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Ireland Men Begin Olympic Qualifier With Brace Of Wins

Ireland Men Begin Olympic Qualifier With Brace Of Wins

Ireland Men Begin Olympic Qualifier With Brace Of Wins

Ireland speedster Jordan Conroy gets past Poland's Bartlomiej Sadowski during their European Games Pool A fixture in Krakow ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

The Ireland Men’s Sevens team (sponsored by TritonLake) cleared the first two hurdles towards securing Olympic qualification via the European Games.

Needing to win the tournament to book their place at Paris 2024, Ireland launched their campaign in Krakow today with two high-scoring victories, getting the better of hosts Poland (66-0) and Italy (38-7).

They racked up 16 tries across their opening two Pool A games, with Zac Ward, Jordan Conroy, Bryan Mollen, Terry Kennedy, Liam McNamara and Andrew Smith scoring two each.

The Harry McNulty-led squad will wrap up the pool stages against Germany tomorrow (kick-off 1.58pm local time/12.58pm Irish time), before the quarter-finals take place during the evening session.

James Topping’s side are bidding to achieve back-to-back Olympic qualifications following their maiden appearance at the Tokyo 2020 Games.

The Ireland Women have already made history by qualifying for their first Olympics courtesy of a fifth place finish in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

While the Ireland Men are top of Pool A (with a +97 points difference) after the opening day in Poland, there were also back-to-back wins for Spain (+40) and Georgia (+10) in Pool B, and Great Britain (+69) and Portugal (+64) in Pool C.

Wearing their Team Ireland kit, Topping’s charges opened the scoring against Poland after just 48 seconds. McNamara was the beneficiary of a Ward lineout steal and Conroy’s speedy break and well-timed offload.

Ward was next over the whitewash, using a dummy pass to open up a gap on the right. The men in green punished Adrian Stanczykowski’s sin-binning with two more tries to lead 26-0 at half-time.

Conroy used quick lineout ball to glide over on the opposite wing with a nice in-and-out run. Ward then stepped off his right to score from the Polish 10-metre line, with Billy Dardis landing his third successful conversion.

Dardis impressed with the boot, landing seven conversions in all for a 14-point haul. Ireland dominated possession during the second half with the pinpoint restart kicks supplied by both Dardis and Mark Roche a key factor.

Replacement Mollen was released for the left corner inside the opening seconds, and the lead was extended to 40 points after Jack Kelly had knocked back the restart for Smith to weave his way over from 40 metres out.

Conroy showed his searing pace to slip away from two defenders, scoring from just inside the Irish half, before some crisp passing put Mollen over again in the left corner. Dardis’ excellent conversion made it 54-0.

The final two minutes saw Poland lose Michal Szwarc to the sin bin, with replacement Niall Comerford and Kelly, whose lung-busting effort began just outside his own 22, taking Ireland’s try tally to ten in the end.

Kennedy, the 2022 World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year, made a splash with his first involvement in the tournament, scoring two first half tries and providing an assist against Italy.

The Dubliner picked from a ruck and cut inside the covering defender for the opening try, and then used scrum possession to run hard out to the left and send McNamara over in the corner.

One of the scores of the day arrived in the fifth minute when McNamara launched a kick downfield off a Ward turnover. Kennedy hared after the ball along with three chasing Italians, controlled it brilliantly with his left boot and got the touchdown.

Cristian Lai cancelled out that try just before the interval, following up on Alessandro Fusco’s initial break. That meant Ireland still had work to do, leading 17-7 at the turnaround.

Captain McNulty got in on the act when passes from Kennedy and McNamara gave him a run-in from the left and in behind the posts, giving Roche a simple conversion before he was replaced.

An excellent long, arcing pass from Dardis played in Dylan O’Grady for a smartly-taken try, widening the margin to 24 points. Smith, who was also brought on from the bench, jinked free to close out the scoring from 40 metres out.

Speaking in the aftermath of the six-try triumph, Ward said: “We executed stuff that we set ourselves before the game. Italy didn’t make it easy for us, they’re definitely a good side and made us work for it.

“Just delighted to get the job done in the end. Getting to the Olympics is everyone’s goal, so we’ll just keep plugging away and see what happens.”

All of the European Games matches are broadcast live on rugbyeurope.tv via the Rugby Europe website – click here for more.

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Squad (European Games, Henryk Reyman Stadium, Krakow, Poland, Sunday, June 25-Tuesday, June 27, 2023):

Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers RFC)
Niall Comerford (UCD RFC/Leinster)
Sean Cribbin (Suttonians RFC)
Billy Dardis (Terenure College RFC)
Jack Kelly (Dublin University FC)
Terry Kennedy (St Mary’s College RFC)
Liam McNamara (IQ Rugby)
Harry McNulty (UCD RFC) (capt)
Bryan Mollen (Lansdowne FC)
Dylan O’Grady (UCD RFC)
Mark Roche (Lansdowne FC)
Andrew Smith (Clontarf FC/Leinster)
Zac Ward (Ballynahinch RFC)

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Schedule – European Games:

Sunday, June 25 –


IRELAND 66 POLAND 0, Henryk Reyman Stadium, Krakow
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Liam McNamara, Zac Ward 2, Jordan Conroy 2, Bryan Mollen 2, Andrew Smith, Niall Comerford, Jack Kelly; Cons: Billy Dardis 7, Mark Roche
Poland: –
HT: Ireland 26 Poland 0

Team: Jack Kelly, Andrew Smith, Zac Ward, Billy Dardis, Sean Cribbin, Liam McNamara, Jordan Conroy.

Subs used: Harry McNulty (capt), Bryan Mollen, Niall Comerford, Dylan O’Grady, Mark Roche.

IRELAND 38 ITALY 7, Henryk Reyman Stadium, Krakow
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Terry Kennedy 2, Liam McNamara, Harry McNulty, Dylan O’Grady, Andrew Smith; Cons: Mark Roche 2, Billy Dardis 2
Italy: Try: Cristian Lai; Con: Alessandro Fusco
HT: Ireland 17 Italy 7

Team: Harry McNulty (capt), Niall Comerford, Zac Ward, Mark Roche, Liam McNamara, Terry Kennedy, Dylan O’Grady.

Subs used: Billy Dardis, Sean Cribbin, Andrew Smith, Bryan Mollen. Not used: Jordan Conroy.

Monday, June 26 –


IRELAND v GERMANY, Henryk Reyman Stadium, Krakow, kick-off 1.58pm local time/12.58pm Irish time


Tuesday, June 27 –