Monday 26 June 2017

Carolan: U-20s squad has some of best players we have ever had

Larmour: Impressive performances. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Larmour: Impressive performances. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

While Ireland U-20s' Six Nations title hopes were left in tatters in Wales last weekend, there have been so many positives to take from the tournament that it is difficult to puncture the feel-good vibe around the squad.

Having fought their way back from a 14-point deficit, Ireland put themselves in a position to set up a Grand Slam showdown with England on Friday, but as it is, the visitors will instead arrive in Dublin as champions.

The scrum has improved game by game, while there have been several standout performers who are undoubtedly destined for the professional game and beyond.

Jordan Larmour has arguably been the pick of the bunch as his scintillating footwork has caused problems for every defence Ireland have come up against, and his coach Nigel Carolan is full of praise.

"Once you give the guy a bit of space, you know you are in trouble," Carolan said. "He has devastating pace. He's a very balanced runner, very composed. He rarely makes mistakes.

"There is a place for him, not just at professional level but at international level. He's extremely quick, he's got good high-ball skills. He's a good runner and a good communicator. I think he's going to have the make the jump in the not-too-distant future.

"There are other players who are extremely consistent like Fineen Wycherley, Oisin Dowling, Caelan Doris. There is nothing holding them back. They are outstanding, consistent performers. They will make little mistakes but they are learning. They have very bright futures."

High praise indeed from Carolan who in his third year as head coach has seen the likes of Garry Ringrose and Joey Carbery make the step up to the highest level. So where do the current crop rank?

"These are some of the best guys that we have had," Carolan insisted.

"Every year they are bigger, stronger. They've a little bit more knowledge than the guys gone before them. The exposure they're getting is a lot higher.

"James Ryan was the beacon from last year, and maybe our expectations weren't as high when we compare Oisin and Fineen to where James was but they have performed consistently well.

"There is a lot of X-factor in this group. They're trying to learn. That's the biggest thing for them.

"Even about communication when after four or five phases at that level of intensity, the lungs are burning, they go quiet.

"They have to learn that you can't afford to go quiet. That's when you lose your connections and there are gaps in defence. You're going to get punished against the better sides."

With a Junior World Cup to come in June, there is still plenty to play for in what is an ultra-competitive squad, particularly in the backline.

Jack Kelly will miss Friday night's clash with England with shoulder problem but Gavin Mullin should return from a hamstring injury.

Irish Independent

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