Connacht outhalf Niall O’Connor is set to return to Ulster after one season at the Galway Sportsground.
Coach Eric Elwood recruited the Limavady-born O’Connor last season on a two-year deal, but it is understood Connacht have agreed to allow the 23-years-old to return to his native province.
O’Connor, having taken a back seat to Ian Humphreys, moved west last season in a bid to boost his career. And with Miah Nikora injured, he established himself as Connacht’s first choice outhalf, particularly after a fine display against Gloucester in the Heineken Cup. A head injury in the February game with Edinburgh ruled him out for the remainder of the season.
Now the departure of Ulster’s Ian Humphreys for London Irish has left a vacant spot for another Irish-qualified outhalf in the province, and Ulster have come calling for O’Connor’s services again.
Connacht, with former Scottish veteran Dan Parkes joining next month, have agreed to release O’Connor.
With Miah Nikora already in situ, talented Irish u-20 youngster Jack Carthy, who is expected to take a leading role in the Eagles’ season, and Matthew Jarvis, Connacht have sufficient cover in that pivotal area.
As a result Elwood may well utilise the vacant spot to boost his three-quarters line. The Connacht management has been on the look-out for an Irish qualified centre, but Elwood may be forced to look elsewhere, pending IRFU approval.