Kelleher makes RDS return as Leinster confirm 21 new contracts

CIAN KELLEHER’S RETURN to his native Leinster has been confirmed by the eastern province this afternoon, along with the announcement of 21 new senior contracts for next season.

It was confirmed back in January that the 24-year-old winger would leave Connacht this summer, and now after three seasons in Galway, is making the switch back to Leinster for the 2019/20 campaign.

Kelleher will be back in blue next season. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Kelleher came up through the Leinster academy and made seven senior appearances for Leo Cullen’s side before heading west in search of further first-team opportunities back in 2016.

“I’m incredibly excited to get back to my home province this summer and get started in an unbelievable set up in Leinster,” the former St Michael’s man, who scored 14 tries in 54 appearances for Connacht, said.

“It was an opportunity too good to refuse when it came up and I can’t wait to get started and compete in an extremely competitive environment. I hope to add to the incredible success the province has had in the last couple of seasons.” 

Cullen said: “It is exciting to welcome Cian back to Leinster Rugby. We have always kept a close eye on his progress at Connacht and it’s great that we can now welcome him back to Leinster and we wish him well in what is already a very competitive position in the team.”

News of Kelleher’s signing comes on the same day Leinster have announced new senior deals for 18 players in addition to the IRFU central contracts already penned by Cian Healy, Robbie Henshaw and Johnny Sexton.

Included on the list are Ciarán Frawley, Hugo Keenan, Rónan Kelleher, Conor O’Brien, Jimmy O’Brien, Hugh O’Sullivan and Scott Penny, who are all promoted to senior deals from the academy.

Jack Kelly, who made his senior debut this season and was today part of the Ireland sevens squad for this weekend’s World Series tournament in London, is the only third-year academy player not to be promoted into the senior ranks.

Dave Kearney and Fergus McFadden have both also renewed their contracts with Leinster into next season, while the likes of Ed Byrne, Sean Cronin, Jordan Larmour, Andrew Porter, Josh van der Flier and Garry Ringrose put pen to paper on new deals last summer.

Dan Leavy, currently sidelined with a serious leg injury, is also among those retained for next season, along with Kiwi scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park and Scott Fardy. 

Dave Kearney has signed a new Leinster deal. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

As was already known, Mick Kearney, Nick McCarthy, Jack McGrath, Ian Nagle, Seán O’Brien and Noel Reid are leaving the province, but the future of Rob Kearney remains unclear as the Ireland fullback is out of contract with the IRFU after the World Cup.

Speaking about today’s announcement, Cullen added: “It is a credit to the work that goes on in the schools and in the clubs that we are in a position to confirm 21 new contracts, with all but three coming through the system here.

“Over the last 10 months or so we have been able to hand debuts to nine Academy players and they have deserved those opportunities. And now seven players that started this season in the academy will start next season as senior players.

“I am delighted for them and indeed their families and congratulate them on their promotion. We have been very happy with what we have seen from them all in the Guinness Pro14 and in some cases in the Heineken Champions Cup and we hope that they get many more chances in a Leinster jersey in the coming years.”

Leinster new senior contracts 2019/20:

Bryan ByrneJack ConanMax DeeganScott FardyCiarán FrawleyJamison Gibson-ParkCian HealyRobbie HenshawDave KearneyHugo KeenanCian KelleherRónan KelleherDan LeavyFergus McFaddenLuke McGrathJosh MurphyConor O’BrienJimmy O’BrienHugh O’SullivanScott PennyJohnny Sexton.

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