Irish men line out on home soil for first time in two years; Connery back for women

Ireland’s men play their first game on home soil since June 2012 this weekend as they take on Wales in a pair of international ties at Belfield with Craig Fulton casting his eye over a much-changed squad.

Nine players have been brought in with five stepping out from the panel that played in the Champions Challenge I in Malaysia in May following an extensive training group got together last weekend.

Mitch Darling returns to the Irish men after missing CC1  due to exams Pic: Adrian Boehm

Mitch Darling returns to the Irish men after missing CC1 due to exams Pic: Adrian Boehm

Experienced players like Conor Harte, Mikie Watt, Mitch Darling, Peter Caruth, Shane O’Donoghue and Stu Loughrey are back in the panel having missed the CC1 with a mixture of injury and exam issues.

Following an ankle injury, Stephen Cole – who played in last August’s European championships – and goalkeeper Stephen West are also back in the panel, taking the place of David Harte, Stephen Dowds, Eugene Magee, Philip Brown and Richie Shaw in this latest selection.

It will act as coach Craig Fulton’s first full selection in his own right having admitted that he had precious little time to put together his panel prior to CC1 which started just two weeks after he had taken up office.

Speaking about the squad selected, he said the volume of changes indicates positive things: “The depth in the Senior men’s squad is good and I have chosen a twenty two man squad to play Wales this weekend. The national camp last weekend went well and we are looking forward to the test matches.”

The following weekend, Ireland will play host to England in a two-test series before travelling to the Investec London Cup where his side will meet South Africa, Scotland and England at the Olympic Park.

On Thursday night, meanwhile, Ireland’s Under-21 side will play Wales at UCD at 7pm as part of the side’s preparations for their European championships which start on July 14.

“The boys have been working extremely hard, on the pitch, in the gym and on the track,” coach Johnny Caren said of the panel. “This test against the Welsh men’s national team will be a good indicator as to how far we have come as a squad and will highlight any areas that we have to focus on in our final camp next week in Cork.

“Competing against a senior men’s team will stand some of these players in good stead in preparing for playing the likes of Russia and Ukraine during our group stage in Lousada, as they are renowned for having a physical presence during their games.”

There are a number of changes from the Irish panel that competed in a Four Nations tournament in Belfast earlier this year with Jamie Carr, Mark Loughrey, Owen Magee, Ross Canning and Jeremy Duncan among the changes.

Darragh Walsh is a bolter and will join Canning – his coach at Under-16 level at Three Rock in the season just completed – Caren’s selection.

The Irish women, meanwhile, are playing in Mori, Italy in a Three Nations tournament that gets underway on Thursday. Aine Connery’s first inclusion for 15 months is the headline while Hannah Matthews is likely to make her debut.

Nicci Daly and Emma Gray return to the squad while Emily Beatty, Chloe Brown, Shirley McCay, Ayeisha McFerran and Katie Mullan are withdrawn from the side that lost their series to Scotland last weekend.

Aine Connery is back in the Irish women's panel for the first time in 15 months Pic: Adrian Boehm

Aine Connery is back in the Irish women’s panel for the first time in 15 months Pic: Adrian Boehm

Ireland Squad for Wales Series (22 players from which 18 will be selected for each match): Alan Sothern (Pembroke), Bruce McCandless (Banbridge), Chris Cargo (Reading), Conor Harte (Royal Club de Racing Bruxelles), David Carson (Monkstown), David Fitzgerald (Monkstown), Drew Carlisle (Banbridge), John Jackson (Reading), Jonny Bell (Lisnagarvey), Kirk Shimmins (UCD), Kyle Good (Dragons), Michael Robson (Annadale), Mikie Watt (Surbiton), Mitch Darling (Three Rock Rovers), Maurice Elliott (Pembroke Wanderers), Paul Gleghorne (Instonians), Peter Caruth (Monkstown), Shane O’Donoghue (Dragons), Stephen West (Three Rock Rovers), Stephen Cole (Monkstown), Stuart Loughrey (Cannock), Timmy Cockram (Lisangarvey)

Saturday, June 28: Ireland v Wales, 3pm
Sunday, June 29: Ireland v Wales, 3pm

Ireland Under-21 men vs Wales: Mark Ingram (Pembroke), Jamie Carr (Monkstown), Lee Cole (Monkstown, Captain), Matthew Bell (Banbridge, Vice Captain), James Lorimer (Lisnagarvey), Mark Loughrey (Pembroke), Darragh Walsh (Three Rock Rovers), Peter McKibbin (Annadale), Nick Burns (UCD), Sean Murray (Lisnagarvey), Peter Brown (UCD), Neal Glassey (Mossley), Ben Cosgrove (Dundee), Jamie Wright (Portadown), Johnny McKee (Banbridge), Owen Magee (Banbridge), Ross Canning (UCD), Jeremy Duncan (UCD)

Thursday, June 27: Ireland Under-21 vs Wales, 7pm

Ireland panel for 3 Nations in Italy, June 25-29: Naomi Carroll (Catholic Institute), Aine Connery (Hermes), Nicci Daly (Holcombe), Kate Dillon (Railway Union), Deirdre Duke (UCD), Nikki Evans (UCD), Megan Frazer (Captain, Holcombe), Emma Gray (GK, Hermes), Hannah Matthews (Loreto), Stella Davis (GK, Pembroke Wanderers), Ali Meeke (Loreto), Yvonne O’Byrne (Cork Harlequins), Anna O’Flanagan (UCD), Audrey O’Flynn (Hermes), Gillian Pinder (UCD), Cliodhna Sargent (vice-captain, Cork Harlequins), Emma Smyth (Railway Union), Alex Speers (Railway Union), Vanessa Surgeoner (Pegasus), Chloe Watkins (Club De Campo)

Tri-Nations, Mori, Italy (Ireland/Wales/Italy)
Thursday, June 26:
 Ireland vs Italy, 5.30pm
Friday, June 27: Ireland vs Wales, 5.30pm
Sunday, June 29: Ireland vs Italy, 3pm (Test match)

Partners of The Hook