AS SEVERAL CLUBS around Europe returned to pre-season today, we’ve rounded up the transfer activity involving Irish players in the professional leagues.
Former Munster centre Danny Barnes is among those to join a club in the English Championship, as he ends two seasons with Newcastle by moving to Ealing Trailfinders.
Barnes helps Paul O’Connell and Donnacha Ryan to bring Richardt Strauss to deck in 2011. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO
The Trailfinders were promoted as champions of National League One last season, meaning the capture of Barnes is something of a coup.
New Zealand-born centre Barnes burst into Munster’s first team to help the province to the 2011 Magners League, before having a strong 2011/12 season in which he scored five tries.
He moved to the Premiership in 2013 and started 13 games in his first campaign with Newcastle, but featured far less last season. The Tralee man’s move to Ealing in west London should allow him far more game time in 2015/16.
In the Premiership, second row Eoin Sheriff has joined London Irish from Saracens, where he was contracted since 2011. The Gorey native first came through at Leinster, having excelled for Ireland at underage levels.
The 26-year-old spent a portion of last season on loan to the Bedford Blues, but will look forward to getting injury free and having another attempt at securing regular Premiership rugby.
The iconic Peter Stringer is another to shift Premiership clubs, as he ends his time with Bath and takes up a one-year deal with Sale Sharks. The 37-year-old Cork man showed that he has plenty left in the tank by starring in Bath’s run to last season’s league final.
Macken may face Leinster in the Champions Cup this season. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO
Joining Wasps are Irishmen Brendan Macken and James Downey, the latter making his loan move from Glasgow permanent. 24-year-old Macken’s skillset and physical qualities mean he seems well suited to Wasps’ attacking rugby under Dai Young.
Ulsterman Paddy McAllister has been brought onboard at Gloucester by director of rugby David Humphreys. The loosehead had an injury-stunted year with Jeremy Davidson’s Aurillac in France last season, but still managed 13 appearances.
Now 25, the promising front row will look to take his career to the next level at Kingsholm.
JJ Hanrahan‘s adventure with Northampton Saints is one that will be closely watched in Ireland, given the out-half’s well-flagged potential. Though he may face an initial battle to wrestle the 10 shirt from Stephen Myler, the disappointment of Munster fans at his departure speaks volumes of his ability.
In the Championship, Mark Flanagan will be tracked intently too, having signed for Bedford Blues after two impressive seasons with Mont-de-Marsan in the French Pro D2.
The 25-year-old lock, who came through at Leinster, moves to England with a strong recommendation from former Scotland lock Scott Murray, Flanagan’s coach in France.
Joining Doncaster Knights ahead of the 2015/16 season are halfback pair Michael Heaney and Declan Cusack.
Heaney has re-joined the Doncaster Knights. Source: James Crombie/INPHO
Scrum-half Heaney has left Ulster for his second stint with the Knights, while Limerick man Cusack joins after impressing at out-half for Plymouth Albion last season, despite the fact that the club was relegated.
The 27-year-old previously played five times for Munster and has also had a spell with Gernika in Spain.
Jersey have two new Irishmen on the books this season, with Charlie Butterworth and Ross Adair having signed from Ulster.
Openside flanker Butterworth formerly captained Lansdowne FC in the Ulster Bank League, before earning his professional shot with Ulster. 21-year-old Ballynahinch man Adair made a try-scoring debut for the northern province in the Pro12 back in March but heads to Jersey looking for more playing opportunities.
Irish-qualified prop Sean McCarthy is also joining Jersey, returning to his former club after one season with Leinster.
Adding to the large Irish contingent at Rotherham Titans this season is Michael Cromie, a loosehead prop who played for Ulster at U18, U19, U20 and Ravens levels.
The ex-Banbridge RFC man spent last season playing Fédérale 1 rugby [France’s third tier] with Stade Rodez, scoring two tries in a strong season that earns him a shot in the Championship at the age of 25.
Former Belvo man Ben Woods is now part of the Nottingham squad. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
There are three new Irish faces at Nottingham, with Sam Coghlan Murray, Ricky Andrew and Ben Woods all having joined.
Centre Woods, who played for Leinster up to A level, moves from Plymouth after a 2014/15 campaign that saw him play every single minute of every single Albion game, largely in the 13 shirt.
Coghlan Murray is another man who came through the ranks at Leinster, though the talented Australia-born wing found his chances extremely limited over the last two seasons.
Versatile back Andrew, meanwhile, moves to Nottingham after playing for home province Ulster 20 times.
Ex-Munster underage out-half/centre Ian Cross has signed with London Welsh ahead of the 2015/16 campaign, having previously played club rugby with Young Munster and UL Bohs.
The intelligent midfield back also had a spell in rugby league with the famous St. Helen’s club, before moving to London Irish and then playing for Esher in National League One last season.
Finally in the Championship, former Ireland Exiles and U19 openside Joe Bercis has joined Moseley, where ex-Ireland centre Kevin Maggs is director of rugby. Bercis enjoyed an outstanding season with Ampthill in National League Two to earn his move.
Over in France, former Munster flankers Sean Dougall and Paddy Butler will be part of Pau’s efforts to establish themselves in the Top 14. The back-row duo may well play alongside their ex-Munster teammate James Coughlan in France, depending on how sporting director Simon Mannix selects his team.
Eamonn Sheridan is another Irishman heading into his first Top 14 season, having joined Oyonnax from London Irish this summer.
Sheridan has earned a move to the Top 14. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO
The minnows did superbly to finish sixth in 2014/15, providing 26-year-old former Leinster centre Sheridan with the opportunity to play Champions Cup rugby against Saracens, Toulouse and Ulster.
Meanwhile, Cork man Dave Ryan has signed for the newly-promoted Agen after a season with Ulster that saw him provided with little in the way of first-team chances. The former Munster, Lazio and Zebre loosehead now moves on to the Top 14.
The transfer of Paul O’Connell from Munster to Toulon hardly needs mentioning again here.
In the second-tier Pro D2, new boys Aix-en-Provence have signed two Irish players in the shape of Denis Fogarty and Alan Cotter.
Ex-Munster hooker Fogarty has been playing in France since 2012 and joins after an injury-hit season with Agen, while 28-year-old tighthead prop Cotter moves from native province Munster.
Cotter previously had loan stints with London Irish and Bath.
The talented Luke O’Dea looks set to join Lille, although the northern club’s promotion into the Pro D2 had been threatened by financial difficulties. However, Lille remain confident of finding the money necessary to secure their Pro D2 spot and bringing Shannon man O’Dea to France.
Moving back to these shores, Connacht have signed Ben Marshall from provincial rivals Leinster, as well as Irish-qualified rugby league player Api Pewhairangi and scrum-half John Cooney on a permanent deal.
Ben Marshall played for Ireland against the Barbarians.
Leinster have re-signed Johnny Sexton from Racing Métro, while Mick Kearney returns from Connacht. Clontarf front row pair Royce-Burke Flynn and Ian Hirst also join on professional contracts.
Munster have brought Tomás O’Leary home from London Irish, with promising back row Jordan Coghlan switching from Leinster. Their third Irish signing is Matt D’Arcy, who was again exceptional for Clontarf last season.
Ulster’s recruitment has seen them re-sign flanker Willie Faloon from Connacht, while former Munster scrum-half Paul Rowley joins from London Welsh. The Irish-qualified pair of Sam Windsor and Peter Browne have signed from Worcester and London Welsh respectively.
Elsewhere in the Pro12, Ulsterman Michael Allen has switched to Scottish outfit Edinburgh ahead of the 2015/16 campaign.
There are one or two further transfers yet to be officially confirmed by the clubs involved, which may explain any absences from this article.
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