Talented youngsters join Connacht

Date published: May 1 2014

Connacht have added talented young backline duo Ian Porter and Shane O'Leary to their squad for next season's PRO12 campaign.

Connacht have added talented young backline duo Ian Porter and Shane O'Leary to their squad for next season's PRO12 campaign.

The pair have signed two-year and one-year deals respectively with the province and the IRFU.

Scrum-half Porter makes the move from Ulster where he has been a part of the professional set-up for three seasons.

Progressing through the Ulster Academy, the Banbridge native went on to represent Ireland at Under-20 level where he was the designated goal-kicker, landing a memorable last minute penalty to win the match against Italy at the 2008 IRB Junior World Championship.

Over the last few seasons, Porter has proven himself at senior level with 11 PRO12 appearances under his belt, his speed of service and accuracy of pass being key features of his game.

Known for his tactical kicking, the 26-year-old has also developed his place-kicking abilities and combines this with his organisational abilities at the breakdown.

This season he started in the Ulster number 9 jersey against Glasgow Warriors and Connacht at the Sportsground.

Meanwhile, O'Leary, who was born in Cork and raised in County Clare, signed with FC Grenoble's Academy last summer straight from Ulster Bank League club Young Munster.

The centre/fly-half was quick to make his mark at the French club this season, earning his first senior appearance in the Challenge Cup against Bayonne in October.

He went on to play four more games in the European competition, including a start at outside centre against Challenge Cup semi-finalists London Wasps.

Before joining the growing Irish contingent in the Rhône-Alpes region, the 21-year-old spent the early part of last summer representing Canada (whom he is qualified to play for through his mother's roots in New Brunswick) in the IRB Junior World Trophy in Chile.

The top points scorer in the international competition, O'Leary helped Canada to the final where they were beaten by Italy Under-20s.

Grenoble coach Bernard Jackman describes the young back as 'a very talented rugby player'.

“He integrated incredibly well here at FCG this season and proved that he has a bright future. He will be missed here but we wish him all the best with Connacht,” said the ex-Ireland hooker.

“It's fantastic to have two more young Irish-qualified backs on board for next season. Both Ian and Shane will be valuable additions to the squad,” said Connacht boss Pat Lam.

“Having someone like Shane who can play 13, 12 or 10 is a huge asset. Both himself and Ian have goal-kicking abilities and this is something we looked at when recruiting for the season ahead.”