Jump to main content


PWC logo

Sullivan Brace Seals Thomond Win For Ireland Under-20s

Sullivan Brace Seals Thomond Win For Ireland Under-20s

Noel McNamara’s Ireland Under-20 squad continued their preparations for the upcoming Six Nations with a hard fought 26-10 win over a Munster Development side at Thomond Park this afternoon, writes Donn O’Sullivan.

In their second run-out of the festive period, the Ireland Under-20s started the stronger of the two sides and opened the scoring after just five minutes thanks to an exquisite cross-field kick from out-half Harry Byrne, younger brother of Leinster's Ross Byrne.

His inviting kick saw James McCarthy – one of four Munster players in the Irish matchday squad – get the better of Liam Coombes to touch down in the corner to give his side the lead, following a turnover at ruck time by the impressive Ronan Kelleher. Byrne converted for a 7-0 lead.

Google Ad Manager – 300×250 – In Article

Munster cut the gap to two points with their first try of the afternoon, some eight minutes later. Munster Academy player McCarthy was involved in the build-up to the try, all be it for the wrong reasons. He was adjudged to have deliberately knocked on the ball as Munster were looking to score through Evan O'Gorman. Referee John Lacey showed McCarthy a yellow card before the Peter Malone-coached men in red scored from the resulting play.

A lineout on the right was excellently worked into an attacking maul, before good hands from Munster captain Dave McCarthy set his Garryowen club-mate Coombes away to make it 7-5 for half-time. The second quarter saw Byrne and his Munster counterpart, UCC's Peter Sylvester, both miss penalty attempts in a blustery wind.

The second half, played in bitterly cold, yet dry conditions, saw Dave McCarthy at the centre of all of Munster's attacking play. The Garryowen centre set up Sean Duffy for the province's second score just after the restart. McCarthy was involved twice before his overhead pass sent Cork Constitution flanker Duffy away to make it 10-7.

That was to be last score of the game for Malone's youngsters as the Ireland Under-20s kicked into gear. Munster lost second row Mikey Wilson to the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on and Ireland capitalised as replacement Max Kearney scored in the corner following a long looping pass from the excellent Harry Byrne, who also added the extras from right on the touchline.

That 55th minute try edged Ireland ahead again at 14-10, and the next 20-plus minutes were hard-fought and scrappy from both sides as the two management teams, including the new Ireland U-20 coaching quartet of Noel McNamara, Tom Tierney, Ambrose Conboy and Paul O'Connell, emptied their benches.

With time running out, Lansdowne winger Peter Sullivan put the icing on the cake for Ireland as he crossed for two well-taken tries to seal the 26-10 win. Number 10 Byrne was involved in both scores, with replacement Conor Kelly adding a single conversion.

Next up for McNamara's youngsters is the opening game of their Under-20 Six Nations campaign against France in Brive on Friday, February 2. The Clare man said today was 'a step forward and a step in the right direction' in terms of their preparations for the 2018 tournament.

“There's lots of positives for us to take away. Obviously last week we were disappointed with certain aspects of our performance (against Leinster), disappointed with certain aspects today too, but it was definitely a step forward. There's guys that have put their hand up over the last couple of games,” explained McNamara.

“It was one of those games where it was challenging, scrappy at times. Some of the more positive aspects for us were people who put their body on the ball, on the ground and tidied up loose ends. There were some impressive performances there but it's difficult to single out any individuals in particular.”

He added: “There's still going to be opportunities (for players) in the next few weeks – there's a round of Ulster Bank League next week, two British & Irish Cup rounds coming up. There's still opportunities for players to put their hands up and a couple of guys who were injured and unavailable for these games.

“As with last week when a couple of guys who played for Leinster put their hands up, equally today there were guys in the Munster team who did the same and they'll come into the reckoning for us. It's a long Six Nations campaign, things change, change dramatically during the course of it, and we're certainly not ruling anyone in or out at this point.

“We're in camp again on the 23rd and 24th (of January) and it's really all building towards France (in the opening round of the Six Nations). We'll try and get individual reviews done over the next couple of weeks. It's really just looking forward to the second of February now.”

Referee: John Lacey (IRFU)