Leinster’s U-18s retained their interprovincial crown in style as they recorded a rare clean sweep at this level, winning four from four in Garryduff.
It started with victory on Friday night, hitting the front against the hosts 20 seconds into the second half when Alex Service nabbed an interception, moving the ball on to Cillian Hynes.
The St Andrew’s connection continued as he worked the ball to Ben Campbell before laying up Jack Ryan to finish into an open net. While Munster replied with a top chance moments later, the 2-0 win was sealed when Harry Morris launched a pitch-length overhead which Kevin Mullins controlled into the D and rolled on his backhand to to Ryan to finish off again, grinding out the win.
It set the tone for the weekend as they fought their way to a 2-1 result over Ulster on day two, taking the lead in the first half via a Mark Loughrey deflection from a low Lee Cole drag-flick.
The same corner worked again midway through the second half, this time the ball going under Loughrey’s stick for Cole to claim his first goal of the tournament.
Ulster held the majority of possession for the remainder of the game and finally scored with five minutes to go. Johnny McKee self-passed inside the 25 and took on the Leinster defence before pulling onto his reverse to fire home.
With Munster beating Ulster 3-1 on Friday and drawing in the second tie on Saturday 2-2, it meant the blues would claim the title were they to win their third game of the competition.
That they did on a pitch saturated with water at one end with fears the game may not go ahead. But with the umpires giving the all clear, Leinster decided to attack into the water in the first half.
From that platform, the first goal came from a high press with Ryan and Mullins stealing the ball to feed Campbell who forced the ball through the water and dribble over the line.
A hit corner injection from Loughrey just managed to reach the top of the D and Campbell in the stopper position readjusted well to hit towards goal for Stu Ronan to deflect home for a 2-0 lead at half-time.
In the second half, more high pressure from a combination of Cole and Mullins allowed the latter to nick the ball around the keeper and, under a lot of physical pressure, finished off to secure victory and the tournament.
It left just the clean sweep as the target and they did it in style with a 5-0 win over Munster. Cole’s straight drag opened the scoring in the first half before Leinster pulled away in the second.
Ronan finished off a Neil Byrne short corner rebound while Cole made it three when he nicked the ball from the Munster centre-mid and drove into the D and smacked in on his reverse.
Hynes finished another corner rebound for the forth. And Cole finished his and the side’s tournament in style with 20 seconds remaining, after he had again nicked the ball in midfield and this time he laid the ball off before it returned to him in the D to control and fire a flick high over the goalkeeper from close range.
Speaking about the competition, coach Gareth Borland described the weekend as “a true squad performance with every Leinster player contributing positively in a memorable weekend”.
At U-16 level, the side was unable to build on their impressive opening to the competition when they swept aside Munster 8-1.
Jordan Larmour and David Nolan ran the show for a rampant Leinster in the first half as they racked up six unanswered goals, before Munster tightened up in the second half, Declan Murphy netting a corner goal as they beared some attacking teeth too.
But the tournament unraveled for Leinster against eventual winners Ulster, the key game on Saturday when they fell 3-0 with Calum Robson and Aaron Martin adding to an own goal.
The blues needed to reverse that result to have any chance of winning back the title but they shared the spoils 2-2 to hand the northern side the overall spoils.
They closed the tournament well, though, as they eventually worked Rory Nicholls into a position to score from close range for a slender lead at the break. Monkstown tyro Guy Sarratt then gave them breathing space in the second half, the game finishing up 2-0.
*Ondine Roche’s pictures will be added to Irish Hockey Photographers in due course. In the meantime, Andrew McKibbin took some superb pictures on all three days of the tournament which can be seen on Facebook here.
Schoolboy Interprovincial Championships, Garryduff, Cork
U16: Munster 0 Ulster 0; Leinster 8 (J Larmour 3, D Nolan 2, F Morris 2, G Cole) Munster 1 (Declan Murphy); Leinster 0 Ulster 3 (own goal, C Robson, A Martin); Ulster 2 Munster 0; Ulster 2 Leinster 2; Leinster 2 (R Nicholls, G Sarratt) Munster 0.
Standings: 1. Ulster 9pts (+5) 2. Leinster 8pts (+6) 3. Munster 1pt (-11)
U18: Munster 3 (S Wolfe, G Wilkinson, C Buttimer) Ulster 1 (M Robson); Munster 0 Leinster 2 (J Ryan 2); Munster 2 (S Wolfe, G Wilkinson) Ulster 2 (J Lorimer, own goal); Leinster 2 (L Cole, M Loughrey) Ulster 1 (J McKee); Leinster 3 (K Mullins, B Campbell, S Ronan) Ulster 0; Leinster 5 (L Cole 2, S Ronan 2, C Hynes) Munster 0.
Standings: 1. Leinster 12pts (+11) 2. Munster 5pts (-5) 3. Ulster (4) 2pts (-6)