Michael Silke
But for the width of an upright at Parc y Scarlets last week, Ireland would be squaring up to England in a Triple Crown decider at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on this Friday night, kick off 7.45 p.m. Nevertheless, that last kick conversion attempt by Paddy Jackson that rebounded into play that left Ireland and Wales deadlocked at 26-26 after an exhilarating encounter will not diminish Ireland’s desire to defeat their arch rivals in what should be a right good ‘ESB ELECTRIC IRELAND’ U-20 Six Nations Championship match at the Athlone stadium. And when better to conquer the ‘old enemy’ than on St. Patrick’s weekend!
In truth, Ireland should have beaten the Welsh ‘pulling up’ for they were miles the better team especially in the first half. At that stage, they should have been out of sight but Wales were gifted an extremely soft opening try while their second try should not have been allowed as, firstly, a Wales defender knocked the ball forward as he tried to block a pass by  Blane McIlroy and then wing Craig Gilroy was (as Micheal O’Hehir used to say in another code) ‘hooshed’ off the ball before he could give chase for the now loose ball.
Nevertheless, there was much to enthuse about Ireland’s performance. Gilroy scored an exceptional try and the Dungannon winger is an absolute flyer. He and fellow Ulster centre Luke Marshall were both unavailable for Ireland’s game against France and they will make a real difference for the visit of England. Jackson too is a tidy operator at outhalf and Michael Sherlock was hugely exciting at fullback. Tiernan O’Halloran is an option who could be used in the backline while Athlone’s Mark Dolan did very well following his introduction at scrumhalf at a difficult stage when the Wales pack were getting on top.
In the pack, Ireland with David Qualter putting in a tremendous shift for the opening hour were highly competitive despite an injury to inspiring captain Niall Annett. Front rowers James Tracy and David Doyle relished the exchanges and Aaron Conneely and Jordi Murphy excelled throughout in the back row battles. Indeed, it is remarkable to see quite a number of young Connacht stars vying for selection among the forwards, especially if Eoin McKeon recovers from injury.
England defeated the hotly fancied France side so they are bidding not only for the Championship title but also seeking a Grand Slam. How the boys in green would love to upset their quest!
So, Dubarry Park is the place to be on Friday night. There is strong demand for tickets at time of writing with Stand tickets at only €18 each selling well. Tickets can be purchased in advance at Buccaneers office in Dubarry Park (during normal office hours) or at The Bounty any night. Ground and Student tickets are also on sale at Musicworld, Golden Island Shopping Centre, Athlone. Ground/Terrace tickets are priced at €15 each while Student/OAP tickets cost just €5. National school children accompanied by a paying adult will be admitted free, provided they have the special discount voucher issued through the local national schools.
Kick off for this big match, which is being covered live on RTE2 TV, is 7.45 p.m. However, supporters are urged to come along early to savour the atmosphere (and also dodge any possible traffic delays on the by-pass). Early-comers will also have the best chance on getting freebies such as Ireland flags and beanies. So, get there early, stand shoulder to shoulder, and make loads of noise roaring on Ireland!
A limited number of pre-match tables are available at time of writing, costing €500 per table of eight persons. This covers 3-course meal, complementary wine, reserved seat in the Stand and souvenir match programme. Contact Geraldine for full details or booking at 086-1732711.


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