Niyi Adeolokun and Eoin McKeon among 12 players to exit Connacht

It means just five of their Pro12-winning starting team will still be at the province next season.
Niyi Adeolokun and Eoin McKeon among 12 players to exit Connacht
Niyi Adeolokun, Connacht, goes over to score a try against Munster in their Pro12-winning season, as Eoin McKeon (right) watches on. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Niyi Adeolokun, Connacht, goes over to score a try against Munster in their Pro12-winning season, as Eoin McKeon (right) watches on. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Twelve players are exiting the Connacht squad next month between retirements, contract expirations, and career changes.

Included among the departures are three of Connacht's Pro12-winning starting team from 2016: Niyi Adeolokun, Eoin McKeon, and Tom McCartney. Each appears to have played their last game for Connacht with the season suspended indefinitely amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It means just five starters from that 2016 win will remain at the province next season; Tiernan O'Halloran, Matt Healy, Kieran Marmion, Finlay Bealham, and Ultan Dillane.

Adeolokun, a try-scorer in both the semi-final and final that year, leaves after six seasons, 94 caps, and 33 tries for Connacht. His form in their Pro12 victory earned him an Ireland cap against Canada in 2016.

The 29-year-old winger scored two tries in ten appearances this season.

McKeon, 28, exits after 10 years with his home province, having made his debut as an 18-year-old in 2010. The back-rower accumulated 137 appearances in that time, including the famous Pro12 final win over Leinster.

Tom McCartney's retirement, as reported by the Irish Examiner last month, brings the curtain down on his six years at the Sportsground.

The 34-year-old hooker, who has returned to New Zealand with his wife and children following the suspension of the season, made 112 appearances for Connacht after being brought to Galway by his former Auckland Blues coach Pat Lam.

Darragh Leader, who also featured during the 2015/16 campaign, departs after 91 caps. The 27-year-old full-back's final involvement came in last November's Champions Cup win over Montpellier.

The trio of centre Kyle Godwin, second-row Joe Maksymiw, and out-half David Horwitz have all completed their two-year contracts after joining in the summer of 2018.

As previously reported, the back-row duo of Colby Fainga’a and Robin Copeland will join French sides Lyon and Soyaux Angouleme respectively.

Finally, front-rowers Rory Burke and Peter McCabe have completed their contracts, while scrum-half Angus Lloyd departs to pursue a medical career - having passed his medical exams while under contract at Connacht.

"The nature of professional rugby means there will always be comings and goings," said head coach Andy Friend.

"I would personally like to wish all our departing players every success in the future and thank them for their contributions to Connacht Rugby, both on and off the field.

"We all share in the players’ disappointment that they were unable to get a proper send-off at the Sportsground due to Covid, but they can be always assured of a warm welcome by the club and our supporters at any time in the future."

Last week, Connacht confirmed the arrival of a quartet of Irish talent from neighbouring provinces, with Munster's Sammy Arnold and Conor Oliver, and Leinster duo Jack Aungier and Oisin Dowling going west.

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