Connacht forwards coach Jimmy Duffy to step down at the end of the season

Former player will end 13-year coaching run as he looks for new opportunity in the game

Jimmy Duffy will end his 25-year involvement with Connacht when he steps down as forwards coach at the end of the season. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Jimmy Duffy will end his 25-year involvement with Connacht when he steps down as forwards coach at the end of the season. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

The news that Jimmy Duffy is to leave Connacht at the end of the season in addition to Nigel Carolan means that the province will no longer have any of the coaches who were part of their memorable 2015-16 Guinness Pro 12 title success on their staff for the 2021-22 campaign.

Duffy was promoted by Pat Lam at the start of that 2015-16 season to replace the departed Dan McFarland, who had moved on to Glasgow Warriors, having spent the previous seven years working with Carolan as an elite player development officer in the academy and as forwards coach with the Connacht under-20s, Connacht Eagles and Irish under-18s.

Galway-born, Duffy was a good right winger in underage football with Renmore, and had trials with several English clubs, including Everton, Nottingham Forest and Man City, as well as playing Gaelic football with St James’ GAA club.

He didn’t start playing rugby until he was 15 in St Joseph’s College but quickly developed into a good lock cum number eight. After winning a Connacht Schools Cup with the Bish in 1994, he broke into the Connacht set-up soon after school, played for the Ireland under-21s and A sides and looked set for a promising playing career until he was diagnosed with an irregular heart condition and forced to retire at the age of 20.

Duffy walked away from rugby, not even watching a game for three years, before answering a call to give a hand at Our Lady’s Boys Club and immediately caught the coaching bug. Highly regarded as a forwards coach, Duffy will thus end an unbroken 13-year stint with his native province.

“This has been a tough decision for me and my family, but I feel it’s the right one as I look to progress my coaching career,” Duffy said in a statement issued by Connacht on Wednesday.

“Connacht Rugby has been a major part of my life stretching over 25 years, so it was never going to be easy when the day comes to move on. I feel now is the time for me to stretch myself and further my development as a coach.

“I cannot begin to thank everyone at Connacht Rugby enough for all they have done for me during my association with the club. It’s a great organisation with a bright future, and I leave at the end of the season firmly in the belief that even better days are ahead.

“I’d particularly like to thank Andy Friend and Willie Ruane for their constant understanding and support as I made my decision, as well as all the staff, players and supporters. I look forward to watching the club develop even further in the years ahead.”

Connacht now have some sizeable shoes to fill, although it will be of some consolation to the playing squad and supporters alike that head coach Friend has already signed up for another two years. Friend said he has nothing but praise for Duffy after their three years working together.

“Jimmy is a consummate professional and an excellent forwards coach who I’ve had the pleasure of working with since 2018. His dedication, knowledge of the game and constant drive to further develop our players has been first rate. Our current crop of forwards are all the better because of him and I know he’ll succeed wherever the future takes him.

“While we would have preferred to see Jimmy sign on with us again, we would never stand in the way of any coach when they feel the time is right to move on.”

CEO Willie Ruane thanked Duffy both for his commitment to Connacht, and the legacy he will have left behind at all levels of the game.

“We are naturally disappointed by Jimmy’s decision to move on, but we wish him nothing but the best for everything in the future. He leaves behind a really strong legacy at the club, not just as a coach with the professional team but also going back to his days developing coaches within our clubs and schools as well as his work with our underage squads and as a very accomplished former Connacht player.

“The part he played in delivering our first ever trophy in 2016 will never be forgotten by the club or by our supporters. On behalf of everyone at Connacht Rugby, I’d like to sincerely thank him for everything he’s done for us and to wish himself, Orla and Joseph all the very best for the future and the next stage of their journey.”

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