Ulster retained both the men’s and women’s U-21 interprovincial titles at Grange Road, getting the better of Leinster in both tournaments’ key matches.
On the men’s side, wins for both Ulster (3-0) and Leinster (3-2) over Munster made the final game of the three-game blitz a straight showdown for the title with the northern province having the slight edge on goal difference.
They soon made it a very clear advantage when Neil Hamilton netted from the flick spot but Jacob Webber netted his second of the tournament from a corner to level matters in the 12th minute.
A cagey battle ensued with Leinster holding the ball for long periods but largely in their own half while Ulster looked the more threatening outfit.
As it was, the blues took the lead early in the second half when Andrew Ward’s razor-sharp reaction bunted home after Tim Hill’s baseline run saw the ball fly up into the Monkstown man’s path.
But Ulster slowly began to turn the screw with Jason Lynch’s tussle with David Robinson one of the game’s highlights. David Ames became more influential too at right midfield as Timmy Smyth deflected in for 2-2 with a quarter hour left.
On the women’s side, the key game occurred on Saturday when Ulster beat Leinster 1-0. The two sides were the stand-out performers all weekend but the northerners showed a greater all round togetherness to their play to retain the title.
Hannah McMillan’s 11th minute strike – one of five she scored over the two days – was the difference in that game and Ulster duly beat the rest of the competition with a degree of comfort: Munster (3-0), South East (6-0) and Connacht (4-0).
Leinster ended the weekend in second with three wins to their name. They opened up with a 4-0 win over Connacht, Kate McKenna, Nicci Daly, Nikki Evans and Anna O’Flanagan on target.
There was interprovincial success, though, for Leinster in the men’s junior competition as they completed the competition with three wins from three.
Shane Dooley’s single goal was enough to beat Connacht in the tournament’s opening game at Lisnagarvey. Munster ended the first day at the head of the table, though, as they proceeded to win the day’s next two games – 3-2 against Ulster courtesy of a double by Fingal man Chris Neville and 4-1 against Connacht with Railway’s Mark Egner also bagging a brace.
But the blues took over as the major force on Sunday afternoon when they built up an early 2-0 lead over the southerners, thanks to Phil Ryan and Naas man Kieran Davenport’s two goals in three minutes. Neville pulled one back but Clontarf’s Rob Kelly stretched the lead to 3-1.
It meant a win over Ulster would confirm the title and they duly obliged, Davenport and Navan’s Eamon Lynskey wrapping up a 2-0 win.
Meanwhile, there was plenty of photos taken over the weekend. For Adrian Boehm’s pictures from the U-21 men, click here, and from the U-21 women, click here. For Emer and John Keogh’s pictures of the women’s tournament, click here while Stephen Findlater’s pictures of the U-21 men’s match between Leinster and Ulster are here. Stephen West’s photos of the tournament are here.