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Conroy Brace Clinches Olympic Qualification And European Games Gold For Ireland Men

Conroy Brace Clinches Olympic Qualification And European Games Gold For Ireland Men

Conroy Brace Clinches Olympic Qualification And European Games Gold For Ireland Men

Terry Kennedy, Bryan Mollen and Mark Roche celebrate with Ireland's two-try winger Jordan Conroy ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Two second half tries from Jordan Conroy sealed a 26-12 Cup final win for the Ireland Men’s Sevens team over Great Britain, earning them the double prize of Olympic qualification and the European Games title.

The tournament in Krakow offered a route for some of Europe’s leading sides to qualify for Paris 2024, and the Ireland Men (sponsored by TritonLake) proved unstoppable over the three days.

In another landmark and momentous achievement for the IRFU’s Sevens Programme, both the Ireland Men and Women have now qualified for next summer’s Olympics, with it being a historic first for the Women’s side who qualified via the World Series.

In the winner-takes-all decider, Billy Dardis and Terry Kennedy ran in first half tries to give James Topping’s charges a 14-7 lead. Kennedy’s try was a superb solo effort from the halfway line.

The 2022 World Rugby Player of the Year was involved in the build-up to Conroy’s two scores, with the Tullamore man scoring in both corners in the 12th minute and with 30 seconds remaining.

Britain, whose Olympic hopes now hinge on next year’s global repechage tournament, gained some late consolation as Femi Sofolarin crossed out wide to take advantage of a Bryan Mollen yellow card.

However, nothing could take the shine off a famous night for Irish Sevens rugby at the Henryk Reyman Stadium. Ireland are the inaugural European Games Men’s Sevens champions, picking up the nation’s first gold medal of the 2023 Games.

This is the third edition of the European Games and Ireland’s only previous gold medal wins have been in the boxing ring – Katie Taylor and Michael O’Reilly in Baku in 2015, and Kurt Walker in Minsk four years ago.

Giving his reaction afterwards, Kennedy said: “It’s incredible (to qualify again for the Olympics). It’s something we’ve spoken about for so long and worked towards.

The last Olympics (in Tokyo) we just got in, and as soon as that finished, we spoke about making sure we’re got there a little bit earlier for Paris, so we had a bit more lead-in time.

“I’m so proud of all the lads. The competition was fierce, there’s so many good teams in Europe. It’s a really tough format to get through.

“So to come through – not only this tournament, but the Algarve one a few weeks ago – completely unbeaten was incredible. It just shows the grit and determination of the squad.”

Ireland had started day three of the competition with a confident 24-0 semi-final dismissal of Portugal, and they struck first against familiar rivals Britain courtesy of an opportunist fourth-minute try.

Zac Ward tore into a tackle on Kaleem Barreto, forcing the ball to go loose inside the British 22. Andrew Smith was able to capitalise and although his pass went to ground, Dardis scooped it up to score and convert.

Kennedy did well to haul down Will Homer near the left touchline, and a few phases later, it was the St. Mary’s College clubman who was leading the chase of his own kick downfield.

Nonetheless, the GB outfit did well to regroup and get the ball wide to Welshman Tom Williams who had the pace to get clear of Ward on the outside for a well-taken breakaway try, converted by Barreto.

Crucially, Ireland had enough time before the interval to retake the lead. British captain Robbie Fergusson saw yellow for a slap down at a ruck, allowing the recent Algarve Sevens champions to press for another try.

Clean lineout ball was fed infield to Kennedy who brilliantly jinked inside three defenders and then outpaced Williams on an arcing run in behind the posts. Dardis converted.

Solid defence saw Ireland maintain their lead through the early stages of the second period, before Conroy took on Sofolarin in a footrace and the British winger did well to bring him down for the concession of a lineout.

There was no stopping the Buccaneers flyer when Ireland applied further pressure. He produced a textbook one-handed finish following good work from replacement Jack Kelly, Kennedy and Liam McNamara.

Also fresh from the bench, Mark Roche landed a terrific conversion to make it 21-7, and his skyscraper of a restart kick led to a British knock-on and an Irish scrum in a good position.

Kennedy turned creator again, gliding out to the right in between defenders and feeding Conroy to evade Sofolarin and register his sixth try in Krakow.

Repeated infringements led to Mollen’s sin-binning past the final hooter, and Sofolarin completed the scoring from a neat line of passes. The celebrations could begin, captain Harry McNulty and his team-mates are back on the Olympic stage.

It is back-to-back Olympic qualifications for the Ireland Men, who reached the Tokyo Games in 2021 through the global repechage route. This time they will have a full year to build towards their Paris campaign.

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.

Day 1 Round-Up: Ireland Men Begin Olympic Qualifier With Brace Of Wins

Monday, June 26 –


IRELAND 19 GERMANY 7, Henryk Reyman Stadium, Krakow
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Jack Kelly, Jordan Conroy, Andrew Smith; Cons: Billy Dardis 2
Germany: Try: Nikolai Klewinghaus; Con: Nikolai Klewinghaus
HT: Ireland 5 Germany 7

Team: Harry McNulty (capt), Andrew Smith, Jack Kelly, Mark Roche, Liam McNamara, Bryan Mollen, Jordan Conroy.

Subs used: Billy Dardis, Terry Kennedy, Niall Comerford, Zac Ward, Dylan O’Grady.

Day 2 Round-Up: Ireland Men To Play Belgium In Olympic Qualifier’s Last-Eight


IRELAND 26 BELGIUM 12, Henryk Reyman Stadium, Krakow
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Dylan O’Grady, Terry Kennedy, Liam McNamara 2; Cons: Mark Roche 2
Belgium: Tries: Gillian Benoy, Gaspard Lalli; Con: Matias Remue
HT: Ireland 14 Belgium 7

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

Subs used: Andrew Smith, Jordan Conroy, Jack Kelly, Bryan Mollen, Sean Cribbin.

Day 2 Round-Up: Four-Try Win Sends Ireland Men Through To Semi-Final Stage

Day 2 Reaction: Conroy And Kennedy Aiming To Hit Top Gear On Crucial Final Day

Tuesday, June 27 –


IRELAND 24 PORTUGAL 0, Henryk Reyman Stadium, Krakow
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Billy Dardis 2, Zac Ward, Jordan Conroy; Cons: Billy Dardis 2
Portugal: –
HT: Ireland 14 Portugal 0

Team: Harry McNulty (capt), Andrew Smith, Zac Ward, Billy Dardis, Liam McNamara, Terry Kennedy, Jordan Conroy.

Subs used: Jack Kelly, Bryan Mollen, Niall Comerford, Mark Roche, Dylan O’Grady.

Day 3 Round-Up: Ireland Men Set For Winner-Takes-All Clash With Britain

Day 3 Reaction: ‘Only Our Best Will Do’ – McNulty


IRELAND 26 GREAT BRITAIN 12, Henryk Reyman Stadium, Krakow
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Billy Dardis, Terry Kennedy, Jordan Conroy 2; Cons: Billy Dardis 2, Mark Roche
Great Britain: Tries: Tom Williams, Femi Sofolarin; Con: Kaleem Barreto
HT: Ireland 14 Great Britain 7

Day 3 Reaction: McNulty: We Have Both Teams Going To Paris – It’s Fantastic

Team: Harry McNulty (capt), Andrew Smith, Zac Ward, Billy Dardis, Liam McNamara, Terry Kennedy, Jordan Conroy.

Subs used: Niall Comerford, Dylan O’Grady, Mark Roche, Jack Kelly, Bryan Mollen.