Titans bring in Irish duo
Rotherham Titans have completed deals which will see Irish pair Michael Keating and Ali Birch join the club for the RFU Championship 2013-14 season.
Michael Keating joins the Titans from local rivals Doncaster Knights and can play either on the wing or at full back. Keating arrives with a fine pedigree having represented Ireland at U20 level on ten occasions and Leinster U20’s on four occasions. Keating has also represented the province 10 times in the British & Irish Cup and has made four appearances for them in the Magners League.
The 23 years-old 6’ 1” speedster weighs in at 94kg’s which will make him a real powerhouse in the Titans back line next term. Titans Lee Blackett sees Keating as a star attraction and believes he’ll make a huge impact at Clifton Lane, as he explained, “We were first made aware of Michael Keating by Mike Whitehead who was at Doncaster two years ago. I asked Mike at the beginning of the season which player from Doncaster would he sign and he told me the one player who stood out massively was Michael Keating, who he considered to be their best player.
“So, we’ve known about Michael for a long time; unfortunately he picked up a shoulder injury last season which kept him out of the game for a long spell. He came back for the last 2 or 3 months and did incredibly well; anyone who saw him live on Sky in Doncaster’s match against Nottingham could see what good a rugby player he is and he probably deserved the man of the match accolade that day. So, we believe we are getting an outstanding back three player and are delighted that he’ll be joining us for next season.”
After a number of seasons in the Ulster Academy, Ali Birch was handed a full contract in 2012. At 24 years of age and with 10 Ulster caps to his name, Ali’s signing is seen as a bit of a coup.
Birch has demonstrated impressive club form for Dungannon and also stood out for the Ulster Ravens on many occasions. He made his competitive debut for Ulster Rugby in the 2010 Magners League clash with Connacht.
Birch, whose preference is to play at openside flanker combines an excellent work rate with sheer speed as he causes chaos around the park; his ball carrying ability and ferocity at ruck time will be a big bonus for the Titans next season.
Blackett is particularly pleased to have captured Birch and said, “Ali’s best position is probably at seven, but he has played across the whole back row at Ulster, which tells you a lot about the calibre of player we are getting. James McKinney knows Ali well and he regards him very highly; when we mentioned Ali, James told us we would be getting an outstanding rugby player and when a fellow team mate says that about someone you start looking very closely at the individual and we know we are getting an outstanding back row player in Ali Birch.”
Blackett summed up this weeks recruitment activity by adding, “I think with bringing Juan Pablo in at the start of the week and now with two more exciting backs in Michael Keating and Dallan Murphy, we are starting to see a very good and exciting back line develop. Then obviously Ali’s coming here with a big reputation and he will add significantly to our forwards and we are also expecting huge things from him as well. So, all-in-all I hope our supporters are every bit as excited about next season as I am.”