Creggs Sarah Purcell put in an excellent performance as Connacht u18s scored an 11-try to one victory over North American touring side Celtic Barbarians. 

Outhalf Purcell controlled the game well in blustery but dry Sligo conditions. Tuam-Oughterard combo Beibhinn Gleeson and Laura Hastings each scored twice, and US-bound Giselle Gallagher (Sligo) added three conversions.

Sligo local Eva White opened the ledger from the wing six minutes in, the tourists beaten for numbers wide out left. Stand-in captain Karly Tierney (Tuam-Oughterard) bumped the board over again at 14min for a 10-nil lead before Gleeson’s first three minutes later. Hastings and Purcell both scored for the hosts, before the Barbarians capitalised on a Connacht clearance error and missed tackle in the danger zone to close a 31point deficit right on half-time, the score then 31-5 at the break.

Where the Connacht Under18s did all of their first-half damage into a stiff breeze, a tail-wind at Connacht’s back in the second did not bode well for the visitors and Tierney’s crew piled on six more, with prop Roisín Maher (Creggs) and another U16 flyer Emily Foley (fullback) joining Gleeson, Purcell and Hastings with tries of their own.

Flanker Ailish Quinn made life difficult for the Barbarians on both sides of the ball, carrying strongly throughout, and hooker Nadine Fitzmaurice was busy on attack and defence, distributing well in close quarters to keep the ball alive. Locks Rhona O’Dea and Hastings showed great mobility as fourth and fifth loose forwards putting their hands up for selection come interpro crunchtime in August.

Connacht assistant coach Luke O’Donnell commended the tourists on their athleticism and determination post-match, and stressed that while the Connacht U18 squad was without four of its Irish hopefuls, there was greater cohesion and familiarity among the girls in green than the Barbarians who drew from various spots over Canada and the US.

“We have very high hopes for this Connacht squad,” he said, “so it’s a big ask for a touring side to land in without any matches under their belt and take on the province’s most promising youngsters. That said, there was no shortage of obvious individual talent among the Baa-baas, but we’re very happy to have chalked up a win and seen a few of ours put in good shifts too whom we hadn’t seen much of to date”.

 

Connacht U18 Training Squad 61 (Eva White, Karly Tierney, Beibhinn Gleeson (2), Laura Hastings (2), Sarah Purcell (3), Roisín Maher, Emily Foley tries; Giselle Gallagher conv (3); beat Celtic Barbarians Tour 2022, 5 (one try). HT: 31-5.

Riding high after his Connacht Awards spoils (Connacht Fans’ Player of the Year) and in advance of his national nod for this summer’s tour of New Zealand, Connacht loose forward Cian Prendergast joined Connacht Academy coach Andrew Browne to put a handful of the province’s most promising Under18s through their paces.

In answering U18 Girls’ manager Natalie Fox’s call, Prendergast and Browne were only too delighted to step in and spearhead a 90-minute skills session for this year’s provisional training squad. Prendergast and Browne joined U18 coaches Craig Hansberry (head coach), Luke O’Donnell (skills) and Cathal Evans (backs) to tweak a few unit-specific finer points ahead of the interprovincial summer programme.

“The response was fantastic from the guys. Cian and Browney leapt at the chance to get involved, and we had commitments from three or four others for sessions later in the summer. I’d say they know only too well what it’s like to start a representative career, so they’ve been here before. Our girls were delighted to rub shoulders with players of their calibre on a Monday evening,” said manager Natalie Fox.

Connacht’s U18 Girls’ interprovincial campaign kicks off at the end of August.

Last Saturday the 28th of March Connacht U18 girls took to the field in Dubarry park for their very first Interprovincial fixture. (more…)

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