The Irish Under-18s may have won the tournament but Leinster, as the top placed province, retained the silverware from the Under-21 interpros as the best placed of the three competing regions.
For Leinster, the key game proved their opening 3-2 win over the Irish Under-18s, keeping at bay a number of corners to hold on for the results after Ben McCrea, Geoff Cole and Keith O’Hare had helped them to build a 3-1 advantage.
They subsequently drew 2-2 against Munster on Saturday and ran up the same scoreline on Sunday against Ulster. Indeed, Leinster had the chance to overhaul the Irish Under-18s in the final match of the competition but blew a 2-0 lead against Ulster to draw 2-2.
Indeed, Leinster were in the box seat at half-time on Sunday thanks to a 2-0 lead. David Nolan flicked them into the lead after Geoff Cole’s brilliant run eliminated three defenders while his shot opened up a handy rebound chance.
James Walker then banged in a second from the move of the game, latching on to Stu Ronan’s first time pass from Richard Couse’s cross.
The second half was ragged, though, and while Leinster made most of the chances, Ulster took those that came their way. Ryan Getty slotted in a lifeline from the second phase of a penalty corner and Daniel Nelson made it 2-2 with 11 minutes left.
It was route one stuff, an 80 metre ball down the left sideline reached him and, having beaten his marker to the ball, he raced in unopposed into the circle to fire home.
For the Irish Under-18s, perhaps due to their increased time together during the summer, they showed a far greater sense of cohesion than the other squads and deservedly topped the four-team competition.
After Friday’s loss to Leinster, they bounced back with a 4-3 win over Ulster. They closed out the competition with a 6-0 win over Munster.
Matthew Nelson was a star man and he opened the scoring before Harry MacMahon slapped in a second. Two goals from David Rae, a lovely team goal finished by Gavin Gibney and another Nelson effort closed out this group’s international year.
Like the women, from this tournament, an Irish panel will be selected by Johnny Caren with a view toward an international six nations tournament in Valencia at the end of October.
Friday: Ulster 2 (S Murray, L Witherow) Munster 1 (J Dale); Leinster 3 (B McCrea, G Cole, K O’Hare) Ireland U-18s 2 (G Sarratt, M Crookshanks)
Saturday: Ireland U-18s 4 (G Sarratt, D Mawhinny, J Guilfoyle, D Lynch) Ulster 3 (R Poots, D Nelson, L Witherow); Leinster 2 (G Cole, K O’Hare) Munster 2 (M Jennings, B Keoghan-O’Keeffe)
Sunday: Ireland U-18s 6 (M Nelson 2, D Rae 2, G Gibney, H MacMahon) Munster Hockey 0; Ulster 2 (R Getty, D Nelson) Leinster 2 (D Nolan, J Walker)
Standings: 1. Ireland U-18s 6pts (+6) 2. Leinster 5pts (+1) 3. Ulster 4pts (0) 4. Munster 1pt (-7)