Perfect weekend for Irish rugby
By Daire Walsh
IT proved to be a perfect weekend for Irish teams at home and abroad, with all four representative outfits securing victories over Scottish counterparts.
Whereas the senior men and women sides got their Six Nations campaigns back on track following disappointing opening weekends, the U20s maintained their push for the top prizes at the underage grade.
It was also a profitable night for the Ireland Club XV at Donnybrook on Friday as they claimed the Dalriada Cup – at the expense of Scotland Clubs – on an aggregate score of 42-28. Having built up a feel good factor in 2018 with their spring, summer and autumn exploits, the comprehensive home loss to England last Saturday week (February 2) came as a shock to the system for Joe Schmidt’s men.
They were expected to get their Championship back on track in Murrayfield seven days later, even allowing for the injuries that hampered their preparations for the game. In addition to the succession of injuries they had coming into the tournament – including Eadestown’s Tadhg Beirne – Ireland lost Garry Ringrose, Devin Toner and CJ Stander to injury in the aftermath of the English reversal.
Robbie Henshaw was also a late withdrawal on Thursday, meaning Munster centre Chris Farrell was drafted into the starting team at the last-minute.
After a fleeting appearance at the Aviva Stadium on the opening weekend, Athy’s Joey Carbery was once again held in reserve. The former Ardscoil na Trionoide student is still awaiting his first Six Nations start with Ireland, but he was afforded a strong platform to showcase his undoubted talents in Edinburgh.
Initially introduced as a blood substitute for Jonathan Sexton on 24 minutes, Carbery remained alongside provincial compatriot Conor Murray for the remainder of the contest.
Ireland had already developed a 12-3 advantage courtesy of Murray and Jacob Stockdale tries, before disaster struck on 28 minutes.
Finn Russell intercepted a Carbery pass and subsequently released Sam Johnson for a try. If this error was a test of the young out-half’s mental capacity, then his response was emphatic. With the game still in the melting pot, he executed a superb break from deep to set-up Keith Earls for a simple touchdown.
He also added five points off the kicking tee, ensuring that Ireland came away with a 22-13 success. Having suffered at the hands of England in their own back yard, Adam Griggs’ Ireland Women returned to winning ways in Scotstoun Stadium on Friday evening.
Aoife McDermott, Leah Lyons, the fit-again Alison Miller and Anna Caplice all crossed over to give the visitors a morale-boosting 22-5 win. It was a busy night for the Irish, with Noel McNamara’s U20s overcoming the challenge posed by Scotland in Netherdale with 19 points to spare (24-5), with Athy’s Martin Moloney again featuring prominently.
There was Kildare interest in south Dublin on the same day, when the Ireland Clubs played out a 19-19 draw with their Celtic rivals. With Naas duo Johne Murphy (coach) and Adam Coyle (player) heavily involved, they gained bragging rights at the end of a second-leg affair.