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International Rugby Returns To Athlone

International Rugby Returns To Athlone

International rugby returns again to the midlands when, in association with ESB International, Ireland will play at three home games in this season’s Under-20 Six Nations championship at Dubarry Park.

Dubarry Park in Athlone is the home of the midlands’ premier rugby club Buccaneers. Ireland, of course, will be bidding to retain the championship title they won in such exciting fashion, including the monumental victories in Athlone over both England and France, which helped them on the way to achieving a magnificent ‘Grand Slam’.

This year’s floodlit matches take place as follows:

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Ireland v Italy on Friday, February 1 (kick-off 7.30pm)

Ireland v Scotland on Friday, February 22 (kick-off 7.30pm)

Ireland v Wales on Friday, March 7 (kick-off 7.30pm)

For the past two seasons these international matches have proved hugely successful, drawing bumper crowds to Dubarry Park from the greater midlands region and beyond.

The fans enjoyed top-class international rugby from the stars of the future. These included Cian Healy and Jonathan Sexton, who were both included in the Ireland senior squad announced by Eddie O’Sullivan last week.

Others such as Paul Marshall, Darragh Hurley, Paul O’Donohoe and Buccaneers’ own Aidan Wynne have now nailed down slots in their respective provincial senior panels.

Last season, England’s side included Danny Cipriani and his Wasps team-mate David Doherty, who has Irish connections, so these matches provide a wonderful opportunity to see tremendously exciting players in action up close.

Phil Orr again manages PricewaterhouseCoopers-sponsored Ireland who are coached by Eric Elwood, assisted by Dan McFarland. Buccaneers duo Conor Higgins and Trevor Conneely are bidding for inclusion in Ireland’s match squads but injury has again blighted Gavin Kelly’s hopes while Alan Gaughan too is hampered by a knock.

RTE Television is covering matches ‘live’ this year and the 2FM Roadcaster will broadcast from Athlone on matchdays.

ESB chairman Tadhg O’Donoghue said: “One of the key factors in ESB International’s decision to associate the company with Under-20 rugby is the all-island footprint of the game.

“The Irish energy market is moving to an all-island market operation and ESB International is already operating on both sides of the border. Rugby union has operated on an all-island basis for numerous years now.”

Buccaneers President Austin Reid thanked ESB International, particularly for “their continued valued support in staging these hugely attractive matches at Dubarry Park.”

“The club is greatly honoured to host them and anticipates huge crowds coming along to support Ireland, whom we hope can retain their title,” he added.

Ticket Details:

Tickets are now on sale for these matches and may be purchased at Buccaneers RFC’s offices in The Bounty (contact Geraldine on 0861732711) during normal business hours) and at a number of other outlets, including Musicworld, Golden Island (090-6474372) and Keenan Sports, Athlone (090-6472030). Indeed, Stand tickets are already virtually sold out so early purchase is strongly recommended.

Ticket prices are as follows:

Stand €;25; Ground/Terrace €;15; OAP/Children €;5; Family (2 adults + 2 kids/ground) €;30

Tables of eight for the pre-match function are also on offer. Full details from the club’s Administrator at 0861732711.

These matches are also a huge commercial boost at an off-peak time for the Athlone area, especially in the hotels and tourism areas. The Ireland U-20 squad are having another three-day training camp in Athlone this week, in preparation for the start of the Six Nations championship.