Ulster’s underage squads completed a brilliant weekend’s hockey as they claimed all four of the interprovincial titles on offer in Dublin this weekend, losing just one game across the U-18 and U-16 tournaments.
It meant Leinster had to settle for second in three of the competitions with the U-18 girls edged into third by Connacht on goal difference.
On the boy’s side, the key match at U-16 level turned out to be Leinster’s 2-1 defeat to Munster on Sunday morning. The three-team event looked poised for a final game decider between Ulster and the blues on Saturday evening. David Cole’s goal had earned a share of the spoils in the first series of games against Ulster, 1-1.
But Scott Sullivan’s brace denied Leinster that shot as the southerners grabbed a 2-1 win, their first points of the tournament. It made their battle with Ulster an uphill battle as they needed to pick up a 2-0 win to take the title.
Railway’s Jeremy Duncan did notch his third goal of the weekend but the boys in blue could not find the elusive second goal and, despite losing 1-0, Ulster won back the trophy by a single goal on goal difference.
At U-18 level, Ulster needed just to avoid a four-goal loss in the final game to retain the title and it never looked likely to materialise as Stephen Dowds netted for a ninth time in four outings – firing two hat-tricks on Saturday in the 3-1 win over Leinster and 5-2 defeat of Munster. Dowds was a major star along with Ian Sloan in a creative midfield role.
In the U-18 girls event, Ulster were the dominant force throughout and any possible overnight fretting was dispelled with comfortable wins over both title rivals Connacht (2-0) and Leinster (4-0).
The latter match had the outside chance of handing the trophy to Leinster should they rack up a 4-0 win of their own. The score was right but in favour of the opposing team as Joanne Orr and last year’s U-16 skipper Leah Ewart both picked off a double.
Aisling Naughton’s pair against South East in a 4-1 had handed Leinster their outside chance.
Leinster U-16s came much closer to their respective crown as any sort of win would have seen them raise the silverware. Kate McQuillian, though, snatched the only goal of the game to ensure the title stayed in Ulster.
Lucy McKee, a star of the 2008 interpro vintage, once again was in flying form up front, netting six times over the weekend.
* For Adrian Boehm’s photos from Saturday of the U-16 girls competition, click here. For the U-18 girls, click here. For Sunday’s U-18 boys, click here and for the U-16 boys, click here