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Groundhog

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Saul Goodman as Leinster's backs coach. Thought it was wildly random when I saw that one of Leinster's most meh signings was back, but didn't realize he'd built up such a solid CV as a coach!
 

Le Frére Alpha

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Very left field but can't complain with any signing from the Crusaders. Essentially what we're trying to emulate.
 

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Saul Goodman as Leinster's backs coach. Thought it was wildly random when I saw that one of Leinster's most meh signings was back, but didn't realize he'd built up such a solid CV as a coach!

Had seen it rumoured last week, looks like a good choice.
 

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Just thought i'd drop you a line: chin up given the times. Couple of bad games, that's all. Happens. You don't need to reinvent the wheel or anything. You play any of those games again tomorrow and any impartial viewer would have you as favourites.
 

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Bored so thought I'd have a look at the squad for the season ahead and thoughts on them. Probably only look at the pack for the moment.

Looseheads:

Andrew Porter
(26): Firmly first choice. Had a great start to the year before having some scrum issues towards the tail end of the season. Feel he got an unfair amount of the blame because nobody wants to blame Furlong and people never really no what to make of a hooker's scrummaging or a locks apart from their size. Still there was improvement as the NZ tour went on. At his best he's a huge asset so hopefully with a year under his belt at the new position and bodyweight he's a lot more comfortable. Would like to see him get back to doing some jackaling again and we need to manage his minutes with the lack of backup approaching his quality.

Cian Healy (34): Clearly on the wind down, as he has been for a few years. I would guess we'll get a retirement announcement for after the WC. Can still do a job but I wouldn't be comfortable with him starting a game vs a team that plays at any decent pace or playing anymore than 50 minutes. Still a very reliable sub but not the force he once was.

Ed Byrne (28): Pretty much the same as it has been for a few years now. Solid player will do the job in the URC and probably get a lot of time there but very meh and don't want him starting any high profile games.

Michael Milne (23): Last season basically didn't happen for him last year due to injuries with only a 17 minute appearance vs the Stormers to his name. Doesn't have the speed of some other tops props but is very strong and powerful in tight. A good season for him is at least pushing ahead of Byrne, excellent would be getting passed Healy.

Marcus Hanan (22) (Academy Year Three): Three sub appearances during an international period with a lot of injuries the season before last isn't a great sign for his future unless he pushes on a lot this season. Wasn't a standout a underage level or known as an exceptional athlete. Not sure if he'll stay once his academy contract expires this year but might get a development one year deal.

Jack Boyle (20) (Academy Year Two): So much potential and talent. Needs to bulk up a bit so we might not see him this season apart from a token bench appearance or two but he should be the future. Has looked the full package in his two years at 20s.

Temi Lasisi (21) (Academy Year Two): Were rumours last year that he was converting to tighthead. Looked very raw in his one appearance last year, which is understandable given he played 8 until 20s. Could be a very useful player with his carrying but would guess he's still a long term project at this stage although his size might see him used ahead of Boyle for the moment.

Hookers:

Ronan Kelleher
(24): I believe he's meant to be back before the start of the season. Despite Sheehan's excellent performances I still think Kelleher is our best option which is saying a lot. If both can stay fit I don't think there's a club hooking duo I'd prefer. Brings loads of power and pace and is equally comfortable in tight and out wide.

Dan Sheehan (23): As mentioned above was brilliant in NZ and appears to have taken another step up. Should be battling it out with Kelleher. I still believe some of our scrum issues come from him but unsure how much he can fix given his height. Also has a bad habit of letting himself get a bit high in the tackle at times and being shrugged off like for Ioane's try in the second(?) test.

James Tracy (31): Solid reliable third choice. Will start a load of URC games and not lets us down. Again won't really want him involved in the big games but will probably at least sub a few. Also probably the richest player in the squad, definitely top three.

John McKee (22) (Academy Year Three): Really took his chance last season with his performances in South Africa. Potentially a bit undersized and a bit less athletic than the top prospects but am a lot higher on him after those performances. Should be hoping to push Tracy and at least secure a bench spot for himself in the games were the top two aren't available.

Lee Barron (21) (Academy Year Two): Very similar athletic profile to Sheehan, looked very raw in SA but was a very late call up there. I don't expect to see him much this year but if he puts it all together he could have a very swift rise.

Tightheads:

Tadhg Furlong
(29): Was somewhat limited at the end of the season, probably due to the calf injury he picked up. Still an absolutely brilliant player and far and away our best option here. Not sure there's much more to say than that.

Michael Ala'alatoa (30): Was a very useful signing for us last year. Would expect his role to be similar again accumulating a huge amount of minutes. His scrummaging is fine but not great. His loose work is very good without being exemplary, very hard to give out about him as a backup.

Vakh Abdalaze (26): Kind of hard to believe he's that 'old' now. Another player who was hugely limited by injuries. Back injuries in a tighthead do not exactly spell a bright future. If he can get on the pitch and stay there he is a very powerful athlete who could be very useful over the URC campaign.

Thomas Clarkson (22): Had some tough outings vs Ox and Kitshoff at the end of the year but is hopefully better for it. Ceiling is maybe a bit limited by his athleticism but has a very good skillset and do expect him to be an international eventually.

Rory McGuire (19) (Academy Year One): Massive unit who was very good for the 20s. Won't see him this year most likely unless there's an injury crisis but if developed right could become a big player.

Locks:

James Ryan
(26): Looked to be back close to his best in NZ. Need his leadership to this year and for him to really show his ability vs the bigger SA and French packs.

Jason Jenkins (26): Seemed to be coming on with Munster as the season finished out. Looks like he might fit into our style of play well (although his handling will need work) but hopefully will help add that physical presence we sometimes lack. Certainly offers something different to everyone not named Joe McCarthy. Hopefully can stay fit and at least be reliable.

Ross Molony (28): Had an excellent season last year which was great but showed his ceiling is limited by his size and athleticism. Will be a key cog again throughout the season and you wouldn't be disappointed to see him start even if being a bit worried vs some of the monster packs. Probaly the best forward at the pullback pass apart from Furlong.

Ryan Baird (23): Easy to forget he's only turned 23. Not a great year for him last season and was very disrupted. Still has being putting in work in the offseason not going on holiday but playing rugby and visiting the Chicago Bears' camp. Probably needs to commit to one position but the sky is still the limit with his ridiculous athleticism. But if the performances don't come he won't be in the 23 with the quality in the back five.

Joe McCarthy (21): Huge breakthrough last year obviously. Needs to keep the foot down and not suffer second season syndrome. Also needs to cut down the penalty count. With his size he's not a player we produce a lot and offers something we really need.

Charlie Ryan (23): Bit of a forgotten man, had no appearances in the academy and was rumoured to be off to Exeter with Dunne and ROL but was given a senior contract, presumably a development one. Has had a lot of injuries but was a very good player at underage level. Very hard to know what to expect if he makes the pitch at this stage.

Brian Deeny (22): Another athletic secondrow, looks a bit underweight but was very industrious in his performances in SA. Has crowded room ahead of him so needs to stand out when selected.

This is taking longer than expected, will add the rest later.
 
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Le Frére Alpha

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Bored so thought I'd have a look at the squad for the season ahead and thoughts on them. Probably only look at the pack for the moment.

Looseheads:

Andrew Porter
(26): Firmly first choice. Had a great start to the year before having some scrum issues towards the tail end of the season. Feel he got an unfair amount of the blame because nobody wants to blame Furlong and people never really no what to make of a hooker's scrummaging or a locks apart from their size. Still there was improvement as the NZ tour went on. At his best he's a huge asset so hopefully with a year under his belt at the new position and bodyweight he's a lot more comfortable. Would like to see him get back to doing some jackaling again and we need to manage his minutes with the lack of backup approaching his quality.

Cian Healy (34): Clearly on the wind down, as he has been for a few years. I would guess we'll get a retirement announcement for after the WC. Can still do a job but I wouldn't be comfortable with him starting a game vs a team that plays at any decent pace or playing anymore than 50 minutes. Still a very reliable sub but not the force he once was.

Ed Byrne (28): Pretty much the same as it has been for a few years now. Solid player will do the job in the URC and probably get a lot of time there but very meh and don't want him starting any high profile games.

Michael Milne (23): Last season basically didn't happen for him last year due to injuries with only a 17 minute appearance vs the Stormers to his name. Doesn't have the speed of some other tops props but is very strong and powerful in tight. A good season for him is at least pushing ahead of Byrne, excellent would be getting passed Healy.

Marcus Hanan (22) (Academy Year Three): Three sub appearances during an international period with a lot of injuries the season before last isn't a great sign for his future unless he pushes on a lot this season. Wasn't a standout a underage level or known as an exceptional athlete. Not sure if he'll stay once his academy contract expires this year but might get a development one year deal.

Jack Boyle (20) (Academy Year Two): So much potential and talent. Needs to bulk up a bit so we might not see him this season apart from a token bench appearance or two but he should be the future. Has looked the full package in his two years at 20s.

Temi Lasisi (21) (Academy Year Two): Were rumours last year that he was converting to tighthead. Looked very raw in his one appearance last year, which is understandable given he played 8 until 20s. Could be a very useful player with his carrying but would guess he's still a long term project at this stage although his size might see him used ahead of Boyle for the moment.

Hookers:

Ronan Kelleher
(24): I believe he's meant to be back before the start of the season. Despite Sheehan's excellent performances I still think Kelleher is our best option which is saying a lot. If both can stay fit I don't think there's a club hooking duo I'd prefer. Brings loads of power and pace and is equally comfortable in tight and out wide.

Dan Sheehan (23): As mentioned above was brilliant in NZ and appears to have taken another step up. Should be battling it out with Kelleher. I still believe some of our scrum issues come from him but unsure how much he can fix given his height. Also has a bad habit of letting himself get a bit high in the tackle at times and being shrugged off like for Ioane's try in the second(?) test.

James Tracy (31): Solid reliable third choice. Will start a load of URC games and not lets us down. Again won't really want him involved in the big games but will probably at least sub a few. Also probably the richest player in the squad, definitely top three.

John McKee (22) (Academy Year Three): Really took his chance last season with his performances in South Africa. Potentially a bit undersized and a bit less athletic than the top prospects but am a lot higher on him after those performances. Should be hoping to push Tracy and at least secure a bench spot for himself in the games were the top two aren't available.

Lee Barron (21) (Academy Year Two): Very similar athletic profile to Sheehan, looked very raw in SA but was a very late call up there. I don't expect to see him much this year but if he puts it all together he could have a very swift rise.

Tightheads:

Tadhg Furlong
(29): Was somewhat limited at the end of the season, probably due to the calf injury he picked up. Still an absolutely brilliant player and far and away our best option here. Not sure there's much more to say than that.

Michael Ala'alatoa (30): Was a very useful signing for us last year. Would expect his role to be similar again accumulating a huge amount of minutes. His scrummaging is fine but not great. His loose work is very good without being exemplary, very hard to give out about him as a backup.

Vakh Abdalaze (26): Kind of hard to believe he's that 'old' now. Another player who was hugely limited by injuries. Back injuries in a tighthead do not exactly spell a bright future. If he can get on the pitch and stay there he is a very powerful athlete who could be very useful over the URC campaign.

Thomas Clarkson (22): Had some tough outings vs Ox and Kitshoff at the end of the year but is hopefully better for it. Ceiling is maybe a bit limited by his athleticism but has a very good skillset and do expect him to be an international eventually.

Rory McGuire (19) (Academy Year One): Massive unit who was very good for the 20s. Won't see him this year most likely unless there's an injury crisis but if developed right could become a big player.

Locks:

James Ryan
(26): Looked to be back close to his best in NZ. Need his leadership to this year and for him to really show his ability vs the bigger SA and French packs.

Jason Jenkins (26): Seemed to be coming on with Munster as the season finished out. Looks like he might fit into our style of play well (although his handling will need work) but hopefully will help add that physical presence we sometimes lack. Certainly offers something different to everyone not named Joe McCarthy. Hopefully can stay fit and at least be reliable.

Ross Molony (28): Had an excellent season last year which was great but showed his ceiling is limited by his size and athleticism. Will be a key cog again throughout the season and you wouldn't be disappointed to see him start even if being a bit worried vs some of the monster packs. Probaly the best forward at the pullback pass apart from Furlong.

Ryan Baird (23): Easy to forget he's only turned 23. Not a great year for him last season and was very disrupted. Still has being putting in work in the offseason not going on holiday but playing rugby and visiting the Chicago Bears' camp. Probably needs to commit to one position but the sky is still the limit with his ridiculous athleticism. But if the performances don't come he won't be in the 23 with the quality in the back five.

Joe McCarthy (21): Huge breakthrough last year obviously. Needs to keep the foot down and not suffer second season syndrome. Also needs to cut down the penalty count. With his size he's not a player we produce a lot and offers something we really need.

Charlie Ryan (23): Bit of a forgotten man, had no appearances in the academy and was rumoured to be off to Exeter with Dunne and ROL but was given a senior contract, presumably a development one. Has had a lot of injuries but was a very good player at underage level. Very hard to know what to expect if he makes the pitch at this stage.

Brian Deeny (22): Another athletic secondrow, looks a bit underweight but was very industrious in his performances in SA. Has crowded room ahead of him so needs to stand out when selected.

This is taking longer than expected, will add the rest later.
Bored so I read it. Good write up, we need one of McCarthy, Baird or even Jenkins to prove to be first team quality, I don't see us winning in France with Moloney as a starter and you need to win there at least once to win the Championship.
 

big ginger 8

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Been too long to edit the other post, going to lump the backrow all in together since guys tend to play a few positions and there's so many of them but will go roughly by their standard one. Definitely still our strongest position group despite some losses.

Backrow:

Caelan Doris
(24) - had a bit of an up and down season, absolutely brilliant in the Autumn but dampened a bit towards the end of the club season and was back up by the end of the Summer series after a rough first season. Big positive is that he was pretty much fit the whole season after having been stood down for concussion. Still seems to have one annoying knock on a game but a genuinely world class player at this stage.

Rhys Ruddock (31) - Still performing but possibly no longer guaranteed a place in our strongest 23, which is no mark against him. Steadfast and ever reliable he will captain most URC games and probably still have some European games with how attritional the position is.

Martin Moloney (22) - Got promoted to a senior contract after 7 appearances last year, 2 of which were starts. Put himself about very well very industrious, a very hard hitter and comfortable out wide.

Alex Soroka (21) (Academy Year 3) - Have very high hopes for him. Big athletic flanker who has previously played in the row. Very similar to Cian Prendergast but with better 'pedigree' at underage level. Strong carrier in tight and out wide, good lineout forward and has a great never say die attitude as everyone saw on the South African tour last season.

Sean O'Brien (22) (Academy Year 3) - Only got one cap last year off the bench so will be hoping for a lot more this year with no Josh Murphy. Was a talented player at under age level. His American birth is an interesting wrinkle, went over and played for the LA Giltinis in 2021 getting some good experience I'm sure.

Diarmuid Mangan (19) (Academy Year 1) - Honestly can't remember enough to form much of an opinion about him. Was involved with the 20s mostly from the bench and has played second row as well.

Josh Van der Flier (29) - Really pushed himself to another tier this year. Unbelievable play. Connors coming back will be interesting but he's firmly in possession of the starting jersey for now.

Will Connors (26) - Only managed 51 minutes across two games last year. Easy to forget he was ahead of VDF for Ireland. Hopefully he can come back right, probably the best tackler in Ireland and well suited to our high paced game with all the pull back passes.

Scott Penny (22) - Hard to believe he's still this young (does turn 23 in September) his size will always hold him back but is a very good player in all aspects of openside play. Hope he gets a European start this year.

Mark Hernan (22) (Academy Year 2) - Unfortunately between my first post and this one he has had to retire after suffering 16 shoulder dislocation already.

Jack Conan (30) - Didn't quite hit the heights of his Lions year but wasn't as bad as his detractors would have you believe. Actually quite good I'd say and still in possession of the starting jersey.

Max Deegan (25) - Had a successful enough season all things considered but still has a feeling of unfulfilled potential given his underage awards. Very able performer but needs to make a real fight of it with Conan, still a perception that he has a tendency to go missing.

James Culhane (19) - Yet another scrumcap wearing number 8 out of Blackrock who was a standout at 20s. Looked a very strong all around player but espcially in his attacking game. Very similar carrier to Doris with a good link game.
 

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I think you're being a tad over-critical of Doris. As you say, truly world class (at 6 and 8), and if he stays fit, I can see him going on to be one of the all-time greats for Leinster, Ireland and the Lions.
 

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I think you're being a tad over-critical of Doris. As you say, truly world class (at 6 and 8), and if he stays fit, I can see him going on to be one of the all-time greats for Leinster, Ireland and the Lions.

Possibly, probably because I have similar expectations to you. He shouldn't be having down periods like he did, even if said period was still probably better than a lot of players can manage.

Scrumhalves:

Jamison Gibson-Park
(30) - firmly established as the starter now. Still erratic, somewhat by design, but also one of the best 9s around for playing a high tempo game. Great combo with Sexton, at this stage probably not going to massively improve his weakspots like his kicking.

Luke McGrath (29) - Not a great season for him. Had a lot more poor games then he usually does. Has never had the pass to play against phsyical teams with good linespeed but his high level in other aspects like support lines and defending meant he was usually an excellent league player and solid option for most European games. Hopefully can get back to being a high level back up.

Nick McCarthy (26) - Typical for a Leinster scrumhalf he wasn't very consistent. Kicking game was not up to standard will be fine for URC games where our pack is on top and the conditions let us play at tempo but for anymore than that he'd need some serious improvement.

Cormac Foley (22) - As someone I've played with previously I probably am a bit biased towards him but he came in towards the end of the year and had some strong performances. Like other Leinster 9s his biggest weakness was always his passing for me but it seemed to have come on hugely last season. Playing regularly in the AIL for Lansdowne seems to have done wonders for him. Hopefully can push ahead of McCarthy and rack up a load of URC games.

Ben Murphy (21) (Academy Year Two) - Son of coach Richie, only had one performance last year and looked decent off the bench. Didn't have a stellar underage career but does appear to have solid fundamentals at least.

Outhalves:

Jonathan Sexton
(37) - He's Johnny Sexton.

Ross Byrne (27) - Really poor finish to the season for him. At this stage he is what he is. Very limited for pace but usually a solid player, if he loses that solidness and starts making mistakes like vs La Rochelle his usefulness disappears. He's a very high level number 2 and a great guy to steer us trhough the league but you'd hope he doesn't have to start any of the really big games and for someone young to emerge.

Harry Byrne (23) - As everyone knows the main thing is he needs to stay on the pitch. Just could not stay fit last season. Due to this there probably was a lot of trying to force it when he was playing. Still has so much potential, he was at least as good as Smith, Ntamack and Garbisi when they were all at 20s but needs that run of games to show it. He has more time than his detractors imply but it definitely is worrying if he has a third injury marred season.

Charlie Tector (20) (Academy Year One) - Grand Slam winning 10 so must be doing something right. To my eye he was solid but unspectacular. Not especially athletic but kept things ticking. I actually was more impressed by fellow Kilkenny man from the previous 20s Tim Corkery but despite him having two Leinster caps and having vague memories of him being added to the academy I can't actually find any such confirmation.

Sam Prendergast (19) (Academy Year One) - Wasn't part of the u20s 6N but got his shot in the summer tournament and had after a rough start had some fantastic performances particularly against SA with a massive winning kick. Younger brother of Cian, similarly tall and athletic. Word is he was taken in this year as a u19 because Connacht were already sniffing around.
 

Le Frére Alpha

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I think a shake up is needed behind the starters this season. McGrath and Byrne were never cut out for top class knockout rugby, games against Toulouse before they were Toulouse again and Exeter after they were Exeter respectively are the only solid examples I can remember and they've both seemingly gotten worse with the more fluid style of play being implemented.

Foley, HB and Prendergast are my hopes but Jesus Christ we don't produce 9s in this province.
 

big ginger 8

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I think a shake up is needed behind the starters this season. McGrath and Byrne were never cut out for top class knockout rugby, games against Toulouse before they were Toulouse again and Exeter after they were Exeter respectively are the only solid examples I can remember and they've both seemingly gotten worse with the more fluid style of play being implemented.

Foley, HB and Prendergast are my hopes but Jesus Christ we don't produce 9s in this province.

Fintan Gunne the big hope at 9 but given the last numbe of hyped 9s out of the Senior Cup I'll hold my breath until his 20s performances at least.
 

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Gunnes as good a prospect as any coming out of school, but leinsters record of developing scrumhalves wouldnt fill you with confidence that he will reach his potential.
 

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Centres:

Robbie Henshaw
(29) - Played more games in the Heineken Cup than the Pro14. Fully trust him to show up in the big games as usual, playing great rugby the last few seasons especially. No doubts that if he stays fit this season should be more of the same.

Garry Ringrose (27) - Played his most games in a season for Leinster since 2016/2017. This injury free run saw some of his best rugby in a while with a more consistent performances. Unfortunately concussed in his last game with Ireland. Still takes a bit much out of the ball at times for my liking despite being well able to slot in at 10 in play but has improved somewhat there.

Charles Ngatai (32) - Should be a very good signing for us. A lot of our outside backs are very young so having a player of his quality and experience should be a huge boon to them. Also never a harm to have someone with a big boot and who can carry the ball up.

Ciaran Frawley (24) - 21 appearances was as many as he had managed the previous two seasons combined. Finally earned himself some appearances with an 'Ireland XV' even if he didn't get the actual caps. Of course will still have people calling for him to play 10. May happen after his time there this summer and the signing of Ngatai but I still believe his best position is 12.

Conor O'Brien (26) - Guy can't catch a break, only one performance last season and 6 he season before. Surprised he hasn't retired already tbh, very talented player but hard to see a way forward if he barely plays again.

Liam Turner (23) - Didn't play at all last year, seems to be more permanently a 7s player now.

Jamie Osborne (20) - Breakthrough season for him. Looks very comfortable and assured. Not sure if I prefer him as a fullback or centre but he as the tools for both. Hopefully can keep progressing and show a bit more of an individual threat.

Ben Brownlee (19) (Academy Year One) - Started centre in the u20s Grand Slam winning team. Has the size needed and appeared to have the athleticism. Looked like a good player if not a standout for me.
 

Le Frére Alpha

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I disagree on Frawley, he would serve Leinster best as a 10, our options are super bleak after Sexton. Byrne 1 is shite, Byrne 2 looks less and less likely to make it with each injury, Prendergast is a couple years away yet. If he's not number two 10 to start the season now that we have another 12 in the squad, possibly two if COB stays fit, it'd look like another disappointingly conservative call from our coaches to me.
 

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I disagree on Frawley, he would serve Leinster best as a 10, our options are super bleak after Sexton. Byrne 1 is shite, Byrne 2 looks less and less likely to make it with each injury, Prendergast is a couple years away yet. If he's not number two 10 to start the season now that we have another 12 in the squad, possibly two if COB stays fit, it'd look like another disappointingly conservative call from our coaches to me.
Must agree with this. The more I saw Frawley at 10 in New Zealand the more I grew to like him there. I would have him up there with rest as a challenger and he is primed to play alot in URC so gametime won't be issue. If he can do Ross Byrne role in Europe too it will help hugely.
Only "err" is I want him to get more experience goalkicking in pressured games too. But that comes hand in hand with above.
 

Le Frére Alpha

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Conor O'Brien announced his retirement today. Shame, was quite the talent.
 

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