Ben O’Grady’s drag-flick four minutes from full-time earned Leinster’s Under-18s a dramatic schoolboys interprovincial title at Grange Road, whipping home for a crucial fourth goal in a 4-1 win over Munster.
It capped a pulsating weekend of action, getting the boys in blue the three-goal margin they needed to edge out Ulster and land the title at Grange Road by a single strike on goal difference.
On Friday, Leinster had begun in fine fashion, nabbing a 2-2 draw against Ulster with all the goals coming in the first half before goals from Matteo Romoli and Jake Pillow handed the blues a 2-0 win over Munster.
Ulster, however, bounced back for the lead in the standings with a 2-1 win over Munster, Jack Haycock and Matt Milliken’s goals earning the result. They followed up with a 2-0 win over Leinster with Harry Morris netting two penalty corner rebounds in the second half.
That put them three points clear of the table and only needing a draw on Sunday to retain their crown. Munster, however, were inspired and a pair of Andrew Salter goals put the southern province two goals up against Ulster, the latter a brilliant high volley from Quinten Eacrett’s cross in the third quarter.
Milliken pulled one back from a corner but he could not prevent a first loss to Munster for Ulster since 2013. It left the northern province nervously watching on with Leinster needing a three-goal win to take the title out of their hands.
Harry Lynch got Leinster up and running against Munster in the 16th minute with a scintillating goal, gaining possession 80-metres from goal before racing up the pitch, exchanging passes and slotting home.
Rob McCollum squeezed in a second a minute later to put Leinster within touching distance and they had the requisite scoreline when Jake Pillow’s right wing cross found its way in for 3-0 with 24 minutes to go.
Ben Johnson, however, got one back from Munster to swing the title back into Ulster’s grasp for much of the second half. That was until Leinster earned the late set-piece that O’Grady dragged home for a famous win.
At Under-16 level, Ulster completed an unbeaten weekend to win their inteprovincial crown. Crucially, they came from 2-0 at half-time on Friday afternoon against Leinster with Troy Chambers slamming home twice while Eddie Rowe also got in on the act for a 3-2 success.
Leinster ended day one with two losses as Munster scored twice in the closing three minutes to stun the blues once again, Kevin O’Dea and Ian Balding scoring one each in a 2-1 success.
Ulster backed up their opening success with a 4-3 win over Munster on Saturday, building a 4-1 lead through Chambers, Stewart Wylie, Tim McClintock and Max Taylor. A 2-1 win over Leinster put them in an almost unassailable position at the end of Saturday’s play.
And they sealed the deal on Sunday morning with a 2-2 draw against Munster. Chambers opened the scoring with a penalty stroke only for O’Dea to level in the 18th minute. DJ Erskine and O’Dea exchanged goals for 2-2 at half-time in a rip-roaring affair but no further strikes in the second half meant the northern province had the result they needed.
Munster and Leinster shared a 1-1 draw in the final match of the tournament, an incredibly close one in which no game had more than a goal in the final results.
Friday, September 22
U-16: Leinster 2 (A Walker, B Hickmott) Ulster 3 (T Chambers 2, E Rowe); Leinster 1 (B Hickmott) Munster 2 (K O’Dea, I Balding)
U-18: Leinster 2 (H Burns, A Empey) Ulster 2 (H Morris, J Haycock); Leinster 2 (M Romoli, J Pillow) Munster 0
U-16: Ulster 4 (T McClintock, M Taylor, T Chambers, S Wylie) Munster 3 (K O’Dea 2, C Sparling); Ulster 2 (C Quinn, M Aughey) Leinster 1 (T Power)
U-18: Ulster 2 (J Haycock, M Milliken) Munster 1 (B Johnson); Ulster 2 (H Morris 2) Leinster 0
U-16: Munster 2 (K O’Dea 2) Ulster 2 (T Chambers, DJ Erskine); Munster 1 (S Ryan) Leinster 1 (R Spencer)
U-18: Munster 2 (A Salter 2) Ulster 1 (M Milliken);) Munster 1 (B Johnson) Leinster 4 (H Lynch, R McCollum, J Pillow B O’Grady)
Under-16: 1. Ulster 10pts (+3) 2. Munster 7pts (0) 3. Leinster 2pts (-3)
Under-18: 1. Leinster 8pts (+3) 2. Ulster 8pts (+2) 3. Munster 3pts (-2)