Energia Next-Gen Focus: Max Deegan v Jack O’Donoghue

15 May 2019

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Ireland’s two most successful provinces clash in the Guinness PRO14 semi-finals and expect one of the key battles to be in the back row.

And while there will be a host of established talent on show in the loose forwards when Leinster host Munster, including the likes of Sean O’Brien and Peter O’Mahony, the next generation will also be looking to make their mark.

Leinster’s Max Deegan and Munster’s Jack O’Donoghue are both emerging as stand outs in the back row.

In our ongoing series of head to heads as part of the Energia Next-Gen Focus, we look at the two back-rowers in detail.

Max Deegan
Age: 23
Back row
Ireland caps: 0

Deegan got his breakthrough into the Leinster first-team aged 20, featuring off the bench against the Dragons in December 2016.

It had only been a matter of time after he was named Player of the Tournament at the 2016 World Rugby Under-20 Championship – helping Ireland reach their first ever final.

He went on to be named World Rugby Junior Player of the Year in 2016 – winning an award which has also gone to the likes of now-established internationals George Ford and Julian Savea.

Last season was his breakout year with 18 appearances while continuing to step up this term with another 23 games under his belt.

What has been evident since the back row – who prefers the No.8 role – broke into the Leinster first-team squad is his nous around the tryline with 11 tries in his 39 appearances.

Versatility across the back row has been evident in Deegan’s appearances this term, shining as an impact player as well as across all three positions as a starter for Leinster.

He will undoubtedly be keen to throw himself into this weekend’s clash and force his side into the ascendancy, having been restricted to just five minutes as Leinster lost out 20-10 to Saracens in the European Champions Cup last weekend.

With Josh van der Flier set to be available following injury for this weekend’s clash, competition for a starting jersey is sure to be tight.

Jack O’Donoghue
Age: 25
Back row
Ireland caps: 2

O’Donoghue first broke into the Munster first team at the start of the 2014/15 season, having been a captain through the youth teams at the club.

His card was marked as an outstanding prospect a year later, as he was named academy player of the year before joining as a senior player for the 2015/16 season.

The back-rower ramped up his development with first-team involvement, impressing with his assured work at the breakdown, going on to appear in 26 of the club’s 28 games.

O’Donoghue’s standout season earned him a first Ireland cap against Canada at the Aviva Stadium in the 2016 Autumn test series – picking up his second as a replacement against Japan in summer 2017.

Last season was another stellar year for the youngster who broke through as a No.8 but like Deegan can cover across the back row.

He became the first player from Waterford to captain Munster while tallying another 30 first-team games.

A knee ligament injury against Leinster in the Guinness PRO14 semi-final loss to Leinster left him out of the squad for most of 2018/19.

But he made his comeback from the bench against Ospreys in February, since then totting up 26 tackles and 19 carries in his 195 minutes of play in the league across four matches this season.

The Guinness PRO14 Final is one of the most entertaining games in the rugby calendar and takes place in Glasgow’s Celtic Park on May 25. Tickets start at just £25 for adults, £1 for kids. Visit www.pro14rugby.org/finaltickets

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