All-Ireland Junior Cup Final Preview: Jamie Kirk (Dromore RFC) – Irishrugby.ie – January 22 2020

‘That Feeling Of Identity, It’s A Real Strength For Us’ – Dromore’s Kirk

By Daire Walsh

Dromore head coach Jamie Kirk reckons their semi-final victory over Crosshaven will serve as the perfect primer for Saturday’s Energia All-Ireland Junior Cup final against Kilfeacle & District.

Having swept past the challenge of Newcastle West and Grosvenor in the earlier rounds on home soil, the Ulster club faced a daunting eight-hour round trip to the County Cork village. This is what made their eventual 24-14 success all the more satisfying for Kirk and his charges.

“Certainly anywhere down in the Munster territory is always a difficult place to travel,” he said ahead of the decider at Coolmine RFC this weekend. “I think for a large amount of the players, it was new for them to go down that far and play an away match.

“There was probably a wee bit of nerves going down into that and probably an understanding of what we were going down to as well. Obviously Crosshaven are a strong team and they had two very good results against two sides from Ulster as well.

“The experience itself, going down for the two nights and obviously the semi-final occasion itself, the boys were really excited about. The home games are nice, but to win away it probably gives you more of a boost in confidence for progressing into the final.”

Crosshaven were the second Munster outfit that Dromore accounted for en route to this weekend’s showpiece game, following that aforementioned win at the expense of Limerick’s Newcastle West.

This gives Kirk a sense of what to expect at the west Dublin venue on Saturday (kick-off 2.30pm), although he readily acknowledges the presence of player-coach Willie Staunton in a key play-making role makes Kilfeacle an even tougher proposition.

“It is difficult because we probably don’t know loads about them. Like any Munster side, we would expect them to be tough up front and be physical up front. Probably well-organised there in terms of set piece. In terms of a direct play up front, we probably expect that.

“We know one of the big influences around the team is their 10 (Staunton). We expect him to try and control the game. He has an effective kicking game too. We’ll do a wee bit of preparation in terms of that and we might expect him to sit in the back-field defensively. Just to direct it a bit more.

“Potentially if a loose ball was kicked, he’d probably look to capitalise on that. We know where they’re dangerous and that’s probably all we’ll read into it. Instead of getting too bogged down with Kilfeacle, we’ll probably try to focus more on us. Being aware of the threat they can pose up front.”

Like his opposite number, Kirk is in his first full season as Dromore head coach. This came after a two-year stint as an assistant to Jonny Cullen, his old playing compatriot at All-Ireland League club Ballynahinch.

Following his early retirement through injury, Kirk returned to the club he had previously called home. He continued: “Just a slight change this year, moving up to head coach. It has been challenging, but it has been really enjoyable so far.

“The group of players are really receptive and they’re invested in the club. There’s a real good buy-in from the boys. I had finished playing a little bit earlier through injury, but for me I played for Dromore before moving to Ballynahinch.

“Two seasons ago, whenever there was an opening for an assistant coach, it was just something that I wanted to really get involved in.

“That sense of community and the fact that we are local players was something that really excited me. That probably drove me to get involved in the first place. I was quite lucky in that way, that the boys were happy enough to have me in.”

Indeed, Kirk feels this sense of identity has been the driving force behind their journey to the All-Ireland final as well as their ascent to the summit of the Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship’s top flight – they are joint-top with Ballyclare after 13 rounds.

“That’s a big thing for us. We talked about this a couple of seasons ago, how a lot of the playing group were either local guys or sort of invested in the club. That feeling of identity, it’s a real strength for us,” he noted.

“Something that we do refer to, we talk about a Dromore man often. What that means and what it means to be from Dromore and play for Dromore.

“How for a lot of the players, the club is more than just rugby. I think that can be one of the strengths of the club itself, that the playing group is largely from Dromore. Local guys around the area. We certainly look to try and keep that, and use that to our advantage when we can.”

Courtesy of a rotation policy for their most recent competitive fixtures, Kirk has just a couple of niggles to contend with in advance of Saturday’s clash. A win would cap a memorable twelve months for Dromore, who began 2019 by securing the Millar McCall Junior Cup for the first time since 1939.

Despite knocking a provincial crown off their bucket list, a national success would represent an even greater landmark for this talented Dromore group.

“We achieved some success provincially last year. There was a lot of talk in terms of that was the first success the club had experienced in 80 years. That was huge for the boys and now going into a national, I think the boys now understand the impact the success gave us for the local club.

“Especially for the community and the people around them. Understanding what it actually means to achieve success. For our home club, that was really special.

“To have the opportunity to do that on a national stage is really powerful and the boys now, they don’t have just a desire for it but they crave more success. Because for us the place is more than just where we play rugby.

“To achieve success, to put us on the map nationally, would be massive for us. The boys really crave that feeling of success for their home club. Hopefully Saturday is an opportunity for us to do that.

“They’re an ambitious playing group. They’re capable of it and there’s belief there as well. They certainly understand what it could mean on Saturday afternoon,” added Kirk.

Posted in Junior Club Rugby | Comments Off on All-Ireland Junior Cup Final Preview: Jamie Kirk (Dromore RFC) – Irishrugby.ie – January 22 2020

FAI Schools Senior Girls Leinster Cup Final: Athlone Community College V Presentation SS, Kilkenny – The Westmeath Independent – January 22 2020

SOCCER: FAI SCHOOLS SENIOR GIRLS LEINSTER CUP FINAL

Molloy magic crushes ACC hopes of retaining Leinster crown

ATHLONE COMMUNITY COLLEGE……………………..2

PRESENTATION SS, KILKENNY…………………………4

DAIRE WALSH

ATHLONE Community College suffered heartache in Dublin on Monday afternoon as they fell to defeat at the hands of Presentation SS, Kilkenny in this Leinster Schools Senior Cup decider.

Having overcome the same opposition in Portlaoise 12 months ago, Athlone had their sights set on retaining their crown. Despite enjoying a perfect start to the contest – Róise Lennon’s penalty offered them an early advantage – the tables were subsequently turned at the home of Peamount United.

With 12 of the 2019 final squad back in harness, Edel Menton’s side were in fine shape for their latest shot at Leinster glory. But with the inspired figure of Ellen Molloy scoring a stunning hat-trick for Presentation, Athlone fell short in the end.

Straight from the kick-off, they forced Presentation on the back-foot and received their just rewards inside the opening minute. Opposition netminder Cliodhna Kenny came off her line in a bid to halt Athlone’s maiden attack.

She couldn’t avert the danger and when Hope Glynn’s resulting strike was handled on the line by a retreating defender, a penalty was awarded to the defending champions. Lennon stepped forward to negotiate this spot-kick and the midfielder expertly fired beyond the reach of Kenny.

Though this understandably sent the Athlone bench and supporters into raptures, a Presentation backlash was anticipated nonetheless. Winger Sarah Barcoe was released on the right and forced a fine save out of Athlone custodian Cianna Meehan.

The Westmeath side continued to pose a potent threat in the final third, particularly when Robyn Heatherington was set free down the left. Lennon’s deflected effort in the 16th minute was gathered low by the aforementioned Kenny, while Aimee O’Connor also tested the resolve of the Noreside shotstopper.

When the ball broke free in the area to Glynn at the tail end of a later move, she looked set to extend Athlone’s lead. Yet much to the relief of their opponents, she fired agonisingly over the woodwork.

Presentation visibly grew in confidence on the all-weather surface and their equaliser duly arrived on 25 minutes. Picking up possession deep inside the Athlone half, Molloy proceeded to unleash a powerful strike to Meehan’s net.

And although Allie Heatherington fired just over on the half-hour mark, the Athlone defence was placed under increasing pressure in the closing stages of the opening period.

Centre-halves Kayleigh Shine and Megan Kelly largely held in firm, however, and the sides were ultimately inseparable at the break. It remained tight on the resumption, but Glynn was denied by Kenny’s point-blank save off a precise Allie Heatherington delivery.

While Shine had a header cleared off the line moments later, Presentation edged in front on 54 minutes to give them a psychological edge. Molloy was at the centre of the Kilkenny team’s best play and she doubled her tally with a superb finish from a 25-yard free kick.

Aisling Walsh was immediately thrust into the Athlone attack – joining half-time substitute Laoise O’Brien – but she was removed just seven minutes later with a serious looking knee injury. Stephanie O’Neill was the third CC player to be introduced and she was still finding her feet when Presentation extended the gap just past the hour.

Niamh Phelan lofted the ball towards the goal, where Molloy was on hand to supply a cool finish at the near post. Athlone were left with a mountain to climb as a consequence and the outcome was effectively placed beyond doubt when Presentation grabbed another goal with just eight minutes remaining.

Following a previous effort that was ruled out for a foul on Meehan, Phelan got the better of Midlands number one after a Hannah Clifford set-piece had smashed against the crossbar. To Athlone’s eternal credit, they persevered with their challenge in the dying moments.

Shine had a low shot turned away by Kenny in stoppage-time and immediately raced across to take a corner on the left. Her inch-perfect ball into the box was clinical headed home by O’Connor.

Even though victory was beyond their reach, Athlone did their utmost to try and wrestle back another goal. It didn’t pan out in the end for the Retreat Road outfit, but there could be no faulting their endeavours on the day.

ATHLONE COMMUNITY COLLEGE: Cianna Meehan; Grace Hannon, Kayleigh Shine, Megan Kelly, Breena Breheny (Laoise O’Brien half-time); Róise Lennon, Andrea Whyte (Aisling Walsh 54)(Stephanie O’Neill 61)); Allie Heatherington, Aimee O’Connor, Robyn Heatherington; Hope Glynn.

PRESENTATION SS, KILKENNY: Cliodhna Kenny; Keara Ryan, Shauna Coady, Katie Ryan, Anna Purcell; Hannah Clifford, Cliodhna Donnelly; Sarah Barcoe, Ellen Molloy, Freya Hardy Petit De Mange; Niamh Phelan.

In A Nutshell

Player of the match

Robyn Heatherington (Athlone CC)

Utilising her pace and invention, Heatherington was a thorn in the side of the Presentation rearguard for large stretches of the opening period. She was close to scoring on a number of occasions and also created a number of chances for her fellow attackers. Centre-half Kayleigh Shine led by example for Athlone while hat-trick hero Ellen Molloy was a clear standout for Presentation Kilkenny.

KEY MOMENT

When Allie Heatherington picked out Hope Glynn in the area with 49 minutes on the clock, it looked Athlone were ready to restore their lead. However, Cliodhna Kenny stood firm to turn her effort away. Presentation turned the tables on their opponents through Molloy’s second of the game just five minutes later and never looked back from that point.

Posted in Schools Soccer | Comments Off on FAI Schools Senior Girls Leinster Cup Final: Athlone Community College V Presentation SS, Kilkenny – The Westmeath Independent – January 22 2020

Rugby Column Number 173: The Kildare Nationalist – January 21 2020

RUGBY

Tracy among the tries as Leinster march on

By Daire Walsh

KILL’s James Tracy bagged his first try in over 12 months at Stadio Monigo in Treviso on Saturday afternoon as Leinster made it six wins from six in Pool One of the Heineken Champions Cup.

Despite already having secured a knockout spot at the end of round four, Leo Cullen’s men were hell-bent on claiming top seed heading into April’s quarter-finals. This was achieved courtesy of their 18-0 victory in Italy and they will now play host to defending champions Saracens at the Aviva Stadium.

Should they overcome the challenge of Mark McCall’s outfit, the blues will also have a home country semi-final to look forward to – which would also take place in the Lansdowne Road venue. Given it was confirmed at the weekend that Saracens will be relegated to next season’s English Championship as a result of breaching the Premiership Rugby salary cap, it is perhaps the perfect time for Leinster to be facing the London club.

Nevertheless, they can’t underestimate the power of a siege mentality and will expect their cross-channel counterparts to arrive in Dublin with all guns blazing. Following consecutive starts in recent European encounters with Northampton Saints and Lyon – either side of a strong festive showing against Munster – Tracy returned to the bench for Leinster’s latest trip to Treviso.

Having enjoyed his own try-scoring cameo at home to Lyon in the previous round, Sean Cronin was making his third provincial start of the term. Though he remains sidelined through injury, Ronan Kelleher was the Leinster hooker to receive the nod in Andy Farrell’s first Six Nations squad.

This means there is an onus on Cronin and Tracy to show Cullen they can still step up to the mark in the blues’ front-row – as well as potentially keeping themselves on Farrell’s radar. To their credit, they have managed to do just that during the current window.

In the 52 minutes he spent on the pitch, Cronin made 13 metres off five carries and also executed six tackles in a typically-industrious performance. While his time on the pitch was short, Tracy recorded the same number of carries and tackles as his main rival for the number two shirt.

Leinster had 15 wins on the bounce heading into the contest, but encountered a stern resistance from Benetton throughout. A Ross Byrne penalty gave them a slender 3-0 cushion at the break, before Caelan Doris and Tracy touched down to ensure their side got the job done in the end.

Meanwhile, Athy man Jeremy Loughman featured off the bench in Munster’s bonus point triumph over Ospreys at Thomond Park on Sunday. This game was unfortunately of little consequence for the reds, who already knew a place in the knockout stages was beyond them.

Still, in light of their recent on-field issues, it was important for Johann van Graan’s charges to return to winning ways. Loughman replaced Dave Kilcoyne at loosehead prop for the final 14 minutes of the action as Munster cruised to a 33-6 success.

Meanwhile, former Newbridge College student Cian Pendergast has been included in the Irish squad for the upcoming Under 20 Six Nations.

Posted in Rugby Column | Comments Off on Rugby Column Number 173: The Kildare Nationalist – January 21 2020

Leinster Schoolgirls Hockey Senior Cup Semi-Final: Newbridge College V Newpark Comprehensive – The Kildare Nationalist – January 21 2020

HOCKEY: LEINSTER SCHOOLGIRLS SENIOR CUP SEMI-FINAL

Heartbreaking penalty shoot out defeat for Newbridge College

NEWBRIDGE COLLEGE……………………….0

NEWPARK COMPREHENSIVE………………..0

(Newpark won 2-0 on penalties)

By Daire Walsh

THERE was heartbreak for Newbridge College at Three Rock Rovers last Wednesday at the end of their nail-biting Leinster Schoolgirls Senior Cup semi-final showdown with Newpark Comprehensive.

Following a scoreless 60 minutes of regulation time, a penalty shootout was required in order to determine the final outcome of the contest. Unfortunately, Newbridge couldn’t force their way past inspired Newpark netminder Erika Gallagher and ultimately fell short in their quest for a showpiece spot.

Nonetheless, the south Kildare outfit can be rightly proud of their efforts during the course of the action and for the way they performed throughout the competition. Caoimhe Byrne had struck the decisive goal in Newbridge’s 2-1 quarter-final success over Mount Temple and she was joined on the field by fellow Ireland U18 star Aoife Glennon – as well as Irish U16 duo Ella Kelly and Roisin Sexton.

Though they found themselves on the back-foot during the early exchanges of this tie, custodian Glennon and the accomplished Ellie Henry ensured they remained tight and compact out of possession. Having held firm until the end of the first-quarter, Newbridge gradually grew in confidence as the minutes progressed.

Mary Enright’s short corner on 18 minutes was lined up for Henry and her powerful strike was brilliantly turned away by Gallagher. Newbridge also faced down a Newpark set-piece, but the Newbridge rearguard successfully deflected the final shot away from the target.

They were generally keeping their Blackrock counterparts at bay and were posing their own threat in attack. Though Ella Kelly fired to the Newpark net on the half-hour mark, it was disallowed for being outside the scoring zone.

This meant the sides were inseparable at the interval and given all that was at stake, it was going to take something special for this impasse to be broken. Both defences remained resolute on the resumption and, as a consequence, there was precious little space for either attacking unit to prosper.

While 45 minutes passed without a goal being scored, the game did become slightly stretched moving towards the closing stages of the proceedings. Byrne was close to picking out Enright in open space on 49 minutes, but the ball slip away from the latter’s path at a crucial moment.

Newbridge briefly lost Kelly to a green card but upon her return to the fray, they attempted a final push for supremacy. Sophie Carroll’s drive at a right-hand angle produced a superb save out of Gallagher and Hannah Doyle was closing to breaking free before the retreating Newpark defensive line intervened in the nick of time.

However, as seemed largely inevitable from the opening minutes, the fate of these two courageous sides was decided on penalties. Whereas underage international stars Lauren Moore and Milly Lynch unleashed composed finishes, Byrne and Ciara O’Beirne were both denied by the imperious Gallagher.

Glennon blocked a Dara Rankin strike to give Newbridge renewed hope, only for a Henry miss – her side’s fourth in succession – to officially seal Newpark’s triumph.

NEWBRIDGE COLLEGE: Aoife Glennon, Sophie Morrissey, Aisling Elliott, Amy Coyle, Ellie Henry, Roisin Sexton, Caoimhe Byrne, Anna Young, Ciara O’Beirne, Emma Brady, Carly Killian, Laura Carroll, Hannah Doyle, Mary Enright, Mia Walsh, Sophie Carroll, Sophie Murray, Ella Kelly.

NEWPARK COMPREHENSIVE: Erika Gallagher, Lily Adams, Milly Lynch, Jessica Whelan, Jennifer O’Reilly, Dara Rankin, Lauren Moore, Orla Gul, Ava Paul, Aoife Grogan, Lily Bennett, Zoe Watterson, Jennifer Sheeran, Maud O’Connor, Iona Hamilton, Safia Hudson Fowler.

Posted in Hockey | Comments Off on Leinster Schoolgirls Hockey Senior Cup Semi-Final: Newbridge College V Newpark Comprehensive – The Kildare Nationalist – January 21 2020

All-Ireland Junior Cup Final Build-Up: Willie Staunton (Kilfeacle & District) – Irishrugby.ie – January 21 2020

Staunton Primes Kilfeacle For Second Shot At Junior Cup Glory

By Daire Walsh

Buoyed by their magnificent semi-final triumph over Ashbourne, Kilfeacle & District will be aiming to go a step further when they face Dromore in the Energia All-Ireland Junior Cup final at Coolmine RFC this Saturday (kick-off 2.30pm).

When highly-fancied Ashbourne made the journey to Morrissey Park on December 14, they were seeking to keep their hopes of a fourth consecutive national crown alive for another day.

The north Meath outfit had previously defeated Kilfeacle in the 2018 decider at Portlaoise but the tables were turned on this occasion, as they suffered a 27-22 reversal at the hands of the Tipperary side.

Kilfeacle player-coach Willie Staunton acknowledges his side made a ‘big statement’ in knocking out the champions and is hopeful they can carry this momentum into this weekend’s showpiece game.

“They got us in the final two years ago and deservedly so, but I think the fact that we got over that in the semi-final hopefully will stand to us and that we can go one better now against what’s known as an excellent Dromore side. (We’re) looking forward to it,” admitted Staunton.

“The All-Ireland Cup is something that we looked at, at the start of the season. Some big games with Wicklow, Kilkenny and Ashbourne. The lads have been there two years ago in the final. They’re mad to get back at it again and get one more shot at it.”

Not only is this Staunton’s debut season in charge of Kilfeacle, it also represents his first foray into the world of coaching. Having featured prominently for a number of All-Ireland League clubs over the past 15 years – including Young Munster, Terenure College and Old Belvedere – the Galbally man had designs on taking an extended break from rugby.

That was until he was offered a dual role at Kilfeacle, and given his close family ties to the Munster club, it was one he simply could not refuse.

“(I) took over there in July with an early pre-season. It has been a good start, but I’m surrounded by some really good guys in Ted O’Connor and PJ McLoughlin. There’s a lot of leaders in the team as well.

Bryan McLoughlin, he’s a young captain but an excellent player, and there’s a few older heads there who are always willing to help out. Making my job a lot easier. It’s nice to go back and help out where I can, and play a year with lads I would know as well.”

Additionally, the presence of so many local players within the first team squad showed Staunton that the raw material were there for another shot at securing a breakthrough All-Ireland title.

“I’m only 32, but I wanted to retire and relax. I’m playing AIL since 2005, but it was a big selling point. All the lads are within 10 or 15 kilometres of the club. They’ve all played underage up along.

“I’m the only blow-in you could say, even though my family are steeped in Kilfeacle. All the lads started from underage and we’ve good young lads coming up through the underage as well.

“That’s a great platform for everyone in Kilfeacle to see the senior team are doing well, keep bringing through three or four Under-18s every single year, and it has proved dividends this year with lads coming through.”

After facing three Leinster teams en route to Saturday’s final, Kilfeacle now face Ulster opposition in the form of Antrim’s Dromore. While this will be the first competitive encounter between the clubs, results alone suggest that Jamie Kirk’s men are a formidable proposition for any of their would-be challengers.

Staunton explained: “They’re top of the table (in the Ulster League), joint with Ballyclare. They lost last week against Ballyclare, but I guess that will give them a wake-up. We had something similar before Christmas with Bandon. It was an eye-opener and we got back on the horse. I know it’s a bad thing losing, but in the long-run it’ll be a good thing.

“Some of the feedback says they’re an excellent side. They put 38 points on Newcastle West and to go down to Crosshaven and win, I think it’s a testament to their own strength. They look like a very organised side.”

As well as having to worry about the threat their northern rivals could pose, Staunton’s hand is slightly forced for the trip to the capital. Conor O’Sullivan and Shane Luby are long-term absentees with cruciate ligament injuries, while Michael Slattery suffered a broken ankle in recent weeks.

Cormac O’Donoghue was subsequently drafted in as cover for Slattery, before being withdrawn in their recent league victory over Galbally. Yet despite these setbacks, Kilfeacle have remained at the summit of Munster Junior League Division 1 with nine straight victories thus far in their 2019/20 campaign.

For now, their minds are focused on breaking new ground at the west Dublin venue in the coming days. Should they get over the line this weekend – and banish the heartbreak of their 2018 reversal as a result – it will be greeted with delight by young and old in Kilfeacle.

“We won the Munster Challenge Cup two or three years ago, I think my brother (John) was in charge. Before that, it was a pretty dry spell. We’ve been competing a lot every single year, but to get a trophy would mean an awful lot.

“Even to the current bunch of players, they’ve been with each other a while and they’ll also give the hunger and the thirst for young fellas coming through as well.

“Even the older heads in the committee, the Kilfeacle stalwarts that are there, it would mean an awful lot on a national level to win a trophy. The more you look back on it, you always count the trophies you’ve won. For the lads, I know they’re well up for it and mad to get a medal on a national level.”

After using Morrissey Park as a fortress for their earlier successes against Wicklow, Kilkenny and Ashbourne, Kilfeacle will find themselves on neutral territory in Coolmine. Although Staunton agrees this could present a mental obstacle, the Limerick native is confident in the abilities of his charges.

“It could bring its own challenge in a way, but our away form this year has been pretty good. In the Munster League, Newcastle West and Mallow were both away games. They were second and third against us. We had good wins down there. I don’t think it fazes our lads at all.

“With the away form, it’s just another challenge. Another game of 80 minutes. If we stick to our game, stick to our guns, we don’t mind where we go. It’s something that has been on our minds since we beat Ashbourne and it has kept us in shape all over Christmas with training,” he added.

Posted in Junior Club Rugby | Comments Off on All-Ireland Junior Cup Final Build-Up: Willie Staunton (Kilfeacle & District) – Irishrugby.ie – January 21 2020

Leinster Media Briefing Pre-Benetton European Away Game: Josh van der Flier – The42.ie – January 21 2020

‘Stuart told me to be more demanding of the ball… that I should be getting a bit more involved’

Josh van der Flier is working on taking his game to the next level.

DESPITE BECOMING AN established figure for both Leinster and Ireland in recent seasons, Josh van der Flier has been taking steps to improve his game since returning from last autumn’s World Cup.

After starting in four of Ireland’s five games in Japan – the pool stage victory over Russia being the exception – his selection in Andy Farrell’s squad for the forthcoming Six Nations Championship came as little surprise.

Nevertheless, the Wicklow man is doing all within his power to nail down an openside flanker spot at the provincial and international grades.

“I probably wanted to get a bit more ball carrying into my game,” van der Flier acknowledged. “I had a chat with Stuart [Lancaster] when I came back. You might have seen it in some games last season, or at the World Cup, where I found myself on the edge quite a bit, out wide and not really getting that involved.

“Stuart told me to be more demanding of the ball. You end up wide because the backs are gone in the middle in the rucks or whatever, and someone needs to be in the space. He was happy that I should be getting a bit more involved and get a few more carries under my belt. That was something I was definitely trying to work on.”

Yet having shed weight in the weeks leading up to the tournament – bringing him down to his current size of 107kg – van der Flier doesn’t feel it is necessary for him to be a mirror image of South Africa’s World Cup-winning back row.

“The World Cup was probably the lightest I’ve been. I find it tough to keep my weight on anyway, but it was probably the lightest I’d been playing competitive matches in three or four seasons before that. It wasn’t on purpose, but then I actually felt really good once I started playing a bit lighter. Felt a bit sharper, bit more explosive.

“It’s getting that balance. You don’t want to be slow and heavy. You don’t want to be too small, but you’re probably a bit quicker then. Last season, if I was playing with Rhys [Ruddock] and Jack Conan, they were about 10 kilos heavier than me. Sometimes I’d feel like ‘Oh, I should be up at that size’, but then I’ve had a good few chats with Stuart about it and Leo [Cullen].

“They’re happy that if I’m playing 7, I have to be a bit quicker around the place. More energy. As long as I bring that… If I’m slow and sluggish, and I’m light, that’s no good to anyone. If I’m going to be light, I have to be quick about the place.”

In the absence of so many frontline stars, van der Flier used the 2015 World Cup as a springboard to break into Leinster’s senior squad. The shoe was on the other foot at the beginning of this campaign with the likes of Scott Penny and Will Connors stepping up to the plate while the 26-year-old was in Japan.

Even allowing for injuries to Ireland internationals Jack Conan and Dan Leavy, competition remains intense at the back of the Leinster scrum. As well as appreciating his rise from youthful prospect to professional stalwart – he now has 80 provincial caps under his belt – van der Flier has embraced his need to produce top-level displays each week.

“From the 2015 World Cup, everyone was ahead of me and older than me. Now there’s lads coming up who are younger than me, which is very different. The lads have been playing incredibly well and it just means for me that I have to be better than ever and keep getting better than I have been before. I don’t know whether I’m doing that or not, but I have to try my best anyway.

“You see Jack Conan and Leavy rehab in the gym and you think ‘they’ve got to come back in as well’. It’s mad competitive really. I just know I have to be training as well as I can and put in my best performance every week. At 7, the likes of Scott Penny, Will [Connors], Deego [Max Deegan] when he plays it. They’re all pretty impressive.”

Daire Walsh

Posted in European Rugby | Comments Off on Leinster Media Briefing Pre-Benetton European Away Game: Josh van der Flier – The42.ie – January 21 2020

Sigerson Cup Quarter-Final: DCU V Queen’s University – The Irish News – January 20 2020

Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup quarter-final DCU 7-14 Queen’s University, Belfast 0-9

Queen’s suffer at DCU hands

FROM DAIRE WALSH AT ST CLARE’S

A RUTHLESS DCU brought Queen’s University’s Sigerson Cup campaign to an abrupt halt at St Clare’s yesterday afternoon.

Despite having the measure of TU Dublin City on home soil eight days earlier, Conor Deegan’s men had no answer to the pace and power of the fourttime champions in this quarter-final encounter.

Donegal’s Brendan McCole was one of a number of Ulster men to feature in the DCU line-up and he admitted to have a degree of sympathy for Queen’s in the aftermath of their 26-point defeat.

“I think Queen’s will be a bit disappointed in themselves today. They’re a good team, they did well in the league. They can play a lot better than that. We’ve played them the last three years and they’ve always given us a tight game,” the St Eunan’s club man remarked after the game.

Queen’s were seeking to bridge a 13-year gap to their last success at this grade, but they found themselves chasing the game from the opening moments.

Kevin Flynn, Declan Monaghan and Micheal Bannigan found the target for a fired-up DCU and while Darragh McGurn got Queen’s up and running off an advanced mark, the hosts subsequently pushed into overdrive.

Queen’s briefly halted their momentum when Donal McKeever split the posts on the run, but it only served as a temporary respite.

Although Daniel McGuinness also raised a white flag after Eamon Fyfe had been denied by Evan Comerford, the triumvirate of Donohoe, Bannigan and David Garland ensured DCU brought an unassailable 3-9 to 0-3 buffer into the interval.

Garland’s 1-1 salvo stretched them further in front on the resumption and even though Tiarnan Bogue picked off a nice score for Queen’s, a fifth DCU goal inevitably arrived.

Not wanting to be outdone by his Monaghan compatriot Garland, the outstanding Bannigan palmed beyond the reach of Queen’s netminder Eoghan Mulholland on 37 minutes.

McGurn and Odhran Eastwood did their utmost to life the deflated visitors – the latter finding the range either side of a Smith point for DCU.

Nevertheless, with three Sigerson crowns accumulated in the last decade alone, DCU are hell-bent on the beginning the new era on a positive note.

Sky Blues native Smith is pushing hard for a starting place in their side and did his chances no harm with a smooth finish just shy of the third-quarter mark.

Dublin senior panellist Paddy Small became the ninth DCU scorer on the stroke of 50 minutes, while Bannigan brought his final haul to 2-4 inside the closing stages. The hard-working McGurn added a brace of points late on as Queen’s persevered in the face of extreme adversity, but it was DCU who marched on in utterly convincing fashion.

MATCH STATS

DCU: E Comerford; C Morrison, B McCole, D Corcoran; K Flynn (1-1), S MacMahon, D Monaghan (0-1); J Morrissey, S Carthy; S Bugler (0-1), M Bannigan (2-4, 0-1f), B Stack (1-2); TE Donohoe (1-1), P Small (0-1), D Garland (1-2, 0-1f, 0-1 mark).

Subs: S Smith (1-1) for Donohoe, T Fox for Bugler (both 35), S Akram for Flynn (42), M Barry for Carthy, S Tierney for Garland (both 45).

Queen’s University: E Mulholland; O Lappin, A Lynch, P Fegan; D Guinness (0-1), C O’Neill, A McAvoy; D McKeever (0-1), C Higgins; R Campbell, C Gorman, T Bogue (0-1); E Fyfe, D McGurn (0-4, 1f, 1 mark), O Eastwood (0-2, 2f).

Subs: B Gallen for Campbell (18), B Haveron for O’Neill, C Cox for Gorman (both 42), A Fullerton for Eastwood (45), E Deane for Higgins (53).

Referee: B Cawley (Kildare).

Posted in Colleges GAA | Comments Off on Sigerson Cup Quarter-Final: DCU V Queen’s University – The Irish News – January 20 2020

All-Ireland Junior Club Hurling Championship Final: Story Of The Game – The Evening Echo – January 20 2020

STORY OF THE GAME

Daire Walsh

Rovers couldn’t build on purple patch

Turning point

After Conahy hit four points early on in succession to stretch their lead to six, a determined Rovers fired back with a similar haul. Yet the Kilkenny men subsequently regained the initiative and ensured that Rovers couldn’t build on their most dominant period in the game.

Score of the game

Though it perhaps paled in comparison to the fare served up by Tullaroan and Fr O’Neills in the intermediate decider, some memorable scores were posted over the course of the action. With Rovers struggling to gain a foothold in the play, midfielder Kieran Walsh took matters into his own hands in the 17th-minute by splitting the uprights in magnificent fashion on the right-flank.

Referee watch

It was a relatively quiet night at the office for Dublin-based Sean Stack. He used the advantage rule to good effect on a number of occasions and maintained a firm control throughout.

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All-Ireland Junior Club Hurling Championship Final: Three Reasons Why Russell Rovers Lost – The Evening Echo – January 20 2020

Three reasons why Russell Rovers lost

Daire Walsh

Difficult first-quarter

Momentum can play a massive part in determining the outcome of any game and Conahy Shamrocks had it in spade during the early exchanges. With just 16 minutes gone on the clock in Croke Park, they had developed a 0-8 to 0-2 cushion.

The Leesiders did subsequently get themselves back within contention but as manager Michael Mannion acknowledged afterwards, they were always chasing the game.

James Bergin-Kieran Mooney double act

While Tom Phelan’s direct running style provided considerable energy to the Conahy attack, the twin scoring threat of captain James Bergin and Kieran Mooney was huge. They contributed all bar five points of the 0-22.

Despite the presence of Kevin Tattan as a sweeper in the Rovers defence, Bergin and Mooney – a surviving member of Conahy’s 2008 All-Ireland winning squad – were a constant thorn in their side.

Josh Beausang Injury

Already four points adrift by the interval, Rovers were dealt a further blow when Josh Beausang was withdrawn through injury. Prior to missing the semi-final victory over Micheal Breathnach with a dislocated shoulder, the full-forward had been the East Cork’s scorer-in-chief. A fully-fit Beausang may not have been enough to get Rovers over the line but, with Luke Duggan Murray growing in stature, he may well have given them a chance.

Posted in Hurling | Comments Off on All-Ireland Junior Club Hurling Championship Final: Three Reasons Why Russell Rovers Lost – The Evening Echo – January 20 2020

Post-Match Reaction: All-Ireland Junior Club Hurling Championship Final – Russell Rovers Manager Michael Mannion – The Evening Echo – January 20 2020

‘We were always chasing the game’

Daire Walsh

RUSSELL ROVERS manager Michael Mannion admitted his side were below their best at Croke Park on Saturday as their quest for All-Ireland glory ended in a seven-point defeat to Kilkenny’s Conahy Shamrocks.

The Shanagarry men had impressed en route to the junior club hurling showpiece but following a difficult start to the contest, they struggled to rein in the challenge of the Marble County outfit.

“I just don’t think we performed to our maximum. Conahy were very good, they took their scores well.

“They’re a very good team and deserved winners, but we didn’t come up here to lose and make up numbers.

“We came up here with a plan to win and unfortunately it wasn’t our day,” Mannion explained after the game.

“We missed a free early on and then they got a couple of scores.

“We might have gotten back within two at one stage, but there was always that gap there.

“Coming out on in the second half we were hoping we’d get a bit of a kick, but again they got a few scores. We were chasing the game for the 60 minutes.”

Full-forward Josh Beausang’s absence for the whole of the second half certainly didn’t help their cause – the ace attacker having aggravated an existing injury at the tail end of the opening period.

“We always knew there was a possibility with a dislocated shoulder that it could go at any stage.

“It would have been more disappointing if he didn’t get to tog out today, because he basically got us here from the East Cork championship.”

Indeed with that East Cork success being supplemented by county and provincial championship triumphs, Moynihan believes all those involved in Russell Rovers can look back on the past few months with immense pride.

“I’m always a proud Russell Rovers man, even in the dark days. I’m very proud of the area, very proud of our players and very proud of the supporters.

“We’ve got great support over the last number of weeks. When we got a score, the crowd erupted. We’re on the map now,” Moynihan added.

Posted in Hurling | Comments Off on Post-Match Reaction: All-Ireland Junior Club Hurling Championship Final – Russell Rovers Manager Michael Mannion – The Evening Echo – January 20 2020