Lansdowne Under-20s have a strong association with the All-Ireland Under-20 trophy, having won it once and appeared in the semi-finals last season. The 2008 Frazer McMullen trophy will be presented after the final in Portlaoise this Saturday.
For the second time in four years, the Lansdowne Under-20s have reached the All-Ireland Under-20 final, where they take on a strong UL Bohemians outfit in Portlaoise this Saturday (kick-off 2.30pm).
Winners in 1999 and also semi-finalists last season, the present Lansdowne Under-20 squad are keeping up the excellent standards set by their predecessors at this level.
The current squad is drawn from a wide range of schools – St. Michael’s College, Kilkenny, Navan, Gorey, Blackrock College, Gonzaga, Castleknock, CUS – as well as drawing on the excellent development stream that has emerged at Leinster and Ireland Youths level in the past few seasons.
“Three years coaching the Leinster Youths opened my eyes to the hidden gems around the country,” explained head coach Willie Clancy, who must accept much of the credit for the Dublin 4 outfit’s ongoing success at this level.
“We punch well above our weight in the Under-20 space. Lansdowne do not have a feeder school like Blackrock, Old Belvedere or St. Mary’s, and therefore the recruitment process must be more comprehensive and embrace a wider catchment area.”
Clancy points out that Lansdowne’s traditional areas of player recruitment have largely dried up.
“We are the main feeder to the senior squad and the club is recruiting from within – nowadays there is less movement of people from the likes of Cork and Limerick to Dublin where historically we have welcomed players,” Clancy added, while noting that the universities, also a former source of recruits, hold ono their players far longer than before.
Already this season several Under-20 squad members have played for the Lansdowne first team in the AIB League.
Those include centres Shane Gahan and Eamon Sheridan, winger David Kearney, younger brother of Leinster and Ireland player Rob, out-half Lorcan Kavanagh and scrum half Matt Healy, while several others are knocking on the door.
Current first team props Ruaidhri Murphy and Darren O’Reilly are also fresh out of Under-20 rugby last season.
“Unquestionably, Lansdowne’s future is centred on the development of the under-age feeder line and the club has committed considerable resources in this area,” said Clancy, who believes that the Under-20 level provides fantastic competition, with most clubs putting huge emphasis on recruitment and resources.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done in marketing and promoting the competition, as well as improving communication with the respective academy managers and encouraging club members to go out on a Sunday to view the players of the future,”
Lansdowne Under-20 Squad
Ian Leonard, Tommy Burns, Kieran McArdle, Nick Mullen, Eoin Sheriff, Willie Earle, Brian McKeever, Ben Horan, Stef Molle, James Caslin, Max Waters, Paddy Mallon, Rajan Reilly, Ruaidhri Murphy, David Tunney, Alex Byrne, Donagh O’Shea.
Freddie Mehigan, Lorcan Kavanagh, John Sparks, Matthew Healy, Shane Kelly, Shane O’Dwyer, Tom O’Donnell, Ciaran Burke, Mark Barry, Shane Gahan, Eamon Sheridan, David Kearney, Michael O’Malley, Mark Kelly.