Connacht tie in quartet

Date published: June 6 2016

Connacht have announced that JP Cooney, Shane O'Leary and Danny Qualter have signed contracts while Rory Moloney also earns a senior deal.

All three senior players featured in a number of games this season across both the PRO12 and the Challenge Cup, with Cooney and O'Leary named in the matchday 23 for the final in Edinburgh.

26-year-old prop Cooney will continue his progression under Pat Lam and Jimmy Duffy next term having made eight appearances from the bench this season. Cooney, who can play on both sides of the scrum, was sidelined for four months at the start of the season with a shoulder injury but made a recovery in February to contribute significantly to the front-row efforts.

Qualter played in six games this season and earned his first start away to Newcastle in the Challenge Cup. The 24-year-old, who represented Ireland at U18, Youth Schools, U19, and U20s, will add more competition to the lock position for next season.

Meanwhile, the backs have been boosted by the extension of O'Leary's stay. The 23-year-old, who can play at centre or fly-half, signed from Grenoble in 2014 and made a notable impact on the field this season when injuries saw him catapulted into the number 10 shirt against Ulster, Grenoble and Munster. He kicked 31 points in eight games this season of which he started four.

Lam also sees his back-row options increase with the promotion of openside flanker Moloney from the Academy. 21-year-old Moloney was called up to train with the senior squad at the tail end of the 2015/16 season. Yet to be capped, he has played for Ireland U19s and U20s.

"While recruitment is ongoing, I have always said that retention is a very important part of what we do. It is vital that we hold on to young players like these who have demonstrated that they have the talent and the desire to succeed in a professional set up," said Lam.

"Next season we will be defending a PRO12 title and competition in the top tier of Europe for the first time in three years so squad depth and competition for places will be crucial.

"Our squad is constantly evolving but we are very pleased with the talent and the calibre of young Irish talent we have coming through the system and these four guys epitomise that."