IRELAND tackle ENGLAND in Athlone on Friday night

IRELAND take on champions England in an ‘ELECTRIC IRELAND’ U-20 Six Nations Championship clash at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on this Friday night, February 8th. Kick off time is 7.35 p.m.


This battle with the ‘old enemy’ always draws a bumper crowd to the compact Athlone venue. It’s central location and ease of access from the M4 motorway ensures it is an easy reach from the broader midlands as well as from Dublin and Galway for one of sports great rivalries.

Ireland have a wonderful record in Dubarry Park over the past six seasons and a new-look squad will be greatly encouraged by the recent Junior World Cup victory over England that helped secure a highest ever finish in that tournament. Luke McGrath, Stuart Olding and Josh van der Flier are the only survivors from that competition in South Africa last summer. Nevertheless, an inexperienced Ireland was unlucky to lose 17-15 away to Wales in the opening round last Friday. The Principality had eight survivors from last season’s campaign so were the much more experienced outfit.

Yet Ireland really put it up to their hosts with team captain McGrath putting in a ‘Man of the Match’ effort at scrumhalf. Olding also shone as did centres Tom Daly and Rory Scannell while outhalf Steve Crosbie had some good moments. Lock John Donnan, hooker George McGuigan and No.8 Conor Joyce were prominent in an Irish pack that struggled sometimes in the setpieces. Coach Mike Ruddock admitted that Ireland “need to work on their scrummage and also cut down on the penalty count” but he noted “there were a lot of positives from continuity to tackling”.

Connacht and midlands sports followers will be hopeful that Buccaneers rising starlet Robbie Henshaw will start on his home ground against England. The Athlone teenager was rested last week after a hectic season of over 20 matches to date. He would certainly add to the ‘electricity’ if selected and would likely start at fullback which could release the more composed Olding to his preferred outhalf role. Corinthians David Panther did well in his brief stint and he could well replace the slight Alex O’Meara on the wing.

See the stars of the future!

When England last played in Dubarry Park, Stuart Lancaster was their coach and his graph continues on an upward curve now with the Senior squad. He has not been slow to tap in on that U-20 squad and four of the players involved in 2011 played in England’s recent landmark victory over the All Blacks! Owen Farrell, Joe Launchbury, Maku Vunipola and Jonathan Joseph are the quartet, the first three also starting in last Saturday’s Calcutta Cup win over Scotland. Tom Youngs and Danny Care are two others who come to mind who have featured at U-20 level in Athlone in recent seasons as have Craig Gilroy, Simon Zebo, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray, Cian Healy, Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien and Keith Earls, all eight of whom played in Ireland’s exciting win over Wales at the weekend. So, if you want to see the rugby stars of the future, then Dubarry Park is the place to be on next Friday night!  



Tickets are now on sale at The Bounty for this highly attractive match. Family tickets are good value at €30 for 2 adults and 2 children in the covered terrace. Stand tickets cost €20 each and are selling steadily already as is the pre-match function where you can enjoy a 3-course meal with wine and also have a reserved seat in the stand for only €40 per person. Group bookings welcome. All pre-match function and/or match ticket enquiries/bookings to Geraldine at 086-1732711.


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