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Ulster Begin Junior Interpro Title Defence Away To Munster

Ulster Begin Junior Interpro Title Defence Away To Munster

Muskerry and Ballinrobe Rugby Clubs will play host to the opening encounters in this season’s IRFU Junior Interprovincial Championship on Saturday, as reigning champions Ulster visit 2016 winners Munster, and Connacht entertain Leinster out west.

Ulster head coach Richard Boyd knows his side are there to be shot at after enjoying a clean sweep of victories in last season’s title-winning Interprovincial campaign. He reckons Munster, last year’s runners-up, are favourites at home in the first round this weekend.

Speaking ahead of Ulster’s trip to Muskerry, he said: “I’m delighted to be leading the Ulster Juniors again this year and am looking forward to the Interpro series. We have set a very hard act to follow last year as a group, but we’re well prepared again this year and we will be working hard to have another successful campaign.

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“The new coaching team of myself, John Nicholl and Chris Nash, alongside the addition of a number of young faces who have stood out this year for their clubs has brought a real freshness to the squad. The squad have really bought into training and there’s a healthy competition for places and an eagerness to keep improving as a group which has been really positive.

“We’re looking forward to the trip to Munster and will travel with confidence after our experiences on the road last year at both Connacht and Leinster. Munster will be a really tough team to beat at home and they will be favourites, but we must aim to start our campaign off in the right manner and if we play to our potential, we will can come away with some crucial points. With two home games this year, it would be great to see a big crowd out to cheer on the boys and help to boost our chances.”

Carrickfergus’ Andy McKeen will captain the Ulster Juniors from the back row, and will be one of the key figures in the pack along with Paul Greenaway, Stephen Dickey and Davy Clarke. Vice-captain Callum Irvine from CIYMS is expected to feature prominently in the Ulster back-line, as well as Ballymoney’s Martin Irwin and Cooke full-back Phillip Cartmill.

The Munster Juniors will be seeking revenge for an opening day defeat this time last year to Ulster at Randalstown where they went down 20-3. Head coach John Keehan said: “We had a disappointing start last year but recovered with two very solid wins against Leinster (home) and Connacht (away), and will be hoping to carry that momentum into this year’s campaign.”

The Munstermen are captained from the second row by Galbally’s Brendan Childs, the province’s Player of the Series last year. The squad contains players from twelve different clubs with the host club, Muskerry, represented by Dan Horgan and Martin Muldoon, while the likes of John Lillis, Derry O’Connor and Warren Kelly, who all have Ulster Bank League experience, are also included.

Muskerry will officially open their new pitch at Ballyanly, Inniscarra, before the Interpro first round clash. The pitch is located alongside the Muskerry clubhouse in the Inniscarra Community Centre and has been developed through a combination of grant aid and internal fundraising.

Meanwhile, well-travelled flanker Kieran O’Gorman, who has played for Buccaneers, UL Bohemians, Garryowen and Old Belvedere in the Ulster Bank League, will captain the Leinster Junior side in his second year with the squad.

The former Ireland Club international feature at blindside in the starting XV to play Connacht, with five Dundalk players getting the nod, including out-half and vice-captain Gearoid McDonald and the entire front row of John Grey, Sean Arrowsmith and Robert Farrell.

Former Leinster, Saracens and London Irish second row Eoin Sheriff, who has been coaching with Gorey since his retirement. The 29-year-old is part of the Leinster Junior coaching set-up headed up by Cill Dara’s Enda Finn. 

“Myself and the other coaches, Maurice (Logue) and Eoin, are very much looking forward to the Interprovincial series,” said Finn. “But it’s fair to say our preparations have been greatly hampered by the ‘Game of Thrones’ style never-ending winter.

“This has manifested itself in less time with players, and of course delays in the Towns Cup which has limited the number of players available for selection, who are all naturally focused on their clubs. Leaving those quibbles aside, we’re happy with the quality of player available and we have completely refreshed the squad this year, casting a very wide net, and the lads involved are bringing a fantastic energy and intensity to training.

“To me, attitude is everything and I like to think we have it in abundance with this bunch of players. With Connacht and Ulster away and only one home game against Munster, it won’t be an easy series but we are confident if we can come away from Ballinrobe with the win, we will be using that as a springboard and we will be heading to Ulster in May with it all to play for.”

The Leinster squad had a training game recently against a North Midlands side and travelled to Wexford for a two-day camp. This would not have been possible without the support from all who attended the Leinster Junior dinner in January. Almost 300 people from rugby all across Leinster attended the dinner to celebrate junior rugby in the province and the Leinster Junior team. The dinner also saw the presentation of the inaugural Sean O’Brien Hall of Fame award.

The selected Connacht team is captained by hooker Rory Grenham from Buccaneers and is joined in the front row by his club-mate Ryan O’Meara and Aidan Leech of Creggs. Both Grenham and O’Meara got game-time with Buccs in Division 1A of the Ulster Bank League this season.

Rob Holian from host club Ballinrobe and Westport’s Eddie Dunning make up the second row, while the westerners’ loose forwards trio consists of another Buccaneers clubman, Rossa Dooley, Stephen Joyce of Monivea and Roy Stanley from NUIG.

NUIG’s Ryan Guilfoyle is named at scrum half where he forms a half-back partnership with Niall Gray of Sligo.
The midfield consists of Daniel Keane of Ballinrobe and Monivea’s Matthew Mannion, with Dean McMahon of Buccaneers at full-back and Tom Staunton (Ballinrobe) and James Kennedy (NUIG) on the wings.


Saturday, April 28 –

MUNSTER v ULSTER, Muskerry RFC, 2.30pm

MUNSTER: Derry O’Connor (Abbeyfeale); Dan Horgan (Muskerry), Eoin O’Dwyer (Thurles), Tom O’Callaghan (Mitchelstown), Warren Kelly (St. Senan’s); John Lillis (Thurles), Sean Herlihy (Newcastle West); Mark Corby (Clonmel), Mike Cronin (Castleisland), Dave O’Gorman (Clonmel), Sean Walsh (Clanwilliam), Brendan Childs (Galbally) (capt), Tony Cantwell (Clonmel), Oisin Walsh (Galbally), Kieran Downey (Castleisland).

Replacements: Niall Campion (Clonmel), Danny Lambe (Fethard), Martin Muldoon (Muskerry), Luke Kelly (Thurles), Diarmuid Devaney (Clonmel), Conor Cremin (Kanturk), Paul Loughran (St. Mary’s), Keith McManus (St. Mary’s).

ULSTER Squad: Andy McKeen (Carrickfergus) (capt), Callum Irvine (CIYMS) (vice-capt), Paddy Aiken (CIYMS), Ross Bingham (Dromore), Bokkie Carstens (Coleraine), Phil Cartmill (Cooke), David Clarke (Ballyclare), Martin Connolly (Randalstown), Steven Dickey (Coleraine), Ryan Garrett (Larne), Jason Gilliland (CIYMS), Paul Greenaway (Carrickfergus), Thomas Hunter (Ballymoney), Peter Irvine (Ballymoney), Martin Irwin (Ballymoney), Dean Jones (Ballyclare), Aaron Kilpatrick (CIYMS), Bradley Luney (Carrickfergus), Sam Mackey (Limavady), Stewart Martin (Academy), Brian McClearn (Dromore), David McKeen (Carrickfergus), Oliver Millar (UUC), Michael Orr (Portadown), Dennis Posternak (UUC), Stuart Smyth (Grosvenor), Lee Steenson (Dromore), Cory Tipping (CIYMS), Alan Whitley (Carrickfergus), Mark Wylie (Academy).

CONNACHT v LEINSTER, Ballinrobe RFC, 2.30pm

CONNACHT: Dean McMahon (Buccaneers); James Kennedy (NUIG), Matthew Mannion (Monivea), Daniel Keane (Ballinrobe), Tom Staunton (Ballinrobe); Niall Gray (Sligo), Ryan Guilfoyle (NUIG): Aidan Leech (Creggs), Rory Grenham (Buccaneers) (capt), Ryan O’Meara (Buccaneers), Rob Holian (Ballinrobe), Eddie Dunning (Westport), Rossa Dooley (Buccaneers), Stephen Joyce (Monivea), Roy Stanley (NUIG).

Replacements: Ger Fahy (Monivea), Padraic Mannion (Monivea), Michael McColgan (NUIG), Vinny Lally (Monivea), Ross Hickey (Buccaneers), Alan Brandon (Creggs), Luke Staunton (Castlebar), Jack Rowland (Castlebar).

LEINSTER: Dan Costello (Monkstown); Derek Williams (Dundalk), Mikey Russell (Clondalkin), Matt Stapleton (Clondalkin), Corey Carty (Wexford Wanderers); Gearoid McDonald (Dundalk) (vice-capt), Stephen Horan (Gorey); John Grey (Dundalk), Sean Arrowsmith (Dundalk), Robert Farrell (Dundalk), Wes Carter (Kilkenny), Benny McManus (Longford), Kieran O’Gorman (Longford) (capt), Karl Keogh (Boyne), Tom Satchwell (North Kildare).

Replacements: Joe Gorman (County Carlow), Dylan Quinn (Longford), Morgan Merriman (De La Salle Palmerston), Tom Brady (Clondalkin), Tom Barron (Clane), Conor McCrossan (North Kildare), Paul O’Connor (Gorey), Stephen Duffy (Wicklow).

ROUND 2 FIXTURES: Saturday, May 5

LEINSTER v MUNSTER, Coolmine RFC, 2.30pm

ROUND 3 FIXTURES: Saturday, May 12

MUNSTER v CONNACHT, Old Christians RFC, 2.30pm