Connacht’s home-grown forward Andrew Browne has penned a contract extension that will see him stay at The Sportsground until the end of the 2013 season.
Browne, younger brother of former Connacht favourite and current Brive 2nd row Damien, came through the Connacht Academy system in 2007 and has enjoyed regular game time since then winning 45 Magners League caps and 16 Amlin Challenge Cup caps.
The 6’5, 112kg forward has played at blindside flanker this season in the absence of John Muldoon but is equally as comfortable in the second row. His power and athleticism have made him something of a lineout specialist and he has been an integral part of the Connacht pack this season featuring in 19 games so far. Browne, who won his first cap for Ireland Wolfhounds this February, was part of the Ireland Under-20 side which won the Grand Slam in 2007 alongside fellow Connacht players Jamie Hagan, Ian Keatley, Aidan Wynne and Shane Monahan.
“Playing rugby in your home town is great, growing up in Galway and playing youth rugby here it was always my goal to play for the Province and having come through the academy system here 3 years ago and getting my first contract was a dream come true so I am delighted to be able to commit to the club for another 2 years. There’s something special about playing for Connacht, everyone gets on really well and there’s a great buzz about the place, especially this year when things are starting to go our way a bit more. The coaching set-up here is world-class and I’m very happy to be playing here for the foreseeable future.
Another native of Galway, Academy graduate Eoin Griffin has also put pen to paper on a 2-year senior contract. The talented 20 year old centre played much of his youth rugby with Galway Corinthians and regularly appearing for their AIL Div 2 side. He has 9 caps for Ireland U20, scoring a try against Argentina and Samoa in the IRB Junior World Championships last year as well as tries against Wales and England in the 2010 U20 6 Nations. Eoin received the Man of the Match award for his part in Connacht’s 26- 22 victory over Samoa last November and was a try scorer in the province’s derby defeat to Leinster on New Years Day. The 6’1, 94kg outside centre’s progress has been hampered by injury this season but his raw pace and eye for a gap means he is never far from the selectors minds.
“To be part of the Connacht set-up as a Galway-man is fantastic. You always hope that you’ll make it and though I’ve always been confident in my ability, to be given the opportunity to prove myself is superb. The Academy set-up is very good under Nigel Carolan and I’ve received some top quality coaching that has prepared me really well for the step-up to Magners League. I was delighted to be given the chance to show what I can do at the start of the season and to be awarded my first full professional contract here at Connacht means a huge amount to me. I will continue to learn for the more experienced guys in the squad and hope to continue developing my own game here at Connacht.”
Connacht Academy Manager Nigel Carolan spoke about the announcement; “It’s nice to see two local lads come from grassroots to the professional set-up through the Academy system. I feel that they recognise the importance of Connacht in the future of Irish and European rugby, and are committed in promoting the province to the next level.”