Dempsey’s young stars brush Ulster thoughts aside for Leeds clash
ALL the focus in the Leinster camp this week will have been on tomorrow’s Pro12 semi-final clash with Ulster, but quietly in the background, those who won’t be involved will be gearing themselves up for next week’s British and Irish Cup final.
An extra-time win against Pontypridd sealed Leinster’s second consecutive final appearance as the province bid to retain the title they won against Newcastle Falcons last year.
Girvan Dempsey’s side will also have the added bonus of playing in front of their home support at Donnybrook against Leeds Carnegie next Friday evening.
Prior to their demolition job over Munster in their quarter-final meeting, Dempsey spoke of the difficulties in maintaining the players’ competitive edge, given the club’s focus was entirely on the Heineken Cup match with Toulon.
Despite not having as much time with the squad as Dempsey would have liked, Leinster produced a ruthless performance in what was a hugely impressive 47-15 win over their arch rivals.
Depending on how Leinster fare against Ulster tomorrow evening at the RDS, he could well be faced with a similar situation, but at this stage, it’s difficult to view that as an obstacle for an ‘A’ team littered with so much young talent.
A quick glance at the team who lined out in last year’s final gives a good indication of how important this competition is in terms of players’ development.
Jordi Murphy captained the side, while Marty Moore was a substitute – both won Six Nations medals in March.
Noel Reid and Brendan Macken’s centre partnership blossomed enough for both to feature regularly in this season’s Pro12 side.
Just last week, as Brian O’Driscoll rejected the notion that Leinster will need to look for an overseas player to replace him, he name-checked Macken as a potential replacement. A ringing endorsement if ever there was one.
Reid has emerged as one of the most exciting talents to come out of the Leinster academy in recent years. Having been shifted between fly-half and centre, his performances this year have made him a genuine option at 12 for Leinster in going forward.
Leinster coach Matt O’Connor was recently quick to highlight the contribution of the former St Michael’s College student.
“Noel has been very good for us this year. He’s played more rugby than he’s probably ever played for Leinster. His distribution of the ball is fantastic,” O’Connor said.
“He’s really taken his opportunity in that 12 jersey. He finds space very well and he moves the ball to the spaces where the opposition is vulnerable. A huge part of our success in the international windows was Noel’s ability to do that. He’s scored a lot of important tries for us and defensively he’s very sound. We couldn’t be happier with the way he has progressed this year,” the New Zealand coach added.
Reid and Macken are both likely to feature next Friday night and with places on the Emerging Ireland tour up for grabs, they will be seeking to stake their claim in O’Connor’s grand plan.