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Ireland Under-20s Bid To Keep Up Athlone Record

Ireland Under-20s Bid To Keep Up Athlone Record

Last month’s dramatic defeat of England was the Ireland Under-20s’ fourth successive victory at Dubarry Park, their Athlone fortress for the Six Nations Championship. France are next up for Friday’s Electric Ireland encounter at the midlands venue (kick-off 7.45pm).

The Ireland Under-20s have a wonderful record at Dubarry Park over the past six seasons and a new-look squad is bidding to build on the recent highest ever finish in the IRB Junior World Championship that included wins over England and South Africa.

Captain Luke McGrath, Stuart Olding and Josh van der Flier are the only survivors from that competition in South Africa last summer.

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Nevertheless, an inexperienced Ireland again defeated Six Nations champions England 16-15 in a thrilling finish in front of a record crowd at last month’s Dubarry Park duel.

Mike Ruddock’s youngsters showed great resolve and wonderful spirit in that encounter and worked tremendously hard particularly late in the game when they had two players sin-binned.

Their pack really fronted up to the England juggernaut and the back-line finally clicked to unlock the visitors’ defence with Tom Daly and Robbie Henshaw combining smartly to set up Rory Scholes’ dramatic late try that sent the thousands of Ireland supporters home in rapturous mood.

Henshaw is an injury doubt as he had to be replaced in Connacht’s win over Zebre last Friday night, while out-half Steve Crosbie, who missed the win over England, is another injury worry having suffered a knock in the loss away to Scotland.

Ireland lost to the Scots by just a solitary point 21-20 and indeed were defeated by table toppers Wales by only two points in their opening match of the campaign, 17-15. Very tight margins to lose by, particularly in away fixtures.

Indeed, with better fortunes from place-kicking, Ireland could well be playing to secure the Championship title in Athlone on Friday night.

Corinthians player David Panter looks like holding his berth on the wing, while young Cork hurling star Darren Sweetnam is another back worth watching out for.

If Henshaw is ruled out, his fellow Connacht Development player Darragh Leader of Galwegians should get the nod at full-back. Daly and Rory Scannell are a formidable pair in the centre, while McGrath is a key man at scrum half.

The Ireland pack struggled somewhat early on against Wales but put in a tremendous shift against England and dominated the scrums in Scotland.

Loosehead prop Peter Dooley from Birr was a tower of strength in the front row battle with hooker George McGuigan also a huge influence. Gavin Thornbury and John Donnan form a competitive second row partnership and the red-haired Conor Joyce is a top class number 8.

Like their senior counterparts, France are not enjoying the best of campaigns with just one victory over Italy to their credit. Wales were comfortable 27-13 victors in Clermont while England piled on late scores for a clear-cut 40-10 win.

But they have some decent players in their squad, notably scrum half Baptiste Serin while wingers Maxime Wieprecht and Gabriel Lacroix are well capable of notching a try or two.

France will certainly be playing to restore pride and will be dangerous foes, but if Ireland produce a sustained, cohesive performance they will get a bumper home crowd roaring them on at Dubarry Park where the boys in green have such a wonderful record.

Simon Zebo, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray, Cian Healy, Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien, Craig Gilroy, Keith Earls and Paddy Jackson all played with the Ireland Under-20s in Athlone in recent seasons before going on to play at senior level.

So, if you want to see the rugby stars of the future up close and savour the atmosphere, then Dubarry Park is the place to be on Friday night. But come early!

Tickets are now on sale at the Bounty for this highly attractive match. Family tickets are excellent value at €;30 for two adults and two children in the covered terrace.

Stand tickets cost €;20 each and are selling fast already, as is the pre-match function where you can enjoy a three-course meal with wine and also have a reserved seat in the stand for only €;40 per person.

Group bookings are welcome. All pre-match function and/or match ticket enquiries/bookings to Geraldine at 0861732711.

Ticket Prices:

Stand: €;20
Ground/Covered Terrace: €;15
OAPs/Students: €;10 (terrace only)
Family: €;30 (two adults and two children, terrace only)

Discount vouchers are available to schools – these admit secondary school students for €;5 and national school pupils go free when accompanied by an adult. Discounts also for groups.


Dubarry Park is easily accessed off the Dublin/Galway N6 motorway via exits 10 & 11 with hundreds of car park spaces. The stadium is also just off the N55 national route serving Mullingar, Cavan and Longford.

There is a reserved area for buses but, if you are bringing a coach, contact the club at 0861732711 in advance. Directions and map to the ground can be found on the Buccaneers RFC website.