The Ireland Club XV team to play Scotland Club XV in the opening game of the 2020 Club International Series at Netherdale on Friday (kick-off 7.30pm) has been confirmed.
Four players who took part in the 2019 series return and are joined by two other players with previous experience at this level.
Alan Kennedy featured against England Counties in 2017 and has been named as captain. The Young Munster man will start alongside Brian Hayes in the second row. John Sutton and Andy Keating are named in the front row with the uncapped Conor Maguire.
Michael Melia starts his fifth consecutive club international and packs down in the back row with Paul Derham and John Foley.
Aran Hehir and James Taylor form an exciting partnership at half back and outside Taylor will be his UCC club mate Peter Sylvester. Pa Ryan is at outside centre with a back three of Jamie Heuston, Colm Hogan and Jack Ringrose.
Commenting on the team selection, Head Coach Gearoid Prendergast said:
“I’m excited to be working with this group of players. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last few weeks of preparation and I think they’re going to grab this opportunity with both hands. They’re young, they’re ambitious and above all talented.”
“The challenge has been managing training camps alongside players being involved with their clubs.” said Prendergast. “Our extended squad has evolved quite a bit.
“We’ve sprinkled some experience in there, but a lot of these guys will be playing in a club international for the first time so it’s massively exciting for them.”
The squad is made up of some of the most exciting players competing in the Energia All-Ireland League while the starting XV has an average age of 23. Terenure College’s Adam Clarkin is a late inclusion to the squad as reserve hooker and 11 clubs in total are represented.
Gerry Hurley is among the replacements after some impressive form for Cork Constitution in Division 1A of the Energia All-Ireland League. Hurley is a former Ireland Club XV captain and featured in the very first club international in 2006.
Antrim Native Corrie Barrett provides front row cover having made five starts for Munster A in this season’s Celtic Cup. Pa Ryan started one game for Munster A in the same competition while his Shannon club mate Aran Hehir featured in every squad for Connacht Eagles and started twice. Old Wesley’s Conor Maguire also made two starts for Connacht Eagles in 2019.
Alan Kennedy says there’s a great buzz among the players.
“The team has been really focused and determined to get a result next week and I think we’re ready for it. The Head Coach made it really clear what he wants out of the squad. The sessions have been really sharp,” he said.
Ireland Club XV are the current holders of the Dalriada Cup, the trophy which goes to the side with the higher aggregate score over the two-match series. This year culminates again at Energia Park on Friday, February 7.
IRELAND CLUB XV Team & Replacements (v Scotland Club XV, 2020 Club International Series, Netherdale, Galashiels, Saturday, January 21, kick-off 7.30pm):
15. Jamie Heuston (Garryowen) 0
14. Colm Hogan (Dublin University) 0
13. Pa Ryan (Shannon) 0
12. Peter Sylvester (UCC) 0
11. Jack Ringrose (UCD) 0
10. James Taylor (UCC) 0
09. Aran Hehir (Shannon) 0
01. Conor Maguire (Old Wesley) 0
02. John Sutton (Cork Constitution) 2
03. Andrew Keating (Garryowen) 1
04. Brian Hayes (Cork Constitution) 2
05. Alan Kennedy (Young Munster) 1
06. Michael Melia (Terenure College) 4
07. John Foley (Young Munster) 0
08. Paul Derham (Old Wesley) 0
16. Adam Clarkin (Terenure College) 0
17. Corrie Barrett (Garryowen) 0
18. JP Phelan (Clontarf) 0
19. Peter Claffey (Terenure College) 0
20. Ryan Murphy (UCC) 0
21. Gerry Hurley (Cork Constitution)10
22. Bryan Fitzgerald (Garryowen) 0
23. Matthew Byrne (Terenure College) 0
Coaching & Management Team:
Head Coach: Gearoid Prendergast
Assistant Coach: James Blaney
Team Manager: Mark Hamilton
Strength & Conditioning Coach: Rob Cassidy
Baggage Master: Paddy ‘Rala’ O’Reilly
Team Doctor: Stuart O’Flanagan
Team Physiotherapist: Ailbe McCormack
Performance Analyst: Niall Kelly
Communications Manager: Ross O’Donoghue
2020 CLUB INTERNATIONAL SERIES FIXTURES:
Scotland Clubs v Ireland Club XV
Friday, January 31, kick-off 7.30pm
Ireland Club XV v Scotland Clubs
Friday, February 7, kick-off 5.45pm
Energia Park, Donnybrook
Tickets are on sale now via Ticketmaster.