Griffin and McKeon retire as seven other players set to leave Connacht
Griffin and McKeon retire as seven other players set to leave Connacht

Griffin and McKeon retire as seven other players set to leave Connacht

CONNACHT HAVE ANNOUNCED that centre Eoin Griffin and halfback Conor McKeon will retire from rugby at the end of the season.

The western province have also confirmed that Shane Delahunt and Peter Robb have extended their contracts, but Craig Ronaldson, James Mitchell, James Connolly, Conán O’Donnell, Peter McCabe, Peter Claffey and James Cannon are all leaving.

Griffin is retiring from rugby at the end of the season. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

28-year-old Griffin has played for Connacht more than 100 times and featured for the Ireland U20s and Emerging Ireland.

Griffin was a key man for Connacht up until a move to London Irish in 2014, where he spent two seasons before returning to his native province again in 2016.

He has been unable to regain first-choice status in the three seasons since, with injury often hampering his chances in the current campaign under head coach Andy Friend. Griffin has now decided to retire from rugby at the end of the season.

“Eoin has been a fantastic servant of Connacht Rugby with over 100 appearances for his home province and we wish him the very best as he announces his retirement,” said Friend.

McKeon, who first burst through as an out-half with Gonzaga College, Landsdowne and the Ireland U20s, will also hang up his boots at the end of the campaign.

Having played for Leinster at underage levels, McKeon joined Connacht in 2014, moving to scrum-half during his time in the province’s academy.

The 25-year-old was named academy player of the year in 2017 and earned a senior contract but, having been affected by injury issues, has made only three appearances for Connacht over the past two seasons and has now decided to retire.

Ronaldson is leaving at the end of this campaign. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Meanwhile, Connacht have confirmed that Ronaldson, Mitchell, Connolly, O’Donnell, McCabe, Claffey and Cannon will all be leaving the province at the end of this campaign.

29-year-old Ronaldson has been with the province since 2013, featuring in midfield and at out-half and showing his place-kicking class on several important occasions. 

Ronaldson, who has played for Connacht close to 100 times, has missed most of this season with a serious knee injury.

Scrum-half Mitchell joined from Sale Sharks in 2017, while lock James Cannon made the move from Wasps in 2016 and has made more than 50 senior appearances.

25-year-old back row Connolly was part of the Connacht squad that won the 2016 Pro12, playing eight times in that league campaign alongside Ronaldson.

Prop Conan O’Donnell, still just 22, is another man heading for the exit door. He shone over two years at Ireland U20s level but the Sligo man has had limited exposure at senior level, having moved to loosehead from the tighthead side.

Second row Claffey, another former Ireland U20 international, came through the academy onto a senior contract this season but has not been used in the first team by Friend.

27-year-old loosehead prop McCabe, who initially joined Connacht on loan from his native Munster in 2017, has played 20 times this season but is also leaving at the end of the campaign. The Cork man played Pro14 rugby with Munster before his move to Galway.

Peter McCabe has played 20 times this season. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“The nature of professional rugby is that a player’s longevity at a club is finite,” said Friend of the departures.

“To all of those men who are leaving Connacht this season, a sincere thank you for all that you’ve given to the jersey. We wish you every success for the future.”

More happily, hooker Delahunt and centre Robb have extended their contracts into the 2019/20 season.

After coming through Kilkenny College and the Leinster underage system, Delahunt joined Connacht’s academy in 2014 and has enjoyed a rise ever since, racking up 62 senior appearances.

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24-year-old Robb developed at Blackrock College and played for Leinster and Ireland U20s before shifting to Connacht in 2015.

Like Delahunt, he featured in the 2016 trophy-winning season, and has come through two long-term injuries over the past two campaigns, impressing on his latest return in recent weeks. 

“Shane Delahunt and Peter Robb are two players who are very much part of our plans as we finalise our squad for next season,” said Friend.

“Our ambition is to be regularly competing at the highest level and bring further success to Connacht Rugby. To do this we need real depth in our squad and players putting each other under pressure for places.”

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