Women’s Interprovincial Championship Build-Up: Beth Cregan (Ulster) – The42.ie – September 13 2019

Ulster unafraid ahead of daunting semi-final clash with Leinster

‘There’s nothing they did that we couldn’t have a response to,’ says Beth Cregan after looking back on the loss to Leinster in the round robin stage.

DESPITE THEIR EXTREMELY frustrating run of form in the Women’s Inter-provincial Championship, Beth Cregan is adamant Ulster are heading in the right direction under Director of Rugby Derek Suffern.

Working in tandem with head coach Neill Alcorn, the former Ballynahinch RFC supremo is plotting an almighty shock tomorrow afternoon (kick-off 3.45pm), the downfall of champions Leinster at Templeville Road. The meeting of provinces north and east forms part of a semi-final double-header with the clash of Munster and Connacht, while the four provinces also compete in the U18 Championships at the Templeogue venue.

“Since Derek Suffern has come in as our Director of Rugby, there has been such a drastic change over the last three years. Even in terms of our training and things, it has just become a lot more professional within the set-up,” the Ulster captain remarked on this week.

“It has even stepped up way more this year and the expectations that has probably been placed on the girls. Previously, we just kind of made the transition from club to province and if you went elsewhere, then you had that step up. Whereas now we definitely have a step up from club to dealing with inter-pros.”

Ulster remain without an inter-provincial victory since 2012, but came agonisingly close to ending the drought when they faced Connacht in a group stage encounter at Queen’s University a fortnight ago. A promising start gave rise to hope of a morale-boosting win,  only for an early second period blitz to propel the western province towards a 20-19 triumph.

“The girls were very unlucky that day. There was a few things we should have controlled that we didn’t control. We went into half-time in the lead. Came out and fell asleep for 10 minutes and Connacht scored 10 points. We should have scored earlier in response and we didn’t.

“Connacht, fair play to them, their defence really stepped up in the second half. We scored – in what we didn’t know was going to be the last play of the game – to bring it to one point. We thought we had time to go back down the pitch for the three points.”

The decision to extend the provincial season – and gather all four sides together for a festival of rugby at St Mary’s College RFC – was taken with a view to increasing the profile of the women’s game in Ireland. A finals day is also set to take place at MU Barnhall next weekend, with both senior and U18 championships being completed at the north Kildare club.

From Cregan’s point of view, the link-up between the adult and underage teams has been of significant benefit to the game in the north.

“Having the semi-finals and finals played together, and having the U18s and women’s matches on the same days has definitely promoted it. Because we go to our U18 matches as long as we can, obviously until we’re into warm-up stuff. Then the U18s will stay after the match to watch us. You’re getting rugby players and rugby fans to watch more of the matches.”

Cregan and her team-mates got a taste of what Leinster are made of when the sides faced each other at City of Armagh RFC on August 24.

That meeting ended in a 24-5 win for the visitors, who eventually pulled away after encountering significant resistance from their plucky opponents. The loss of Claire McLaughlin to ankle surgery hampers Ulster’s chances, but the presence of international stars Lucinda Kinghan and Kathryn Dane (albeit on the bench) is a bonus for Suffern and Alcorn’s charges.

“I know Leinster did haul in all the changes when they came up to play us, but it was a very tight match. They pulled away in the last-third, but it was nothing that we were scared of. Whenever we went back to the video review and looked back at the match, we said ourselves if we had any of the teams again we would have been comfortable enough to go back at it,” Cregan said.

“There’s nothing they did that we couldn’t have a response to. Our mistakes were small scale errors and not big, collective team system errors. It’s a really good place for us to be in.”

About the author:

Daire Walsh
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Women’s Interprovincial Championship Build-Up: Michelle Claffey (Leinster) – The42.ie – September 13 2019

Claffey wary of Ulster challenge as Leinster eye back-to-back inter-pro titles

The women’s inter-pro semi-finals take place at Templeville Road on Saturday afternoon.

THEY MAY BE overwhelming favourites to progress to the women’s inter-provincial championship decider, but Ireland international Michelle Claffey insists Leinster will need to be wary of the challenge posed by Ulster tomorrow afternoon.

In a change to the previous round-robin format — where the team that topped the group after three rounds of fixtures were declared the winners — knockout rounds have been introduced for this year’s inter-pro series.

Following the earlier showdown between Munster and Connacht at Templeville Road, defending champions Leinster square off with their northern counterparts in the same venue [KO 3.45pm].

Ulster have struggled to make a lasting impact in recent campaigns and suffered a 24-5 defeat to the holders in their previous meeting on 24 August. However, Claffey feels the final outcome at City of Armagh RFC wasn’t a true reflection of the game.

“Against Ulster the last day, it was a very physical game. It was a very up front battle. They’re very good at the breakdown. They will turn us over if we’re complacent around that, but Ulster are obviously building as well,” the Offaly native acknowledged.

“We need to get our set-piece right. I think that’s one area we’ll need to work on for this coming weekend. I think it’s a very different pack versus our Leinster pack. It’s just the physicality. We need to bring it to them up front. Technically, we need to be better. We also need to be smarter around the pitch too.”

While Claffey and a number of familiar faces are back in the fold, there has been considerable growth in the squad over the past 12 months. When head coach Ben Armstrong unveiled his selection for the tournament at the beginning of August, it featured a host of uncapped players.

Included amongst the new crop are former Ireland stars Elaine Anthony and Larissa Muldoon, who have previous experience in the competition with Munster and Ulster respectively. Additionally, Grace Miller (younger sister of Grand Slam winner Alison) has lined up alongside Claffey in midfield — with captain Sene Naoupu deployed in an out-half role.

“We’ve got a load of new girls this year. I think the transition from last year’s squad to this year’s squad, it’s probably about 50-50. The girls that have come in, they’ve played AIL. They’ve played international rugby. Either Sevens and 15s, in some cases,” explained Claffey, who is set to embark on her third Six Nations campaign next spring.

“They’ve added to the team and that’s what we need. Different ideas, different thoughts. I think it’s really good and we’ve got young players coming through as well, which is nice.”

In recent times, a succession of nail-biting encounters has significantly enhanced the already intense rivalry that exists between Leinster and Munster.

After they had been knocked off their perch in 2017, the blues subsequently regained the inter-pro crown in a nail-biting affair at Energia Park the following September.

Despite finishing on identical points, a 14-14 draw against Munster was enough to give Leinster the 2018 title on score difference. They recently met at Musgrave Park, when the visitors emerged with seven points to spare (20-13).

Should they come through their respective encounters at St Mary’s College RFC, the familiar foes will renew acquaintances in a grand showpiece next weekend. Though their clash down in Cork didn’t hold the same significance as it had in previous years, Claffey made sure to cherish a moment that can be all too rare in modern sport.

Sometimes you don’t win that many matches in your playing career. You have to enjoy winning each game. You have to learn from the losses. I celebrated that win, as in I was happy. I’m not usually very happy after games are over and we’ve won, but I think it was a really good team effort.

“I enjoyed that game a lot. I think it’s important as a team to celebrate wins, but we have to get a final or a third/fourth place play-off to play them again. We’ll see what happens there. Like I said, Ulster first. I don’t know what’s going to happen there,” Claffey added.

About the author:

Daire Walsh
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Women’s Interprovincial Championship Build-Up: Nichola Fryday (Connacht) – The42.ie – September 12 2019

Connacht captain Fryday targeting Munster upset in inter-pro semi-final

The Ireland international will lead her province out at Templeville Road on Saturday.

SHE MAY HAVE called time on her international career in March, but Alison Miller’s influence on women’s rugby is showing no signs of waning.

In addition to being a key figure in Connacht’s back three during the ongoing women’s inter-provincial championship, the Laois native is also one of two assistant coaches within Brian McLearn’s set-up.

Her vast experience of the top grade is rubbing off on the remainder of the senior squad — including former Ireland team-mate Nichola Fryday.

“It has been great to have Ali in. She’s just brought that bit of experience. That voice in the background that helps settle newer girls, with nerves and stuff like that,” Fryday said.

“Also, to bring a bit of experience of these high-pressure games. To have her within the squad is a huge boost to us.”

Miller’s presence on the Connacht coaching ticket is part of an encouraging trend within the game in Ireland. Marie Louise Reilly is forwards coach at Leinster, while Laura Guest (with whom Reilly won a Grand Slam in 2013) heads up an all-female backroom team in Munster.

It is the latter who provide the opposition to Connacht in Saturday’s inter-pro semi-final at Templeville Road [KO 1.30pm] — which serves as a precursor to the clash between defending champions Leinster and Ulster at the same venue.

Fryday accepts they will be rank outsiders against a side that is packed with past and present international stars, but believes the westerners can build sufficiently on last Saturday week’s 20-19 group stage win over Ulster.

“Munster are a tough team and they always fight to the end. We’re under no illusion, it’ll be a big match at the weekend and a big, physical match.

“We had said we needed the win [against Ulster]. We ground it out and got the win that we needed. It has given us a little bit of confidence going into this weekend now and it gave us a bit of a pep in our step.”

Despite only taking up rugby while studying agricultural science in UCD, Fryday has enjoyed a rapid rise to the international arena.

Having initially set her sights on securing a provincial cap in 2016, she made her Ireland debut as a 21-year-old in a November Test defeat to Canada.

“It was all a blur. It was a tough match. All I remember from it is just tackling continuously. I don’t think I did much else but tackle,” the Connacht captain said of her international bow.

“They were an unbelievable side. They were just on another level. It was something that just opened my eyes up to what international rugby is. I’ve just loved it ever since that day.

I was with Tullamore and we were in Division One in the Leinster League. I went for a trial to Connacht, I really wanted to make a provincial team. That was my goal for that year [2016]. I was lucky enough that Tom Tierney was at a couple of our sessions and brought me into the squad. To get the call-up was just a huge, huge honour.”

Having received a baptism of fire in that 48-7 reversal to Canada, Fryday went on to feature in the 2017 Six Nations. She subsequently missed out on the final squad for the home-based Rugby World Cup, before bouncing back to establish herself as a regular starter under present head coach Adam Griggs.

An underwhelming eighth-place finish two years ago means Ireland will have to embark on a European qualification phase for the 2021 World Cup in New Zealand.

This is set to take place in Autumn of next year and forms part of a 13-month integration season plan for women’s rugby that was recently unveiled by the IRFU. With motivation on her side, Fryday hopes she can help Ireland get back onto the global stage.

“That’s definitely in the back of my mind. I’d love to get to a World Cup. It’s every player’s dream to get to a World Cup. I was obviously disappointed, but when I look back on the 2017 World Cup, it was a building thing for me.

“I’ve learnt to take disappointment and it has made me cherish my caps more now, as I get them more regularly,” Fryday added.

About the author:

Daire Walsh
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Women’s Interprovincial Championship Semi-Final Build-Up: Nichola Fryday (Connacht) – Irishrugby.ie – September 12 2019

Fryday: Win In Belfast Has Boosted Our Confidence

Since taking up the sport as a second year student in UCD, Connacht captain Nichola Fryday has enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks of Irish Women’s rugby.

Having initially made waves in the Leinster Senior League with her local club Tullamore, Fryday set her sights on making the provincial grade in 2016. However, out of the blue, she received a call-up to the international set-up and made her Ireland debut against Canada that November.

“I hadn’t expected it at all. I went for a trial to Connacht, I really wanted to make a provincial team. That was my goal for that year,” explained the 24-year-old forward who plays in the second row and back row.

“I was lucky enough that Tom Tierney (the Ireland head coach at the time) was at a couple of our sessions and brought me into the squad. I hadn’t expected any of it. It wasn’t on my horizon at all. To get the call-up was just a huge, huge honour.

“I was 21 when I got the call-up. I’m 24 now. I have a few years of just being in there and experiencing it. It’s an unbelievable experience. To get invited to a training camp is a huge achievement, let alone getting to play.”

Despite it being a dream come true on the surface, that clash with Canada, which took place in the familiar surrounding of UCD, proved to be a baptism of fire. Lining up in the second row alongside Katie Norris, Fryday was part of an Ireland team that suffered a heavy 48-7 defeat to the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup finalists.

“It was all a blur, I don’t remember any of it! It was a tough match. All I remember from it is just tackling continuously. I don’t think I did much else but tackle,” she admitted.

“They were an unbelievable side. They were just on another level. It was something that just opened my eyes up to what international rugby is. I’ve just loved it ever since that day.”

After narrowly missing out on selection for the 2017 World Cup on home soil, Fryday has gone on to establish herself as an Ireland regular under current head coach Adam Griggs. She is determined to secure qualification for the 2021 World Cup with Ireland through a European Repechage tournament next year.

Looking forward to an exciting 2019/20 campaign at international level, she noted: “Players are getting more chances to play. I think that’s what we need as a squad, is chances to get as much game-time together. Really become a cohesive unit. I think any time we get more matches, it can only be seen as a plus.

“That’s definitely in the back of my mind. I’d love to get to a World Cup. It’s every player’s dream to get to a World Cup. I was obviously disappointed, but when I look back on the 2017 World Cup it was a building thing for me. I’ve built from that. I’ve learnt to take disappointment and it has made me cherish my caps more now, as I get them more regularly.”

Before switching her focus to the Energia Women’s All-Ireland League with Galwegians and her Ireland commitments, Fryday is relishing Connacht’s renewal of rivalries with Munster in Saturday’s opening  IRFU Women’s Interprovincial Championship semi-final at Templeville Road (kick-off 1.30pm).

While she readily acknowledges that Laura Guest’s Reds will be firm favourites to prevail, their 20-19 win over Ulster in the final round of the group stages has certainly boosted morale within the western ranks.

“Munster are a tough team and they always fight to the end. We’re under no illusion, it’ll be a big match at the weekend and a big, physical match. We’ve been prepping the last two weeks and we’re taking the first 10 minutes as it comes.

“We had said we needed the win last (Saturday) week and it was a very, very tough match. We ground it out in Belfast and got the win that we needed. It has given us a little bit of confidence going into this weekend now and it gave us a bit of a pep in our step.”

Like their opponents this weekend, Connacht are able to call on a host of international players, both past and present. Fryday, Laura Feely, Edel McMahon, Anne-Marie O’Hora, Nicole Fowley, teenage sensation Beibhinn Parsons and Alison Miller all featured for Ireland in the 2019 Women’s Six Nations Championship.

Vice-captain Mary Healy and Mairead Coyne have also been capped in the past, although the latter is part of the Galway squad that faces Dublin in the All-Ireland Senior Ladies Football Championship final at Croke Park on Sunday.

Miller did call time on her international career in March, but remains a key figure in Connacht’s back-three. She has also taken on the role of assistant coach for Connacht’s Interprovincial campaign, and Fryday is delighted to have the Laois native on board in a dual capacity.

“It has been great to have Ali in. She’s just brought that bit of experience. That voice in the background that helps settle newer girls, with nerves and stuff like that. Also, to bring a bit of experience of these high pressure games. To have her within the squad is a huge boost to us.”

An Agricultural Science graduate, Fryday currently works as a customer care specialist with Kerry Foods in Naas. A round trip of just under 400 kilometres for both club and provincial commitments can take its toll, but the camaraderie within the Connacht squad is making it all worthwhile for the Offaly native. 

“It’s a demanding job, but I love it and they’re brilliant down there. They’ve helped me so much the last few weeks with anything I needed for rugby. The last few weeks have been tough.

“I felt the effects of all the driving, but I’ve really enjoyed this season with Connacht and whenever I have any doubts when I’m in the car, ‘why am I driving?’, I just go to a training session and I know why I’m there.

“I really love the group of girls that are down there and I really enjoy the trainings that we’ve had this year. Any doubts I’ve had are pushed firmly back whenever I get to the sessions,” she insisted.

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Iron Games Launch: Jack O’Shea & Barney Rock – The Evening Herald – September 11 2019

I’d start Walsh because Dubs can’t handle him says Kerry legend Jacko

Daire Walsh

Kerry legend Jack O’Shea believes Dublin’s inability to counteract the threat of a rejuvenated Tommy Walsh could help the Kingdom to get over the line in Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC final replay.

Having dropped off the panel following the completion of the 2016 National League, Walsh returned to the inter-county scene this year.

His appearance as a second-half substitute in last Sunday week’s draw encounter injected fresh life into the Kerry challenge and O’Shea feels the Kerins O’Rahilly’s man has done enough to earn a starting place.

“I’d definitely start Tommy Walsh if I was involved. The reason I’d start him is because I think Dublin don’t have a player to mark him. I’d definitely start him from the beginning. That’d be my theory on it. Whether they do or they don’t, I don’t know,” O’Shea said.

“People are saying, ‘Tommy Walsh, you bring him on for 20 minutes’. But why can’t you start him? He might last for the 70 minutes. He could last for 60 minutes.

“The way he’s been playing the last few games, the ball is going into him and he’s winning them or getting to them.

“He will create panic. He’ll also create a headache for Dublin, who they’re going to put onto him.”

O’Shea was in Croke Park yesterday with former on-pitch rivals Barney Rock (Dublin) and David Beggy (Meath) to launch the inaugural Iron Games – held later this month to raise vital funds for the Irish Haemochromatosis Association (IHA).

After being quite positive about Kerry’s chances in the build-up to their original clash, O’Shea maintained they are still capable of stopping Dublin’s ‘drive for five’.

“I think they missed a chance of winning the game the last day. They were lucky in the end because Dublin had two or three chances.

HAPPY

“I was very happy leaving Croke Park, because I have actually felt all this year that Kerry have been getting better with every game.

“Dublin are saying some of their big players didn’t perform, but why didn’t they perform? Jim Gavin has a question now this week – did these fellas have a bad day, or where they outplayed? I thought Kerry had a good game plan in place and for 65 minutes they were really there with a great chance and put themselves in a great position.

“They’ll have gained confidence from the last day that they can get up there and compete.

“They have asked the questions of Dublin, and Dublin showed huge character to come back into the game because it looked like it was going away from them with 14 men.

“The extra man of course was a huge help in the second half and I think Kerry will have gained experience from that.”

While the presence of his son Dean in the Dublin attack ensured Rock was understandably coy throughout the event, he did draw on his own experience of replays in the past.

En route to his sole All-Ireland triumph in 1983, he was part of a Sky Blues side that edged out Cork in a semi-final replay down in Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

However, he suffered heartbreak at the hands of Meath eight years later – when the Royals squeezed past their Leinster rivals in an epic four-game saga at GAA HQ.

BRILLIANT

“Certainly the ’83 one was great for us because it was the first time we were ever out of Croke Park.

“We went down there and we’d a great weekend.

:The result was brilliant, the day was brilliant. I can’t say the same about ’91,” Rock remembered.

“In ’91 we had a great chance to win all the matches. We missed a penalty in the last one, Keith Barr.

“We were four points up and at the time I was on the sideline and I said to the lads ‘listen tell him to pop it over the bar. Because if he puts it over the bar, there’s five points in it and Meath have to score three times to beat us’.

“Instead of that, we went for the score and all of a sudden Meath went down and got 1-2. Had we put it over the bar, it would have been [another] drawn match.”

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Iron Games Launch: Jack O’Shea – The Irish Independent – September 11 2019

Tommy Walsh threat gives Kingdom a real chance, insists legendary Jack O’Shea

Daire Walsh

Kerry legend Jack O’Shea believes Dublin’s inability to counteract the threat of a rejuvenated Tommy Walsh could help the Kingdom to get over the line in Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC final replay.

Having dropped off the panel following the completion of the 2016 National League, Walsh returned to the inter-county scene this year. His appearance as a second-half substitute the drawn encounter injected fresh life into the Kerry challenge and O’Shea feels the Kerins O’Rahillys man has done enough to earn a starting berth.

“I’d definitely start Tommy Walsh if I was involved. The reason I’d start him is because I think Dublin don’t have a player to mark him. I’d definitely start him from the beginning. That’d be my theory on it. Whether they do or they don’t, I don’t know,” O’Shea said.

“People are saying, ‘Tommy Walsh, you bring him on for 20 minutes’. But why can’t you start him? He might last for the 70 minutes. He could last for 60 minutes. The way he’s been playing the last few games, the ball is going into him and he’s winning them or getting to them. He will create panic. He’ll also create a headache for Dublin, who they’re going to put onto him.”

O’Shea was in Croke Park with former on-pitch rivals Barney Rock (Dublin) and David Beggy (Meath) to launch the inaugural Iron Games – which is being held later this month to raise funds for the Irish Haemochromatosis Association (IHA).

After being quite positive about Kerry’s chances in the build-up to their original clash, O’Shea maintained they are still capable of stopping Dublin’s ‘drive for five’.

“I think they missed a chance of winning the game [the last day], they were lucky in the end because Dublin had two or three chances,” O’Shea added.

“I was very happy leaving Croke Park, because I have felt all this year that Kerry have been getting better with every game.”

Posted in Gaelic Football | Comments Off on Iron Games Launch: Jack O’Shea – The Irish Independent – September 11 2019

Dublin Minor ‘A’ Football Championship Group Three: Ballymun Kickhams V Naomh Mearnog – The Evening Herald – September 10 2019

‘MUN GET OFF TO A WINNING START

Second-half goals from Bolger and Hosey steer Kickhams to victory over battling Mearnog lads

DUBLIN MFC ‘A’ GROUP 3

BALLYMUN KICKHAMS…………………………….2-11

NAOMH MEARNOG…………………………………0-14

Daire Walsh

ROBBIE Bolger and Daragh Hosey grabbed second-half goals at Pairc Ciceam on Sunday morning to give Ballymun Kickhams a winning start to their Dublin Minor ‘A’ Football Championship Group 3 campaign.

There was little to separate the ‘Mun from their opponents, Naomh Mearnog, for the majority of the contest with the lead changing hands on a multitude of occasions.

Their Portmarnock counterparts brought a slender lead into the interval and subsequently found themselves one point in front (0-11 to 0-10) with just seven minutes remaining.

However, having survived some nervy moments in defence, ‘Mun pounced for a brace of majors in the closing stages to ultimately squeezed past the challenge of Mearnog.

Just four years on from a serious illness that required open heart surgery, Mark Leonard played a starring role in defence for the triumphant home side – his piercing run serving as the catalyst for Hosey’s crucial three-pointer.

This was the second competitive meeting between these two teams, following their previous showdown at the same venue on June 30. Mearnog had seven points to spare over ‘Mun (2-14 to 0-13) in that Division Two clash and were aiming for a repeat result on their return to Collinstown Lane.

They deployed Tom Cosgrove in a deep-lying role at the heart of their defence with Cian Hill taking up a similar position for Kickhams at the opposite end. The early exchanges proved to be quite tentative and clear-cut opportunities in general play were initially few and far between.

Mearnog centre-forward Josh Phillips broke the deadlock with a second-minute pointed free, before Cillian Doyle did likewise for the hosts. Rather than completely burdening Phillips with placed-ball duties, Mearnog utilised the right boot of corner-forward Davi Dennehy to great effect.

He added scores in the ninth and 12 minutes respectively to provide the visitors with some breathing space. Nevertheless, ‘Mun gradually came to terms with their task and impressively turned the tables on Mearnog either side of the first-quarter mark.

After Doyle and Ryan Murphy contributed quick-fire points, half-forward Corey Power became the fourth player to convert a free in the opening period. Midfielder Ciaran McManus also found the target for a rampant ‘Mun, who count their own club senior footballer Fiach Andrews amongst their management team.

Just when the tide appeared to be turning against Mearnog, they responded with an outstanding scoring blitz. Five points without reply – including 0-2 salvos for Dennehy and marauding wing-back Ronan Patterson – meant they were back in the driving seat approaching the break.

A Power free helped Kickhams to settle again, but they were still facing into a 0-6 to 0-8 deficit when the action resumed.

Even though Doyle and Murphy restored parity with unanswered points, Dennehy and Phillips frees gave Mearnog a foothold in the play once again.

The influence of Phillips was beginning to grow and his fourth point of the day edged Mearnog a step closer to claiming the spoils.

Another Power effort pegged them back slightly, but ‘Mun netminder Ryan Flannery was forced to turn away goal-bound strikes from Dennehy and raiding corner-back Eoin Kelly.

Had either player rattled the net, it may well have been a decisive score for Mearnog. Instead, Ballymun were a galvanised outfit and fired 1-2 in quick succession to give themselves a firm grip on the proceedings.

In between Murphy and Doyle points, substitute Hosey drilled home at a tight left-hand angle. A brace of Phillips points reduced the gap to a bare minimum once more but when Hosey released Dublin minor Bolger for a run at goal, he made no mistake with a cool finish to the bottom corner.

Although a point courtesy of Mearnog replacement Jack Quinn set-up a tense finale, Ballymun had done enough to get over the line.

MATCH FILE

Scorers – Ballymun Kickhams: C Doyle 0-4 (4f), R Bolger, D Hosey 1-0 each, C Power (2f), R Murphy 0-3 each, C McManus 0-1. Naomh Mearnog: J Phillips 0-6 (4f), D Dennehy 0-5 (5f), R Patterson 0-2, J Quinn 0-1.

BALLYMUN KICKHAMS: R Flannery; D Brennan, S Parnell, S Lawlor; M Leonard, C Perkins, D Robertson; C McManus, P McMahon; C Moore, R Murphy, C Hill; R Bolger, C Doyle, C Power.

Subs: D Hosey for Moore (h-t), G Sheridan for Brennan (43).

NAOMH MEARNOG: K Morgan; E Kelly, R O’Loughlin, J Irwin; R Patterson, C Archer, F Radford McGovern; M O’Callaghan, A Hughes; T Cosgrove, J Phillips, R Gibson; D Dennehy, B Smith, L Wright.

Subs: D Maddock for Gibson (41), Z McCartney for Irwin (48), J Quinn for Smith (54).

MENTORS – Ballymun Kickhams: John Leonard, Fiach Andrews, Kevin Brady, Declan Bolger, Kenny Parnell. Naomh Mearnog: Dave Storey, Adrian Kavanagh, Tony Phillips.

Referee: Senan Finucane (Templeogue Synge Street).

WIDES – Ballymun Kickhams: 6 (3+3). Naomh Mearnog: 5 (1+4).

CONDITIONS: Dry throughout with only a slight breeze.

PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Ryan Murphy (Ballymun Kickhams).

Posted in Gaelic Football | Comments Off on Dublin Minor ‘A’ Football Championship Group Three: Ballymun Kickhams V Naomh Mearnog – The Evening Herald – September 10 2019

Rugby Column Number 164: The Kildare Nationalist – September 10 2019

RUGBY

Ireland wrap up World Cup preparations as Schmidt and Best say goodbye to Aviva

By Daire Walsh

JOE Schmidt and Rory Best received fitting Aviva Stadium send-offs on Saturday afternoon as Ireland defeated Wales for a second consecutive weekend in the Guinness Summer Series.

In the final home international for both head coach and team captain – as well as departing scrum specialist Greg Feek – the Green Army turned around a three-point interval deficit to claim a deserved 19-10 triumph. Following a deadlock-breaking try for Leinster full-back Rob Kearney, his provincial team-mates Tadhg Furlong and James Ryan subsequently crossed over on the resumption.

In addition to giving them a third warm-up victory in just four games, it also propelled Ireland to the top of the world rankings heading into the Rugby World Cup finals. While Schmidt acknowledged his native New Zealand remain the favourites for the tournament, it nevertheless is testament to the evolution of the squad over the course of his six years in charge.

Following the morale-boost of a win at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, the announcement of Schmidt’s 31-man selection for the tournament sparked considerable debate in the days leading up to Saturday’s test. Initially viewed as a dead cert to make the cut, the towering Devin Toner was a shock omission when Schmidt unveiled his squad last Monday week.

The presence of Jean Kleyn re-opened the thorny issue of ‘project players’, though it is simplistic to boil it down to a battle between the Munster man and Toner for a single second-row spot.

Kleyn’s ability to operate as a tighthead lock meant he was always likely to make it – even if his Leinster counterpart avoided the chop.

Given Rhys Ruddock and Eadestown’s Tadhg Beirne can cover the second-row and back-row departments, it could be argued that Schmidt has opted for their versatility instead of the 33-year-old Toner.

Nevertheless, with Ireland anticipating a long campaign, the potential of injuries could yet see the Meath men featuring in South Asia.

As regards the game at the weekend, Ireland’s bench power proved decisive in swinging the outcome during the second period of the contest. Dave Kilcoyne deputised for Cian Healy on the resumption, before eventually being joined by Sean Cronin and Andrew Porter in the front-row.

Iain Henderson and Rhys Ruddock also added considerably to the Irish pack, while Garry Ringrose, Jack Carty and Luke McGrath provided fresh impetus to the back-line.

A World Cup opener against Scotland awaits them on September 22 in Yokohama and Ireland will need to hit the ground running if they have designs on challenging for top honours at the tournament.

Athy native Joey Carbery has been included alongside Beirne in the World Cup squad and is already on the road to recovery from an ankle injury sustained in the warm-up win over Italy on August 10.

Meanwhile, Templeville Road on Dublin’s southside will be the destination for Kildare natives Meabh O’Brien and Jenny Murphy next Saturday afternoon as Leinster face Ulster in the semi-final of the Women’s Interprovincial Championship.

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Post-Wales Second World Cup Warm-Up Game: Rory Best – Irishrugby.ie – September 7 2019

Best Signs Off With Solid Win At ‘Incredibly Special’ Aviva Stadium

By Daire Walsh

Captain Rory Best waved an emotional goodbye to the Aviva Stadium this afternoon as Ireland completed the GUINNESS Summer Series with a deserved 19-10 triumph over Wales.

The Poyntzpass man is set to bring the curtain down on an illustrious career following the completion of the Rugby World Cup in Japan. Friends and family gathered to see the 37-year-old hooker leading out the team on the occasion of his 120th cap.

He was greeted with a standing ovation upon his withdrawal in the 53rd minute, before receiving another rapturous reception in the aftermath of the teams’ final World Cup warm-up match.

“It’s obviously incredibly special, this place,” Best said of the Lansdowne Road venue. “Like I said in that (on-field) interview, it has had some wonderful memories and some that you’ve had to use to try to be better. To get that reception from the supporters here…it’s nice for my mum and dad, and my young family and my wife to be in there and hear that.

“It’s nice to see that, probably over a fairly long period of time, you’ve done more things right than not. To get that appreciation is lovely, but ultimately it was about making sure that we were able to build on last week. It’s nice to get the standing ovation and the applause, but ultimately the performance and the result was far more important than that.”

While there is an element of certainty as to when Best will draw a close to this particular chapter in his life, the precise date of his final game will be determined by how Ireland perform as a whole in Japan.

After the frustration of a heavy reversal to England at Twickenham, Ireland got back to basics with a hard-fought 22-17 success in Cardiff against Wales last week. Alongside a host of frontliners, Best returned to the starting XV this afternoon for a repeat result at the expense of the Grand Slam champions.

The veteran Ulster front rower felt that last week’s team laid the foundations for what is needed going forward, and the squad will now be primed ahead of their departure from Dublin Airport on Wednesday.

I think the lads last week, they put a bit of a marker down as to where we expect the physicality to be. Where we expect that collective to be and we knew we needed to improve, take another step. I think that was another step today in terms of those aspects of the game.

“The sort of aspects that we pride ourselves on, that certainly in Twickenham and bits of the Six Nations we didn’t feel, as players, we were good enough in. We know we’ve a lot more in us and we know we’re going to have to produce a lot more.

“I think in terms of steps in the right direction, I think that’s a performance we can be happy with and get onto the plane on Wednesday with a bit of confidence. No doubt we’ll look back and we’ll look at the mistakes we made and, as always, we’ll try to get better.”

A winning send-off for Best, head coach Joe Schmidt and scrum coach Greg Feek was far from guaranteed at half-time, with Ireland trailing a strong Welsh side 10-7. This was put right on the resumption when sustained periods of controlled possession led to tries for Leinster duo Tadhg Furlong and James Ryan.

Best continued: “The start of the second half, I think we held onto possession a lot better. We were better at the breakdown and we controlled not just possession, but we controlled territory a lot better in the second half.

“I think that was the reaction that we wanted. We defended quite well, certainly at the start of the game. But you can’t sit and just defend against a team like Wales. You’ve got to get a hold of the ball and you’ve got to control it.”

Despite the presence of several Grand Slam winners – not to mention European Cup champions  – there was intense scrutiny on Ireland’s set of forwards for this last warm-up clash, most notably when it came to their lineout.

The set piece misfired early on but as the game went on, the home pack managed to secure enough ball to get Ireland on the front foot in attack. After Iain Henderson took on the role last Saturday, it was James Ryan’s turn to make the lineout calls in the return fixture.

The young Dubliner stood up to the challenge in a dynamic man-of-the-match display, and Best was pleased with the lineout’s progress, saying: “I think it’s great to have the options there. Obviously Hendy called last week, James Ryan called this week. You’ve Peter O’Mahony in there to come in.

“You’ve guys that can think their way through the game and it’s very important. It takes the pressure off and what it does is, it breathes confidence. I think that is the lineout, because you’re so interdependent on everyone else and when things start to go a bit jittery, you just need someone to stand up and be that figure to go, ‘right, this is what we’re going to do’.

“People just want to buy into it. I think James is very much becoming that person around our squad. Hendy, having called for us a bit now, is getting that. It’s an area of the game where you want it to be perfect. It’s not always going to be perfect, but you’ve got to be able to problem solve. You’ve got to be able to win the next moment.

“I think we talked about it in England, where it was disappointing to lose the lineouts we did. Probably the most disappointing thing was how we reacted off the back of it. Maro Itoje’s try, for example. To lose a lineout and then to score off the second phase. That’s not us trying to win the next play, that’s just us heads down, disappointed. I think we saw a lot better reaction today.”

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Post-Wales Second World Cup Warm-Up Game: Joe Schmidt – Irishrugby.ie – September 7 2019

Schmidt: We’re Incredibly Lucky With The Support We Have

By Daire Walsh

He may have led his side out for the final time at the Aviva Stadium today, but for Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt, the importance of the Rugby World Cup in Japan meant he could not get too wrapped up in the occasion.

A well-earned victory over Wales for the second weekend running provides Ireland with considerable momentum heading into their Pool A opener against Scotland on Sunday, September 22. Speaking afterwards, Schmidt’s post-match thoughts were already on that Yokohama clash.

“The focus of the World Cup is huge, so you’re immediately starting to think in terms of our next game,” he explained. “Obviously Scotland have had a couple of big wins against Georgia and a good win against France after doing similar to what we did against England, in not really being ready to go from the very start.

“That’s the nature of these pre-World Cup Test matches, where people are trialling combinations and people are at various stages of preparation. For me, it’s been good to take the emotion out of it, as emotionally connected as I am to the team and the performance to the Aviva Stadium and what it’s meant over the last 10 years.

“I was here at the first game of rugby with my kids watching an Under-20 game with the four provinces mixed into two teams. Ever since then I’ve had some really special experiences just being here and absorbing the atmosphere.

“It’s phenomenal for such an open stadium the volume of noise that gets created. We are incredibly lucky with the support that we have and that was very evident with the reception that Rory (Best) got coming off the pitch today.”

Indeed, the emotion Schmidt did allow himself in the minutes that followed this afternoon’s encounter was that of relief. Given how close the start of the Rugby World Cup is, he was pleased to see the majority of his troops coming through the game unscathed.

Cian Healy was withdrawn at half-time for a head injury assessment, and Keith Earls came off with a quad injury, but the Ireland boss was otherwise able to report a clean bill of health.

“After a game, relief is probably the primary emotion. Just because hopefully we’ve negotiated that. The boys who came off seemed in really good spirits. We’ve hopefully gotten through that unscathed. That’s always the most important thing. Then we’ve got a performance that we can be proud of, I think. The first quarter of the game we couldn’t hang onto the ball.

“I think we made 40 tackles as opposed to them having made six tackles in that early part of the game. I thought we did a really good job defensively and then we built our way into the game. I felt we dominated the last quarter. It wasn’t necessarily pretty to watch, but it was nice to get that result.”

On just his third appearance in an Ireland jersey, Schmidt felt that Jean Kleyn was ‘solid, not spectacular’. Nonetheless, he believes the Munster lock has the tools to become a key figure for Ireland in Japan, with the other second rows, including man-of-the-match James Ryan, adding their own unique flavours to the Irish pack.

“Jean’s a good man for us in the engine room. He can carry okay as well. He’s a big man. I think across the board there was a real work ethic out there today. It wasn’t flash, but it was functional. Sometimes when you’re building towards something you want functional. I think James Ryan is James Ryan really.

“He just keeps setting a bar for himself and then looking to jump a little bit higher. I thought Iain Henderson added some value and we’ve Tadhg Beirne too, so it’s going to be a good contest for those spots. They are four quite different profiles of second row. So it allows us a little flexibility in how we change up the game, during a game or from game-to-game.”

Schmidt also has a number of options in midfield as Bundee Aki, Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose and Chris Farrell are vying for the two starting berths. The old Connacht centre partnership of Aki and Henshaw received the nod on this occasion and repaid Schmidt’s faith with a pair of powerhouse performances.

“Those two know each other inside-out. They are good friends, they are good players together. I thought Robbie’s first carry, when he gets that ball in behind the line, Bundee knows exactly where to be and punches onto that ball really well. Instead of us just having a ruck on the edge of our 22, suddenly we’re going forward to the next ruck.

“Defensively they got to space. I do think that our midfield defence with those two was really strong as well. We’d have real confidence in all four midfielders we have, especially that they are very good defenders. They are going to compete for spots.

“Some of it is about the combinations, and the fact that Bundee and Robbie know each other well. Then Robbie and Garry Ringrose have been playing together for Leinster and they know each other well. Chris Farrell has never let us down, so there’s a mix there.”

A number of firsts have been achieved by this Ireland squad over the course of Schmidt’s coaching reign. Victories against the southern Hemisphere giants of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa spring to mind, while 2015 saw them retain the Six Nations title for the first time in 66 years.

Another milestone was ticked off the list today with Ireland’s return to form propelling them to the number one position in the World Rugby Rankings. Although he sees it a notable feat for Ireland, Schmidt still believes his native New Zealand will be the team to beat at the tournament in Japan.

“I didn’t even realise that we were (number one in the rankings) until I did an interview after the game. That’s how far away from our thoughts it’s been. It’s a label, it’s a nice label to get and it’s a nice…first time that we’ve been in that position.

“We have been lucky enough to tick a few firsts off with this group in the last six years. But that label is not going to be relevant to anyone. We all know who the favourites are for the Rugby World Cup, and it’s not us.”

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