Munster Rugby and the IRFU can today confirm a number of player contract extensions, and that former Munster and Ireland scrum-half Tomás O’Leary will re-join the province at the start of the 2015/16 season.
Four senior players have signed contract extensions, Andrew Conway, Dave O’Callaghan, Johnny Holland and Eusebio Guinazu. While Greencore Academy player Darren Sweetnam has also committed his future to the province.
Tomás O’Leary, currently with London Irish, is set to return to his native province at the start of next season on a two-year contract.
The scrumhalf departed from Munster at the end of the 2011/12 season after making 127 appearances, and scoring 57 points since making his debut in September 2005 against Llanelli Scarlets. A graduate of the Munster Rugby academy, the Cork man then moved to the Premiership side on a three-year contract and has made 44 appearances for the London-based club, featuring on 9 occasions this season. In addition to playing an integral role in Munster’s 2006 & 2008 Heineken Cup triumphs as well as the Magners League successes in 2009 & 2011, the half back has 24 Ireland caps and was one of the outstanding performers in Ireland’s 2009 Grand Slam win.
Winger Andrew Conway has also put pen to paper, signing a one-year contract extension that will see him stay with the province until at least June 2016. Since joining from Leinster at the start of the 2013/14 season the Dublin man has made 25 appearances, scoring 6 tries. The 23-year-old made his debut against Zebre in September 2013 at Stadio XXV Aprile and last October made his European debut starting against Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell stadium. He represented Emerging Ireland in the Tbilisi Cup in June 2013 and the Nations Cup in June 2014.
Youghal-man Dave O’Callaghan has signed a one-year contract that will see him remain with the province until at least June 2016. As a final year academy player he made his league debut against Ospreys in October 2011 in Thomond Park, and during the same season made his European debut off the bench against Northampton Saints. A valuable addition to any squad the 25-year-old plays lock and back row. He has made 35 Munster appearances, and scored his first try on St. Stephen’s Day against Leinster in Thomond Park. A former Ireland U20s player, the versatile forward played in two Junior World Championships and represented Emerging Ireland in the Tbilisi Cup in June 2013.
Development player Johnny Holland has signed a two-year contract, advancing from development to full contract status for the second year. The 23-year-old outhalf is currently rehabbing a long-term hamstring injury sustained in Munster’s B&I Cup game against Nottingham in November. A product of the Munster Rugby academy the Cork-man moved to the senior set-up at the start of this season and has 4 Munster caps. He made his league debut against Cardiff Blues in November 2013.
In addition to the above, hooker/prop Eusebio Guinazu has signed a contract extension that will see him remain with the province until the end of this season. Guinazu a short-term signing since the end of September has proved to be a valuable addition to the squad with ongoing injuries limiting player availability at hooker and prop. The 33-year-old Argentinian international has made 8 appearances for the province, making his first start against Zebre in the PRO12 earlier this month.
There is further good news with third year Greencore Academy player Darren Sweetnam the second up-and-coming player to commit his future to the province in the last few weeks. The former Cork senior hurler has signed a two-year contract, moving to development status for 2015/16 and a full contract for 2016/17. The 21-year-old winger has made 7 Munster ‘A’ appearances in the British and Irish Cup, and represented the Irish U20s in the 2013 6 Nations and Junior World Championship.
Commenting on the latest contract news Munster Rugby CEO Garrett Fitzgerald said, “These latest signings are a huge boost for the club and are a significant step forward in shaping our squad for the future. Retaining younger talent is vital for our progression, and on the back of the news about Ian Keatley, Shane Buckley, Cian Bohane, Kevin O’Byrne and Jack O’Donoghue we are certainly in a good place as players continue to show their commitment and ambition to succeed with the province.
These players all add a mix of experience and youth to the squad and it is particularly pleasing to see Dave (O’Callaghan), Johnny (Holland) and Darren (Sweetnam) develop and prosper after coming up through the ranks, while the returning Tomás O’Leary will bring a huge level of experience in providing additional support and knowledge to a key role.”