The UK Under 21’s managed to overcome their Irish counterparts in a very hard fought test series at the Cotswold tournament in the UK on the 27th and 28th of August. However, they only managed it on goal difference after they lost the first test to a very talented Irish side and had to play at their absolute best to win the second test by a bigger margin. They went down in the first test by 21 goals to 23 but came back with all guns blazing in the second to win 25-17 and win overall by 46 goals to 40.
Ireland had their world cup star Joanne Lavery leading the attack for the ladies section and she gave the UK girls plenty of problems, particularly on the first day. Ireland also featured Aimee Keogh at number 3 for both test matches and she looked very much like a future Irish star as on day 1 she rode Chispa very well and contolled the game from the back for Ireland whenever she had the ball and on day 2 did the same on Tyson. The UK girls did not look as composed and it was only really late on in the second test they actually seemed to take control of the test match. They struggled to find a good horse and rider combination for the girls on day 2 but ultimately put Annie Mitchell and Susie up front for the last two chukkas and this seemed to do the trick. The stand out player for the UK girls was probably Emily Gilfillan, who only came into the side as a last minute substiture after Hazel Wilson had to withdraw. On her Under 21 debut at just 17 years old she looked very composed in the number 3 shirt for the UK and dealt well with having to mark up against the vastly more experienced Joanne Lavery.
The UK boys were more assured and indeed on day 1 if they had done in the last chukka what they had been doing throughout the UK could have won it 2-0. However Ireland held them off in that final chukka and kept the lead to win by 2 goals. On the second day there was no stopping the UK though as Will Halcrow started to dominate more out the back of the line out against the incredibly long reach of Aaron Power, which did damage for Ireland in the first test match, and with Alex Richardson up front on Misty Lee the goals flowed and by the end they were really in top gear.
All credit must go to Ireland though, they contributed to an amazing spectacle and the second test match only stretched away from them in the final two chukkas. They were riding horses that were basically unknown to them, having ridden each pool for just an hour before the matches began, while the UK Under 21’s knew most of the horses pretty well. Both sides showed great spirit throughout and played the games in a friendly spirit which was a credit to their nations, while also showing that both countries have some very promising young players coming through the ranks, some of who will undoubtedly feature in the next World Cup in South Africa in 2015.
United Kingdom: Alex Richardson, Simon Amor, Joe Hopkins, Will Halcrow, Annie Mitchell, Bryony Cross, Sammy Rowden, Emily Gilfilian
Ireland: Aaron Power, Connor Doyle, Mark Hall, Ray Baron, Joanne Lavery, Aimee Keogh, Emily McDonagh, Emma Errity