Ireland, who made a winning start to the defence of their u20 Six Nations Championship crown with a 28-9 win away to Italy last week, square up to France in a mouth-watering second round fixture under the Dubarry Park floodlights in Athlone this Friday night. Kickoff for this ESB Electric Ireland match is 7.45pm.
A huge crowd is anticipated at the compact Athlone stadium for this attractive clash as Ireland bid to not only retain the title but endeavour to stretch their wonderful success ratio in Dubarry Park where they have lost just once in 13 matches over the past five seasons.
Ireland got a searching test away to Italy but came up with all the answers to make a promising start as they scored three tries, the opener from prop Paddy Tracy followed by a brace in the second half from fullback Craig Gilroy. Coached by Mike Ruddock, who guided Wales Senior squad to Grand Slam success in 2005, Ireland have some hugely exciting young players in their panel, none more so than Athlone’s Daniel Qualter, who has broken through to Buccaneers Senior team as the midlanders are making a bold bid for promotion in the All-Ireland League. The powerful lock was prominent thoughout Ireland’s victory in Italy, putting in a high workrate including one try-saving tackle late in the game as Ireland signalled their intent on keeping their line intact.
Two other young Connacht stars, Aaron Conneely (Corinthians ) and Eoin McKeon (Galwegians ) started in the Ireland pack although McKeon was unfortunate to be forced off with an early injury. Hopefully, the backrower who featured strongly in Connacht’s pre-Christmas win over Samoa, will be fit to take his place in the starting 15 on Friday night. The team is captained by hooker Niall Annett, who may be remembered for the try he scored against Scotland last season when he was touching down within 20 seconds of the kickoff! Jordi Murphy is another exciting member of the Ireland pack.
Dungannon duo Gilroy and outhalf Paddy Jackson are two immensely promising backs as is another Ulster rising star centre Luke Marshall, who will go down in history as the first ever player to score a try at the new Aviva Stadium. Leinster duo Andrew Conway and Brendan Macken also featured last season so there is a good mix to this Ireland squad although, amazingly, no player from Munster was included in last week’s match 22 man squad!
Sean O’Brien, Sean Cronin, Jonathan Sexton, Keith Earls, Cian Healy, and last year’s captain Rhys Ruddock are just some of Irelands u20 stars who have played in Athlone in recent seasons before going on to be capped for Ireland at senior level.
So come along to Dubarry Park this Friday night to see the next generation of stars up close and personal, but come early! Cash will be taken at the turnstiles but tickets can be bought in advance at Musicworld, Golden Island Shopping Centre, or at the Bounty.