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# Prospects
McHenry making step up with Munster after benefiting from AIL exposure
The 22-year-old centre has been excellent for Cork Con.

AMONG THE ACADEMY players being promoted into Munster’s senior squad next season is centre Alex McHenry, a young man who has certainly benefited from playing regular All-Ireland League rugby in recent times.

22-year-old McHenry, a clever and athletic midfielder, will join promising number eight Jack O’Sullivan and pacy wing Liam Coombes in making the full-time leap into Johann van Graan’s group ahead of the 2020/21 campaign.

alex-mchenry Laszlo Geczo / INPHO McHenry at Munster training. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

6ft 2ins McHenry has just one cap for Munster so far, debuting off the bench against Benetton in the Pro14 last season, but has done enough to earn himself a one-year deal.

While he has also played for the Ireland 7s team, the greatest demonstrations of McHenry’s ability have come in Cork Con colours in the All-Ireland League, helping the club to two league titles, as well as several other cup trophies in recent years.

The former CBC student has been excellent for the men from Temple Hill, with his club coach, Brian Hickey, in no doubt that McHenry has greatly benefited from the exposure in the AIL.

“In fairness to Alex, he’s been very, very diligent,” says Hickey, formerly an assistant coach with Munster. “He’s done everything coming through the academy.

“There were weekends where I had been frustrated that he hadn’t been available for us in his previous years in the academy and sub-academy. But certainly in the last 12 months, he has been available to play an awful lot more games for us.

“I don’t think it’s any accident that it has improved his chances of getting a full contract. I feel there was a little bit of a change in how they approached that type of player in the academy and they made them more available to the clubs in the last 12 months. I don’t just see that with Alex, I see it with other players at other clubs.

alex-mchenry-is-tackled-by-craig-ohanlon Laszlo Geczo / INPHO McHenry in action for Cork Con this season. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

“I think he has benefited from being able to train with us on a Thursday night and playing much more regularly. Then when his chance came getting his first senior game with Munster, I think he was in a very good position to avail of that opportunity.”

With the 2019/20 AIL campaign having been cancelled, former Ireland U20 international McHenry will now be excited for next season to get underway as he looks to make progress with Munster.

Two Cork Con men hoping to follow in McHenry’s footsteps with Munster are academy players Jonathan Wren, who recently turned 21, and Sean French, who is still 20.

The exciting backline pair are still in their second year with the Munster academy but there are high hopes that Wren and French, both of whom helped the Ireland U20s to a Grand Slam last year, can push on.

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Hickey is convinced their game time with Con in the AIL will be key again, even if it sometimes means a balancing act for him.

“Alex did a little bit of the 7s and Shane Daly did a lot more of it,” says Hickey. “Jonathan Wren has been in the 7s programme albeit not away with them a whole lot.

sean-french-and-alex-mchenry-celebrate-with-the-trophy Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Sean French [left] with McHenry. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

“Both of them have had injury issues in the last year or two but to be fair, when they come back to play with us, they slot in seamlessly. It’s not always easy to integrate players coming back from the province when they’re not with you in the early part of the week and they may not be with you every week.

“But the lads make it easier for us because they’re so diligent and keep in touch. Even if they’re not training or not available to play, they might be up in the club and keeping themselves involved.

“It makes it easier, although you have to leave a player out of your squad when one of those come back but their approach and professionalism make that job a whole lot easier.”


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