The Ulster Ravens management have named their team and replacements for Thursday’s interprovincial encounter with Connacht ‘A’ at Barnhall RFC (kick-off 3pm).
The Ulster Ravens selection will be captained by hooker Nigel Brady and boasts a mix of youth and experience.
Brady, a recent debutant for the Ireland Wolfhounds, is looking forward to getting some game-time and leading the Ravens once again.
“The Ravens have come a long way this season, and every game we get to play together is another important stepping stone,” he said.
“Connacht will be a great test for us with the young boys getting an opportunity to show Brian (McLaughlin), Neil (Doak) and Jeremy (Davidson) what they can do, and stick their hands up and stake a claim for a jersey.
“It is also important to build on the momentum from last Friday night’s win over Aberavon in the British & Irish Cup. It was a very positive performance, and you could really see the young boys growing with confidence.”
A number of Phoenix Ulster Rugby Academy and Ulster Under-20 players will get a start at Parsonstown, the home of Barnhall RFC.
Luke Marshall will line out in the number 10 jersey, with the experienced Paul Marshall at scrum half. Mark McCrea and Jonny Shiells form an exciting centre partnership, while Dungannon wingers Craig Gilroy and Chris Cochrane make up the back-three along with Belfast Harlequins full-back Mark Roberts.
Up front, Ravens skipper Brady is propped by Paul Karayiannis and Allan Whitten, and Queen’s University clubman Andrew Linton will link up with Neil McComb in the engine room.
McComb’s Belfast Harlequins club-mate Mark Robinson joins Scott La Valla and Thomas Anderson in a powerful back row unit.
A number of club players – Michael Pyper (Queen’s University), Paddy Marks (Instonians), Michael Allen (Belfast Harlequins) and Stephen Mulholland (Ballymena) – will be hoping to make an impact off the replacements bench, while Queen’s University full-back David McIlwaine is travelling as a 23rd man.
Looking forward to the game, Ulster Ravens team manager Gary Longwell said: “We have included a number of new faces in the squad this time which include a few Under-20 players such as Ballymena out-half Luke Marshall, Dungannon winger Craig Gilroy, Instonian flanker Paddy Marks, and we are having another look at Dublin University flanker Scott La Valla.”
“This game gives the other players in the squad the opportunity to show what they can do, and these games against Connacht are always tough encounters.
“I remember they put up a great fight-back in Enniskillen a couple of years ago, and almost won at the end, so it is sure to be a good contest for the boys.”
ULSTER RAVENS (v Connacht): Mark Roberts; Chris Cochrane, Mark McCrea, Jonny Shiells, Craig Gilroy; Luke Marshall, Paul Marshall; Paul Karayiannis, Nigel Brady (capt), Alan Whitten, Neil McComb, Andrew Linton, Scott La Valla, Mark Robinson, Thomas Anderson.
Replacements: Andi Kyriacou, Bryan Young, Stephen Mulholland, Paddy Marks, Cillian Willis, Michael Pyper, Michael Allen, David McIlwaine.