Ireland and the UK fought out a very hard and competitive test series over the weekend of the 24th and 25th of July at Celyn Polocrosse Club, near Chester, and it was the visitors Ireland who came out on top, winning the Men’s competition and seeing their Junior side defeat the UK Juniors twice. The UK ladies, however, continued their fine winning tradition by beating their Irish counterparts.
The Irish men’s team showed just how much they have improved in recent years as they won for the first time on UK soil. Their team is a good combination of youth and experience, with captain Aidan McDonagh still firing on all cylinders and then young players like Seb Chambers and Eoin O’Donnell looking particularly impressive at number 1 and number 3 respectively. If they can get their ladies side up to the same standard they could cause some upsets at the World Cup next year.
It is a worrying result for the UK, however, as they look to defend, and try and improve on, the second place they got at the last World Cup. The UK can look to the fact they were missing one of their best players in Jason Webb, out due to a broken collar bone, and also the fact that they will be stronger when they are just playing their top four men. However, so will countries such as Ireland and the UK didn’t look as fast and strong as the Irish team, who were quicker in the line out, quicker to the ball and quicker to mark up in defence. The Irish won the first test 28-19 and the second test 30-20, far heavier defeats than the South African men inflicted on the UK last year. In both tests it was close to the end of the fourth chukkas, indeed the UK lead the second test after 2 chukkas, but then Ireland pulled away at the end.
The UK ladies had no such problems though as they defeated the Irish ladies 28-11 and 28-16 to win the test series 2 nil. They put in a very good team performance with all the players doing their job very well, the 3s in Sarah Simkin and Debbie Harris won ball out the back of the line outs and carried it well and the 1s in Charlotte Pykett and Annie Waterer converted nearly all their chances. Ruth Jones was probably the pick of the 2s over the weekend and it was also very good to see Annie Mitchell making her UK Open squad debut go to number 1 for the last couple of chukkas and score some good goals, showing that their is young talent around for the future too.
Ireland have their own young talent though, Joanne Lavery looked very good in the second test at number 1 (the UK players awarded her Best Player) and players such as Dara Mangan and Rona O’Dwyer, who only left the Under 21’s last year could well feature in their World Cup squad.
In the Juniors, Ireland defeated the UK twice, though the second time it was only just as they won 12-11 and the UK can probably feel slightly annoyed that a couple of umpire decisions seemed to go against them late on in the match. On the Saturday they could have no such complaints as they were well beaten by the Irish. However, the Irish themselves were well beaten twice by the touring New South Wales Junior side, who the UK lost to narrowly once and then held to a draw. It was strange competition with New South Wales, who were the Junior champions of Australia earlier this year at Ballarat, seeming to find it far harder to play against the UK than against the Irish. However, they easily did enough as they won 3 matches and drew 1 to be crowned tri-nations champions, Ireland finished second with their two wins and the UK in third, which they will be disappointed with. They seemed to under estimate the Irish on the Saturday, after seeing NSW defeat them comfortably, and paid the price.
There was also a normal tournament held alongside the test matches, with about 80 players in it. Kent did a one-two in the B grade, Vale Impi claimed the C grade and finally the Welsh Dragons defeated their Welsh rivals Celyn in the D grade to take top spot.
*editors note: the results of the tournament are as we best remember, we don’t swear they are 100% correct and would welcome confirmation/ denial of them!