In a statement posted on Connacht’s official website, the province have announced contract extensions for two up-and-coming stars.
Eoin McKeon from Galway and Darragh Leader from Castlegar have both penned new contracts after a turbulent year for Connacht.
McKeon made his debut for the Westerners against the Scarlets in April 2010. Since then he has proved an effective back row in his seven years with Connacht. He started all their early games last year.
By the end of last season he had made 85 appearances and scored ten tries for Connacht. So far this season, he has played in 18 of Connacht’s matches and bagged another try. The 25-year-old now can focus on getting more game time and, possibly, an Ireland senior call-up and first cap.
Versatility back Leader caps a great week with his new deal. He is also clear to return to training having recovered from a long-term hand injury and subsequent minor hamstring strain.
Leader made his senior debut in October 2012 against the Ospreys, having come through the Connacht academy. Since then, he has made 51 appearances for his home province, scoring 49 points, including four tries. Like McKeon, he too is a former Ireland U-20 player.
Connacht Rugby CEO Willie Ruane had this to say regarding the contract extensions:
“The contract extensions of local born players Eoin and Darragh is great news for Connacht Rugby and our supporters. We are really pleased with how our retention plan is taking shape for next season and beyond.
“Eoin is part of a highly competitive forward pack here at Connacht and he is comfortable playing across the back row, as evidenced this season. His agility and athletic ball carrying ability continues to grow game after game.
“While Darragh has been unfortunate with injury over the last year, he has shown his determination and mental hunger to come back from disappointment. While his strength lies at fullback, he has shown his versatility by switching to wing and centre on different occasions. His goal-kicking abilities, especially from long range, have also been called upon in the past. We hope to see him back in a Connacht jersey very soon.”
Given Connacht’s massive injury problems at the beginning of this season, the new deals make for welcome news. At one point, Connacht had as many as 22 players on the injury list.
This means that player retention is vital ahead of next season. The fact that their academy is continuing to produce players of this caliber will also hearten Connacht supporters.
Eoin Neylon, Pundit Arena
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