Dardis gets chance to shine as provinces opt for youth
Published 23/08/2014 | 02:30
YOUTHFUL exuberance dominates the rosters of three Irish provinces in pre-season action today ahead of the penultimate round of friendly games ahead of the Pro12 kick-off in a fortnight’s time.
Leinster travel to Northampton Saints with 19-year-old first-year Academy player Billy Dardis starting at full-back, with Darragh Fanning and fellow Academy graduate Sam Coghlan-Murray on the right and left wing respectively.
Another member of the Academy, Jordan Coghlan, makes a welcome return from injury to start at inside-centre, with Brendan Macken outside him.
New signing Sean McCarthy is one of 13 replacements named for an outing which will see experienced half-backs Jimmy Gopperth, named as captain, and Isaac Boss marshalling the side.
A total of 11 players are in line to make their senior debuts in the red of Munster for their visit to Gloucester, albeit captain Donncha O’Callaghan and BJ Botha bring experience to a largely emerging and experimental team.
Young Munster’s Ger Slattery gets his chance at hooker as Anthony Foley attempts to grapple with an injury crisis in the position.
Academy player Darren Sweetnam, a former Cork hurler, makes his first Munster senior appearance on the left wing fresh from his recent Sevens experience, with Limerick flyer Ronan O’Mahony on the opposite flank and new Academy recruit Stephen Fitzgerald at full-back.
Fitzgerald represented Ardscoil Rís in the Munster Schools Senior Cup final in March and most recently impressed at the Sevens tournament in Limerick.
Ivan Dineen and Cian Bohane form an ebullient midfield partnership.
Front-row cover is provided by Academy prop Niall Horan, John Ryan and UL Bohs hooker Kevin O’Byrne, who joined the province this summer on a training contract.
Horan is in his second year on the Academy and with two B&I Cup appearances under his belt will hope to make his first senior appearance this weekend in addition to O’Byrne, who has featured in ‘A’ Interpro and Development squads previously.
Academy players John Madigan, Ryan Murphy, David Johnston, Rory Scannell, Ryan Foley and Greg O’Shea are all in line to feature as they are named in the replacements, with sub-academy centre Ned Hodson also included after his recent performances for the Munster Sevens squad.
Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham – all graduates of the Connacht Academy – make up the front row trio for the Westerners’ trip to Wasps.
Academy graduate Jack Carty is handed the reins at out-half and he links up with new signing Ian Porter at scrum-half.
Former Trinity player Niyi Adeolokun (23) has earned a start on the right wing.