Jeremy Duncan alluded to the fact in post-tournament acceptance speech but Leinster pulled off one of the unlikeliest U-18 and U-16 Interprovincial doubles at St Andrew’s.
The 18s captain’s side were all but out of the competition after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Ulster – Ross Canning cancelling out an Adam Fallis goal – despite a 9-1 victory over Munster.
It left just one sequence of results which would break Ulster’s three year winning streak; the red hands falling to Munster and the blues getting a second success over the southern province.
But that transpired in incredible fashion as Munster’s U-18 boys picked up a memorable 1-0 victory to set up the day.
Andrew Colton’s drag-flick from his side’s only corner of the game late in the game, awarded after Nathan Eacrett was cleaned out, proved the winner.
For so long, Ulster looked to be in control, winning several first half penalty corners but were continually denied by Daniel Moore who performed heroics between the posts. Colton and Richard Sweetnam were also excellent as they continued to frustrate the northern side before taking the lead from a rare counter.
Both post and bar came to their rescue before Fred McElroy’s body twice came between Ulster and a winning equaliser. It led to a penalty stroke with less than ten seconds left on the clock but the pressure-fuelled environment saw the shot skim off the post and out to hand Munster the win and Leinster the lifeline.
It was duly grasped with both hands as Jordan Sutton got Leinster off to a flier against a flagging Munster in their second tie of the day. Jonathan Roberts rebounded after Duncan broke through and David Cole dragged in a third to ease any nerves. Sutton added another pair while Cole got his second to copper-fasten the victory in the second half before Nathan Eacrett and David Whitaker got consolation goals in a 9-2 final result.
Earlier in the day, Leinster’s U-16s continued their excellent form at youth level with a fifth title in six years. On Saturday, their title hopes looked to be rocked as Ulster produced a brilliant performance to run up a 2-0 victory but they were ultimately left to rue Hugh Lavery’s superb performance.
But for the Sandford goalkeeper, the damage might have been much greater as Ulster created plenty of chances. Thanks to Friday’s 1-0 win over Ulster and a rampaging 6-0 win over Munster on Saturday morning, it left Leinster ahead going into day three on goal difference by three goals.
Again, there was a helping hand from Munster as Julian Dale continued his fine scoring form with a fourth of the tournament as his side fell to a 6-3 loss but did enough to leave Leinster needing any sort of win over Munster in the tournament’s final game.
Doubles for Luke Madeley and Jack Ryan – two of the key men all weekend along with a towering show from David Nolan in midfield – saw them net a 4-1 victory to claim the title.
Madeley’s pair brought his tally to four drag-flicks in the competition while Ryan also got four, his pair in the final game were expertly taken, roofing the first sharply while his second – the side’s third – came from the narrowest of angles as he spotted a gap as Munster scrambled to realign their defences.
U-18 Interprovincials (day two and three results): Ulster 0 Munster 1 (Andrew Colton); Leinster 9 (Ross Canning 3, David Cole 2, Jonathan Roberts 2, Lee Cole, Ian Stewart) Munster 1 (Ben Scott); Leinster 1 (Ross Canning) Ulster 1 (Adam Fallis); Leinster 9 (Jordan Sutton 3, David Cole 2, Jonathan Roberts 2, Ian Stewart, Brian O’Malley) Munster 2 (Nathan Eacrett, David Whitaker)
Final standings: 1. Leinster 8pts (+14) 2. Ulster 8pts (+3) 3. Munster 3pts (-17)
U-16 Interprovincials (day two and three results): Leinster 4 (Luke Madeley 2, Jack Ryan 2) Munster 1 (Julian Dale); Ulster 6 (Matthew Sullivan 2, Chris Heath 2, Jack Wilson, Adam Marshall) Munster 3 (Julian Dale, David Cardy, Philip Brownlow); Leinster 0 Ulster 2 (Rowan Poots, Matthew Sullivan); Leinster 6 (Freddie Morris 2, Luke Madeley 2, Jack Ryan, Neil Byrne) Munster 0
Final standings: 1. Leinster 9pts (+8) 2. Ulster 9pts (+5) 3. Munster 0pts (-13)