyle receives his man of the match medal from Des Roche The number eight is winning over the Connacht fans quickly. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“He’s prepared to challenge and ask questions. Every young footballer needs to know that it’s ok to ask questions and he’s showing that at the moment because out of that question, he gets clarity for and then you get the performances that he is giving.

“I honestly don’t feel that the formula is too tricky but not a lot of people pay respect to that. He just knows his role, he’s worked hard, he’s got his fitness and he just does the simple things and he’s doing it really, really well.”

These are still early days in Boyle’s Connacht career, but the early signs mean that the western province feel they have a real gem on their hands.

“Unlimited,” said Friend when asked about Boyle’s potential. “Those kids, once they get belief and they can see what they can do against quality opposition – Glasgow and Zebre are quality opposition – that just builds further belief.

“The sky’s the limit for that one.”

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Murray Kinsella

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