Ulster’s junior sides claimed an interpro double in dramatic fashion with their men coming back from 3-0 down against Leinster to nick a vital draw while the women prevailed on goal difference.
On the men’s side, Ulster drew first blood in Stormont with a 2-0 win over the blues. The northerners started powerfully and were rewarded with a goal on 15 minutes when skipper Davy Atkinson drove the ball into the circle for Johnny Aiken to deflect home.
Leinster steadied the ship and had a couple of short corners which Matt McRoberts saved but Ulster – after a couple of sin-binnings – doubled up when back to the full complement and extended their lead with quick counter-attack.
Stuart Todd picked out Bill Malcolmson high up the pitch and he hammered the ball into the top corner on the reverse.
Leinster bounced back from the Ulster defeat with a big 5-0 win over Munster. The southerners held their own for much of the first half, forcing a number of chances from the short corner set piece which they just could not put away.
Goals by Stuart Malcolm, Billy McEnery, Brendan Parsons, Steven Roberts, and Herbie Hudson Fowler gave Leinster a 5-0 win in the second half.
Ulster ended the day with two wins from two, but boy were they made to work for it. Two goals up at half time thanks to a double from David Atkinson, they were hit by a flying Munster response in the second period which saw the southerners go 3-2 in the lead with ten minutes to go.
David Smith hit a double before Cian Kavanagh – an incredible over the shoulder finish whilst on his knees and surrounded – put the men in red ahead with a powerful strike. Back came Ulster and Bill Malcolmson smashed home a quickfire brace to keep Ulster unbeaten at the end of day one.
On day two, Leinster got out of the blocks with a 2-0 win over Munster to give themselves a fighting chance of the title with a keenly fought victory over Munster in the early morning game.
Temperatures were sapping as the two teams grappled for the win and it was Leinster who emerged with all the points after goals by the excellent Hudson Fowler and skipper Shane Dempsey.
Game two on day two pitted the two teams leading the title charge against each other. Leinster knew that anything other than a win would take the contest out of their hands and they raced to a three-goal lead just into the second half thanks to a hat trick from instrumental captain Dempsey, all from the short corner set piece.
However, four closely-contested games in two days soon began to have an effect on the blue province and Ulster came back into the match.
Mitchell Greer was key for the northerners as he used exquisite skills to set up Bill Malcolmson and then Steven Stewart for goals before deflecting home another himself to give his team a share of the points.
It meant Ulster needed a draw to secure their second interprovincial title in a row. In soaring temperatures, both teams played some excellent hockey but it was Ulster who got the goals when the opportunities fell their way.
The on-form Mitch Greer scored first before Johnny Aiken forced the ball over the line to make it 2-0 at half time.
Munster continued to push for a way back into the game which allowed Greer the space to cap a fantastic tournament with another goal, forcing the ball over the line from close in.
On the women’s side, Frankie Brown’s second half penalty stroke in the final game of the weekend earned Ulster a 1-0 win over Leinster that saw them snatch the title on goal difference.
Leinster had won three games in succession on 1-0 scorelines, starting their campaign with a win over Munster courtesy of a Sam Willis goal.
They closed out day one with a 1-0 success over the South East to close out the day with six points and two clean sheets. It had them top overnight as Munster beat Ulster 3-2 with the South East also in contention with a 1-0 win over Connacht on their record.
Aideen McGuinness’s goal against Connacht extended Leinster’s run to three 1-0 wins from three. Munster’s challenge was bolstered by a 4-0 morning win over the South East but fell away in their final game when Connacht hit them for a 4-1 result.
Ulster kept their interest in the trophy with Rebecca McCallion’s goal earning them a 1-0 win over South East. It brought the competition down to the final game of the weekend in the sweltering heat.
The northern province won a stroke with 12 minutes to go that was saved but they won another with precious little time remaining which Brown flicked home for the weekend’s defining goal.
Men’s Junior Interpros
Day one: Ulster 2 Leinster 0; Munster 0 Leinster 5; Munster 3 Ulster 4
Day two: Leinster 2 Munster 0; Ulster 3 Leinster 3; Ulster 3 Munster 0
Standings: 1. Ulster 10pts (+6) 2. Leinster 7pts (+5) 3. Munster 0pts (-11)
Women’s Junior Interpros
Day one: Connacht 0 Ulster 2; Leinster 1 Munster 0; South East 1 Connacht 0; Ulster 2 Munster 3; South East 0 Leinster 1
Day two: Munster 4 South East 0; Connacht 0 Leinster 1; Ulster 1 South East 0; Connacht 4 Munster 1; Ulster 1 Leinster 0
Standings: 1. Ulster 9pts (+3) 2. Leinster 9pts (+2) 3. Munster 6pts (+1) 4. Connacht 3pts (-1) 5. South East 3pts (-5)