Ireland bid to make it three wins out of three in this season’s u20 Six Nations Championship when they take on Italy at Dubarry Park, Athlone, tonight, Friday, at 7pm.
Ireland made the perfect start when accounting for a decent Wales squad in the opening round in front of a huge Midlands crowd at the Athlone stadium. They then topped that performance with a magnificent victory over a highly fancied France in snowy Grenoble. Ireland fought from start to finish for every ball and tackle to upset the French by the minimum and, now with two successive Electric Ireland home fixtures at Dubarry Park, they will be keen to build further momentum as they bid for the title.
Midlands followers will be looking to see local favourites Athlonian Daniel Qualter, Carrick-on-Shannon’s Shane Layden (Electric Ireland Man of the Match against Wales ), and Conor Finn from Ballinasloe (all from the host club Buccaneers ) in action along with Mullingar’s Conor Gilsenan, now of UCD and Leinster. The Buccs trio could be joined by their clubmate and Connacht front-rower Diarmuid Higgins, who was in the squad that performed heroics in France. Connacht should also be further represented by Corinthians pair Aaron Conneely and Kieran Marmion in a team captained by Ulster outhalf Patrick Jackson who may well link up with scrumhalf Luke McGrath from Leinster at half-back.
Leinster’s Jack Conan is a dynamic No 8 and Munster centre JJ Hanrahan is another exciting prospect in this solid Ireland team where Iain Henderson of Ulster partners Qualter in the second row. Ireland’s front row trio of Kyle McCall, Niall Scannell, and Peter Reilly are the foundation rock of the side having more than measured up to two bigger front row units in the wins over Wales and France.
There is a great spread from around the country in the make-up of this Ireland squad. And with the road network now making it so convenient and quick to get to Dubarry Park from most parts, another bumper crowd is expected to attend on Friday night in support of this crop of exciting and talented u20s. In recent seasons, a considerable number of these players have gone on to play at full international level so Friday is an ideal opportunity for sports lovers to come along and see the latest group up close in action.
Sean O’Brien, Jonathan Sexton, Cian Healy, Keith Earls, and Sean Cronin are just some who have gone on to represent Ireland at senior level. James Hook, Leigh Halfpenny, Jonathan Davies, and Toby Faletau - Wales, Owen Farrell and Danny Care - England, Maxime Medard and Louis Picamoles - France, and Alex Blair and Ruaridh Jackson - Scotland are players from the other Six Nations countries who have also won full caps for their respective countries after playing u20s in Athlone. So come along and spot who you think may be the rugby stars of the future!
Tickets can be bought in advance at The Bounty/Dubarry Park and also from Musicworld, Golden Island Shopping Centre, Athlone. Demand is strong again particularly for stand tickets at €20 each so early purchase is recommended if you wish to have a seat on the night. Ground/terrace tickets are €15 each while OAP/student tickets cost €10. Family tickets at only €30 for two adults and two children are also available. Discount vouchers for school children are distributed to secondary and national schools in the region. Discounts are also available for groups. Contact the club’s administrator Geraldine at (086 ) 1732711 to book. Cash will also be taken at the turnstiles so come along in good time to avoid the rush.