The Irish Under 21’s defeated their UK counterparts in a two test match series held at Mollington in North West England on the 19th and 20th of September. The Irish looked the stronger of the two sides on paper and they didn’t disappoint as they won the first test 29-11 and then the second 30-14. In each test match the UK fought very hard early on and kept the scores pretty even but then the Irish moved up a gear and ran away with the matches.
In the first test the Irish lead early on but the UK fought back and lead at the end of chukka four. However, then the Irish ladies came out and ran out 6-0 winners in the fifth chukka, with their number 1 Niamh Maloney (who played at number 1 for 7 of the 8 chukkas over the weekend) looking particularly strong and linking up very well with Joanne Lavery at number 2 and Dara Mangan at number 3. This left the UK men a very hard task to try and level things up, as they had a very strong Irish men’s side against them. The Irish men showed them no mercy as they added another six goals and from then on there was no coming back for the UK. The second test started very well for the UK and they lead after the first chukka 3-1 but straight away the Irish men started to inflict damage and though the UK stayed in touch till chukka four then the Irish started to ease away.
The UK did show signs of improvement in the second test and their ladies section actually drew 9 goals all with the Irish ladies. The Irish men, however, were a class above the UK, which was not altogether surprising as they featured two men in Seb Chambers and Eoin O’Donnell who are both in the Irish Open squad as well. Seb Chambers. who was awarded best male player for the series, played for Ireland in the 2007 World Cup at the age of 19. The UK will breath a sigh of relief that if they face the Irish again next year neither of these players will still be in the Under 21’s as they were playing their final matches at this level this weekend.
While Seb and Eoin shone for the men in their final appearance there was also plenty of players who still have a number of years left in Under 21’s and who showed that they will be forces to be reckoned with. The youngest player was Joanne Lavery of Ireland at just 16 and she put in a very composed performance in the number 2 role throughout both tests. Sammy Rowden was one of four 17 years old in the UK squad and she also looked very composed at number 1 for the UK ladies, especially in the second test when for three of the chukkas she had to dealt with some very tough defence from Rona O’Dyer of Ireland.
The best female player of the test series was awarded to Agi Duhig of the UK, also making her final appearance at Under 21 level, along with the UK Captain Vickie Metcalfe.
Squads (ages in brackets)
Ireland: Niamh Maloney (18), Dara Mangan (20), Rona O’Dyer (20), Joanne Lavery (16), Seb Chambers (C) (21), Raymond Barron (18), Eoin O’Donnell (20), Donal Courtney (17)
United Kingdom: Vickie Metcalfe (C) (21), Agi Duhig (20), Sammy Rowden (17), Hazel Wilson (18), Lewis Parr (19), Simon Amor (17), Will Halcrow (17), Dan Kelly (17)
Best Male Player: Seb Chambers (Ireland)
Best Female Player: Agi Duhig (UK)
Best Horse: (picked by the Irish team): Quattro, owed by Hazel Wilson
Best UK Player: (picked by the Irish team): Simon Amor
Alongside the international action was the Celyn tournament and also the UK selection weekend for next year’s Under 16 and Under 21 squads. In the tournament there were only 36 players and it was played in three grades in sections. In the C grade Celyn 2 defeated Celyn 1 by just one goal to claim the prize, though Celyn 2 did have the advantage of having Sarah Simkin playing at number 2.
In the D grade the final was between a mixed team of Steph Metcalfe (Centaur), James Stansfield (White Horse) and Kate Henning (Kent) and a Welsh Dragons side, The Centaur side emerged victorious, with James Stansfield scoring well and Steph Metcalfe looking solid in defence. The Welsh Dragons stayed level early on but then they slipped behind and their fate was sealed when late on Llewyllyn Harrison was sent off for a second head hit.
In the Juniors the final was very hard fought between Welsh Dragons and Pegasus Croome and ultimately went down to golden goal. Pegasus Croome lead early on with Natalie Cameron at number 3 linking up well with Harry Twinberrow at number 1, who scored some massive overarm goals throughout. The Welsh Dragons struck back though with Pip Rowland scoring well and at the end of the match it was 6 all. In extra time it was Josie Cameron at number 2 for Pegasus Croome who grabbed the ball from the line out and went down field to pass to Harry Twinberrow, who promptly finished the move off and seal the win for Croome.