Good news and some not so good for Connacht Rugby this week.
Having agreed a loan deal for Leinster Academy flanker Conor Gilsenan for the remainder of the season, Connacht also wrapped up new deals with three players, Miah Nikora, Tiernan O’Halloran, and Jack Carthy. However the departure of centre and local Galway product Eoin Griffin has been confirmed. The double Connacht Schools’ Cup winner with the Jes cup has agreed a move to London Irish for two seasons, and the 23-year-old, who made his first start for Connacht in 2010 will be a big loss to the current Connacht squad.
However Conor Gilsenan, who has represented Ireland at all underage levels, will boost Pat Lam's squad which has been hit by injuries this season. Although Willie Faloon, who has been out since the start of the season, has been cleared to resume training this week, Connacht have now lost their second openside Jake Heenan, who underwent shoulder surgery this week and is ruled out for the remainder of the season.
Although the 21-years-old Gilsenan is recovering from knee surgery, Connacht coach Pat Lam hopes the Leinster A captain will be ready to play in the coming weeks.
"With us having a shortage of openside flankers here in Connacht, we appreciate the help from Leinster in giving us an Irish-qualified replacement.
"Conor is a promising player who was identified at an early age by the Irish system. He has shown a great deal of ambition by coming to Connacht where hopefully he can earn some valuable game time and a first start in the Pro 12. This move is as much in his interest and for his own player development as it is beneficial for us."
Lam says the loaning of players is common in New Zealand to ensure opportunities are given to young talent to come through for the All Blacks.
"It is great to see it happening for the Irish team as well. We have to thank Leinster Rugby and the IRFU for their support. We don't have as much strength in depth as other teams, but, with this deal, it alleviates some of the pressure at flanker.”
Connacht and the IRFU have also agreed new deals for three current players.
Wing Tiernan O'Halloran (two years), Academy outhalf Jack Carty and New Zealander Miah Nikora (one year ) have all been re-signed for the province. Carty will graduate from the Academy to a professional contract, and all three are Irish qualified.