Rugby

The Bitter-Tasting 'If Only They'd Stayed There' Connacht XV...

The Bitter-Tasting 'If Only They'd Stayed There' Connacht XV...

Many fine players have first dipped their toes into professional rugby with Connacht before a rival province has exercised their right to snatch them away.

Robbie Henshaw is the latest in a long line.

The 'If Only They'd Stayed' Connacht XV...

This will taste bitter...

Full Back- Jim Staples

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Before Connacht began losing players to the other provinces, they participated in the old inter-provincial championship in which they lost a shed-load of players to the newly established 'Exiles' team.

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It should be added that all these boys were London-based and English born and were only assigned to play with Connacht in order to give the province a leg-up.

They lost creative full-back Jim Staples, who played 26 times for Ireland between 1991 and 1997 and electric winger Simon Geoghegan once the Exiles entered the inter-pros in 1992.

Wing - Simon Geoghegan

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One of the most gifted players ever to wear Connacht green. See above.

Centre - Robbie Henshaw

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Henshaw

It's all over the news. Robbie Henshaw's long trumpeted move to Leinster was confirmed today.

Centre - Paul Warwick

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More noted as a full-back but could also play in the centre, Warwick first landed in Ireland, when Connacht took him off Manly. He enjoyed three great seasons there but Munster decided they liked the look of him.

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Wing - Fionn Carr

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They've gotten him back now but he enjoyed his best spell between 2008 and 2011, scoring 34 tries and garnering a reputation as the fastest winger in the country. Leinster, noting his scoring exploits in Galway, whipped him back to Dublin promptly, where he duly lost form and failed to break into their all-conquering Heineken Cup winning team.

Out Half - Ian Keatley

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The province's record points scorer, he was a mainstay of the team in their last few years before Heineken Cup rugby arrived in Galway. He left for Munster in the summer of 2011.

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Scrum half - Eoin Reddan

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A graduate of Old Crescent and Young Munster, Reddan first dipped his toes into provincial rugby with Connacht in 2001. He stayed there for two years before returning to Munster for two years. He would then make a daring but ultimately profitable move to Wasps where he would win a Heineken Cup, scoring a try in the final against Leicester at Twickenham.

Prop - Tony Buckley

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Buckley played at prop for one season in 2004-05 before returning to his spiritual home in Munster. He moved to the Premiership to play for Sale for three years before retiring last summer at 34.

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Hooker - Jerry Flannery

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Joined Eoin Reddan at Connacht in 2001 staying for the same length of time before Munster called him back. He found it hard to nail down the hooker position until Frankie Sheahan was struck down with injury in 2005.

Beat out Bernard Jackman and Sean Cronin to this spot.

Prop - Robbie Morris

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A player who departed Connacht before his time, not because one of the other provinces exercised their right to take him off them but because injury sadly forced him to retire early. An English player who played for Northampton and Newcastle, he quit in 2010.

Second Row - Mike McCarthy

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Okay, he's not young now. But Connacht did, in fact, lose him relatively young the first time around. He played for the team in 2003-04 before shooting back to England to play for Newcastle Falcons for three seasons. He then returned to properly make Connacht his home in 2007, until Leinster came calling in 2013.

Second Row - David Nolan

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After five years of bad luck and horrific injuries, Connacht were forced to let second row David Nolan go last summer. He signed for French side Bourgoin.

Flanker - Johnny O'Connor

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A Connacht legend, he might look out of place here, but O'Connor left Connacht early on in his career to give some of his best years to Wasps.

Flanker - John O'Sullivan

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A versatile back-row operator, O'Sullivan was voted Connacht's Player of the Year for the 2003-04 season. This attracted the attention of the other provinces, notably his home province Munster, and he was called back promptly. Departed for Agen in 2009.

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Number Eight - Victor Costello

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Less widely known than his Olympic shot-put career, Costello began playing at provincial level for Connacht in the interprovincial championship in 1993. He played for them until the game went 'open' in 1995 and he jetted off to play for London Irish.

Balls Remembers: A Profile of the First Munster Heineken Cup Team In 1995

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Conor Neville
Article written by
Perennial finalist in stand-up comedy competitions and former Contract Lawyer/ Coal Salesman with Corless, Corless and Sweeney

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