The Ireland Under-20s, sponsored by PwC, kick off this season’s RBS Under-20 6 Nations Championship when they square up to Scotland at Dubarry Park on Friday night (kick-off 7.05pm).
With two home matches on successive Fridays to start their campaign – Wales are here on Friday week – the Ireland Under-20s have a great opportunity to get off to a flyer in the Championship.
Mike Ruddock, who led Wales to a senior Grand Slam, is again head coach to the Irish age-grade side who will be captained this season by flanker Dan Leavy.
Leavy is one of six players who featured in last summer’s IRB Junior World Championship, Peter Dooley, Alex Wootton, Adam Byrne, Peadar Timmins and Jack O’Donoghue being the others.
There is a reasonable blend of experience in the side as Timmins and Dooley also played in the Six Nations last spring.
UCD and Lansdowne both have seven players in the panel but much local interest will focus on Buccaneers duo Rory Moloney and Jacob Walshe as well as prop Dooley from Birr.
Moloney is an exciting flanker who is current Ireland Under-19 captain. A native of Abbeyleix, he has also played for the Ireland U-18s as well as featuring on various underage Leinster and Connacht teams.
He played with Connacht Eagles in the British & Irish Cup and has lined out for Buccs in the Ulster Bank League. His previous club was Portlaoise.
Front rower Walshe is also a Connacht Academy player and has been named in British & Irish Cup squads by the province.
He played with Ballinasloe before joining Buccaneers and has represented Ireland at both U-18 and U-19 grades. Both Walshe and Moloney were anchor performers for the Cistercian College Roscrea team that reached last year’s Leinster Schools Senior Cup final.
Sean O’Brien of Galwegians is another excellent prospect and the versatile Connacht forward also has midlands connections in the Birr area.
Meanwhile, Harrison Brewer – son of legendary All Black Mike – is also an interesting inclusion in this Ireland squad who will be favoured to prevail over Scotland.
Ruddock’s youngsters will underestimate the Scots at their peril, but the Ireland U-20s have a wonderful record at ‘fortress’ Dubarry Park.
Tickets for the first match of the Electric Ireland home series can be purchased in advance at either Buccaneers RFC or the Bounty.
Tickets can also be bought at the turnstiles on match nights, but do come along early especially as pyrotechnics prior to kick-off will add to the fantastic atmosphere.
Stand seats generally sell out in advance of each match. Ticket prices are as follows: Stand €;20; Terrace €;15; Children/OAP €;5; Family (two adults and two children to ground) €;30.
Group discounts are available to clubs/schools, etc. Contact Buccaneers administrator Geraldine 0861732711 (during office hours) or email email@example.com.
Dubarry Park is very close to the M4 Dublin/Galway motorway. Use Exits 10 or 11 and please obey parking restrictions. There is plenty of parking relatively close to the ground but parking at the club is likely to be full 90 minutes before kick-off.
So, let’s see and hear another bumper crowd roaring on the latest talented crop of Ireland Under-20s!
Meanwhile, Buccaneers’ own Michael Silke has delved into the archives to put together a ‘dream team’ of players who have graced Dubarry Park for the Ireland Under-20s – or Under-21s as they were before – in recent seasons and gone on to win senior caps.
It just confirms the talent that can be witnessed up close and personal in Athlone at these U-20 Six Nations matches.
DUBARRY PARK DREAM TEAM: Felix Jones; Dave Kearney, Robbie Henshaw, Ian Madigan, Simon Zebo; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Stephen Archer, Devin Toner, Dan Tuohy, Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien, Rhys Ruddock.
Replacements: Keith Earls, Fergus McFadden, Darren Cave, Paddy Jackson, JJ Hanrahan, Ian Keatley, Stuart Olding, Paul Marshall, Iain Henderson, Tommy O’Donnell, Jack McGrath, Jamie Hagan.
Jordi Murphy and Martin Moore could also qualify for the above ‘squad’ very shortly…