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*Noel McNamara. Photograph: Eamon Ward

O’Callaghans Mills’ Noel McNamara has been named as Leinster Rugby’s new Academy Manager.

McNamara has just finished a two year contract as Head Coach of the Irish U20 team, leading them to the Grand Slam earlier this year, the first since 2007. Their World Championship bid concluded on Monday with New Zealand inflicting their third defeat of the competition, previous losses were recorded against Australia and England resulting in an eighth place finish.

He succeeds Peter Smyth who is now the IRFU’s Head of Elite Development, in the Leinster role. The Clare Echo understands that Noel has accepted the offer to assume responsibility for producing players of professional standard for Leo Cullen’s senior squad. It remains to be seen if the East Clare man will seek an extension to his Irish U20 contract.

Last month, Noel was honoured by Clare County Council at a civic reception with his fellow parishioner, Cllr Joe Cooney leading the tributes. “I know Noel and his family all their lives. He was born in O’Callaghans Mills and it’s hard to believe he became an Irish rugby head coach being born in O’Callaghans Mills. Noel has a lot of time and effort putting in to coaching teams, to complete the Grand Slam coached by a man from O’Callaghans Mills is some achievement”.

“I collected him for juvenile training down through the years, little did I know he had a soccer and rugby ball under the bed. Maybe If I did a better job he might be the Head Coach of the Clare or O’Callaghans Mills senior hurling teams, it took us until 95 to make the breakthrough with Clare while we’re still waiting in the Mills,” the Fine Gael councillor stated.

In his last meeting as an elected representative of the local authority, Fianna Fáil’s Tom McNamara said of Noel’s achievements, “You have gone against the grain and brought great enjoyment to the county. I’m looking forward to a great year in the rugby, I hope to see you coaching the bigger boys down the line sooner rather than later”.

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