Five different venues will host matches in the IRFU Under-19 Interprovincial Championship over the next nine days, as Connacht, Munster and Ulster each try to wrestle the trophy away from defending champions Leinster.
IRFU UNDER-19 INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP – ROUND 1: Saturday, August 17
MUNSTER UNDER-19s v CONNACHT UNDER-19s, Thomond Park, Friday, 4pm
LEINSTER UNDER-19s v ULSTER UNDER-19s, Energia Park, 7.45pm
The bulk of last season’s history-making Connacht Under-18 Clubs & Schools squad have made the cut for the U-19s, with the captaincy duties passing from Buccaneers lock Darragh Murray to Corinthians flanker Diarmuid McCormack.
Colm Tucker, who is supported in the coaching team by Morgan Codyre and Conor Galvin, has selected a familiar looking back-line with Corinthians’ Cathal Forde and Aodha Hession of Creggs retained at half-back. Tall Ballinasloe centre Shane Jennings was one of six Connacht players to earn Ireland Under-18 Schools caps last season.
Buccaneers’ Lasha Laoshvili gets the nod at tighthead, linking up with Corinthians pair Conal O’Griofa and Eoin de Buitléar, while Roscrea openside Gavin Meagher, an Interpro medal winner with the Leinster Schools last year, is set for his Connacht debut alongside skipper McCormack and Sligo number 8 Donnacha Byrne.
Munster have the honour of kicking off this hectic Interprovincial period at their Limerick fortress, Thomond Park. Centre Harry O’Riordan from Munster Schools Senior Cup winners CBC Cork will captain the hosts, with his school-mates and fellow Ireland Schools caps, Cian Whooley and Mark Donnelly, also in the starting XV.
Following Skibbereen’s Munster and All-Ireland success in recent months, their vice-captain Jamie Shanahan has been rewarded with a start at full-back, while IQ Rugby recruit Liam Bishop, a prop from Nottingham, is another notable inclusion.
Ardscoil Ris’ strong-running number 8 Daniel Okeke will look to take his Schools Cup form into the new campaign, having impressed with his try-scoring ability in the spring. Clonakilty and Nenagh Ormond are among the clubs and schools represented on the Munster bench, with Matt McCarthy and Conor McMahon both advancing from the U-18 Clubs set-up.
Four members of last year’s Ireland Under-18 Schools back-line feature in the Leinster U-19 team to play Ulster. Their U-19 Interprovincial opener will be the final game of a much-anticipated triple header in Donnybrook also involving the province’s senior men and women.
Jamie Osborne, Chris Cosgrave, Karl Martin and Ben Murphy, son of Ireland skills & kicking coach Richie Murphy, all won Ireland Schools caps last spring, while the bulk of the Leinster squad won the U-18 Schools title at last year’s inaugural IRFU U-18 Interprovincial Rugby Festival at UL.
Kilkenny’s Tim Corkery, who was part of the province’s U-18 Clubs side last term, joins Murphy at half-back, locks Alex Soroka and Joe McCarthy are both age-grade internationals, and there is a tried-and-trusted back row trio of Will Hickey, Jack Barry, who captained Leinster at UL twelve months ago, and Aaron Coleman, last year’s Ireland U-18 Clubs & Schools captain.
Meanwhile, Wallace High School flanker Reuben Crothers skippers an Ulster side missing Tom Stewart and Conor Rankin, two of the province’s Academy recruits this season. Charlie Worth, Ben Moxham and Conor McKee are also unavailable due to Ireland’s involvement in the European U-18 Sevens Championship.
Friends’ School duo Jack Harte and Reece Malone fill the inside centre and out-half berths respectively, the front row includes powerful Sullivan Upper loosehead George Saunderson, a try scorer during Ulster’s historic win over Australia Schools last December, and highly-rated City of Armagh lock Matthew Sands was last season’s Ulster Youth Player of the Year.
Ulster coaches Jonny Gillespie and Jamie Kirk, keen to get one over Leinster after last year’s 15-14 home defeat, have Methodist College’s Ulster Schools Senior Cup-winning scrum half Callum Davidson to come on from the bench. Ethan Bryce, another Methody player, is also currently part of the province’s U-18 Schools squad.
MUNSTER U-19: Jamie Shanahan (Skibbereen RFC); Killian Dineen (Ardscoil Ris), Harry O’Riordan (CBC Cork) (capt), Jack Delaney (Crescent College Comprehensive), Tim Hegarty (Old Christians RFC); Cian Whooley (CBC Cork), John O’Sullivan (Rockwell College); Liam Bishop (Nottingham RFC), Billy Kingston (PBC Cork), Mark Donnelly (CBC Cork), John Moloney (Castletroy College), John Forde (PBC Cork), Fearghail O’Donoghue (Cashel RFC), Jack Kelleher (PBC Cork), Daniel Okeke (Ardscoil Ris).
Replacements: Craig Finn (St. Munchin’s College), Joe Rickard (Crescent College Comprehensive), Matt McCarthy (Clonakilty RFC), Will O’Callaghan (Ardscoil Ris), Niall Queally (Glenstal Abbey School), Mark O’Connor (CBC Cork), Alan Flannery (Rockwell College), Conor McMahon (Nenagh Ormond RFC).
CONNACHT U-19: Conor O’Shaughnessy (Galwegians); Hubert Gilvarry (Sligo RFC), Shane Jennings (Ballinasloe RFC), Luke Hogge (Sligo RFC), Rory McCleane (Corinthians RFC); Cathal Forde (Corinthians RFC), Aodha Hession (Creggs RFC); Conal O’Griofa (Corinthians RFC), Eoin de Buitléar (Corinthians RFC), Lasha Laoshvili (Buccaneers RFC), Cathal Fleming (Monivea RFC), Darragh Murray (Buccaneers RFC), Diarmuid McCormack (Corinthians RFC) (capt), Gavin Meagher (Roscrea RFC), Donnacha Byrne (Sligo RFC).
Replacements: Matthew Earley (Carrick-on-Shannon RFC), Caolan Hopkins (Ballina RFC), Jack Keegan (Creggs RFC), Martin Fallon (Buccaneers RFC), Evan O’Boyle (Galwegians RFC), Leo McFarlane (Buccaneers RFC), Cian Treacy (Ballinasloe RFC), Daniel Reddan (Galwegians RFC).
LEINSTER U-19: Jamie Osborne (Naas RFC); Chris Cosgrave (St. Michael’s College), Marcus Kiely (Newbridge College), Karl Martin (Boyne RFC), Matthew McGetrick-Stafford (Terenure College); Tim Corkery (Kilkenny RFC), Ben Murphy (Presentation College Bray); Hugo O’Malley (Blackrock College), Ronan Loughnane (CC Roscrea), Sam Illo (Wesley College), Alex Soroka (Belvedere College), Joe McCarthy (Blackrock College), Jack Barry (Gonzaga College), Aaron Coleman (Belvedere College), Will Hickey (St. Michael’s College).
Replacements: Temi Adewunmi-Lasisi (Enniscorthy), Levi Vaughan (Terenure College), Shane Connolly (CC Roscrea), Jack Coolican (Gonzaga College), Jack Guinane (St. Michael’s College), Matthew Cullen (Blackrock College), Justin Leonard (Belvedere College), Donal Conroy (Newbridge College).
ULSTER U-19: Matthew Corr (Ballymena Academy); Stuart Martin (Regent House School), Luke Pollock (Dalriada School), Jack Harte (Friends’ School, Lisburn), Stuart Wightman (Belfast Metropolitan College); Reece Malone (Friends’ School, Lisburn), Dara Gaskin (Campbell College, Belfast); George Saunderson (Sullivan Upper School), Joel Dundas (Wallace High School), Oscar Egan (Coleraine Grammar School), Matthew Sands (City of Armagh RFC), Harry Sheridan (Sullivan Upper School), Will Hopes (Regent House School), Reuben Crothers (Wallace High School) (capt), Jack Gamble (Ballyclare High School).
Replacements: Scott Hutton (Belfast High School), Adam Hanna (Banbridge Academy), Justin Whyte (Enniskillen Royal GS), David Stinson (Enniskillen Royal GS), Peter Heasley (Wallace High School), Callum Davidson (Methodist College, Belfast), Matthew Hamilton (Malone), Ethan Bryce (Methodist College, Belfast).
2019 IRFU UNDER-19 INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP:
Round 1 – Saturday, August 17
Munster Under-19s v Connacht Under-19s, Thomond Park, Friday, 4pm
Leinster Under-19s v Ulster Under-19s, Energia Park, 7.45pm
Round 2 – Wednesday, August 21
Ulster Under-19s v Munster Under-19s, Bangor Grammar School, 12.30pm
Connacht Under-19s v Leinster Under-19s, the Sportsground, 2.30pm
Round 3 – Sunday, August 25
Connacht Under-19s v Ulster Under-19s, Maynooth University, 1.30pm
Munster Under-19s v Leinster Under-19s, Maynooth University, 3.30pm