Ulster Rugby U18 Girls continue their Interprovincial preparations with a friendly match against (our old friends) Midwest Thunderbirds on Sunday afternoon at Banbridge RFC. Kick off 13:00.

It’s always interesting to see the latest crop of youngsters and the reports we’ve heard so far have been encouraging, with coaches Charlie “The Duke” Farrell and Zoe “Yellow Card” Templeton particularly enthused about this current cohort.

Setting the scene?

Ulster won the inaugural trophy back in 2016 with “The Invincibles” recording three wins from three in a competition covered exclusively on The Front Row Union.

Unfortunately, the girls XV game hasn’t progressed as projected, playing numbers appear to have dropped following the  performance of the Ireland Women’s XV team at the 2017 World Cup and the IRFU have thrown it’s support behind the 7s programme.

There have been some successes, with “Invincible” team members Brittany Hogan and Lucinda Kingan going on to pick up caps for the Ireland Women’s 7s side but, in the province of Ulster, the competitive Club XV game has largely disappeared due to insufficient playing numbers to sustain a league.

The results have followed, with the Ulster girls picking up only two wins over the last two seasons, results below.

Ulster U18 girls - Interprovincial Results.
Sun, 18 Sep 2016 ULSTER 10 LEINSTER 5
Sun, 25 Sep 2016 CONNACHT 5 ULSTER 34
Sat, 1 Oct 2016 ULSTER 20 MUNSTER 8
Sun, 24 Sep 2017 ULSTER 37 CONNACHT 12
Sun, 1 Oct 2017 LEINSTER 22 ULSTER 5
Sun, 8 Oct 2017 ULSTER 12 MUNSTER 23
Sun, 2 Sep 2018 CONNACHT 23 ULSTER 18
Sun, 9 Sep 2018 ULSTER 7 LEINSTER 22
Sun, 16 Sep 2018 MUNSTER 5 ULSTER 31

In summary form thier results over the other provinces over the last three years are as follows.

Opponents P W D L F A DIFF WIN%
Leinster 3 1 0 2 22 49 -27 33%
Connacht 3 2 0 1 89 40 49 67%
Munster 3 2 0 1 63 36 27 67%
Combined 9 5 0 4 174 125 49 56%

They are still the right side of the 50% mark in terms of win % and, in fairness, they threw away the game against Connacht last year who, also in fairness, built on thier last gasp win to go undefeated to lift the championship.

How will they do this season?

It’s difficult to say as, with no league to cover, our coverage of the U18’s has slipped off somewhat. They had a reasonable build up for the 2018 season with a game against Nova Scotia ahead of two outings against Ontario  but this match against Midwest Thunderbirds is the only pre – interpro run out they are getting this season.

The squad for the Interprovincials is as follows.

Forwards Backs
Sophie Barrett (Enniskillen RFC) Mya Alcorn (Letterkenny RFC)
Aoife Cahill (Malone RFC) Jenna Corkey (City of Armagh RFC)
Erin Carson (Malone RFC) Zara Flack (Enniskillen RFC)
Samantha Cassidy Campbell (Ballyclare RFC) Moya Hill (Enniskillen RFC)
Jenni Collins (Donaghadee RFC) Lauren Kilfedder (Enniskillen RFC)
Delyth Cook (Ballyclare RFC) Sophie Kinghan (Ardee RFC)
Hannah Cooney (Malone RFC) Toni Macartney (Larne RFC)
India Daley (Enniskillen RFC) Farrah McCloskey (Enniskillen RFC)
Ava Fannin (C) (Virginia RFC) Amanda McQuade (VC) (Virginia RFC)
Ella Garland (VC) (Cooke RFC) Jana McQuillan (Larne RFC)
Kim Johnston (Dungannon RFC) Emma Ryan (Virginia RFC)
Rachel McGee (Ballyshannon RFC) Sarah Shrestha (Dungannon RFC)
Cara O’Neill (Malone RFC) Lucy Thompson (Enniskillen RFC)
Taryn Schutzler (Malone RFC)
Lucy Turkington (Dungannon RFC)
Management Team:
Head Coach: Charlie Farrell Manager: Ruth Sloan
Backs Coach: Zoe Templeton Physio: Rebecca Irwin
S&C: Paul Heasley

The team will be captained by Virginia’s Eva Fannin with Ella Garland (Cooke) and Amanda McQuade (Virginia) as vice captain all of whom bring plenty of experience, alongside Aoife Cahill (Malone), India Daley (Enniskillen) and Lucy Turkington (d=Tungannon).

Turkington and Mya Alcorn were both involved with the Ireland U18 7s team this season, Alcorn making a welcome return from a season long injury.

The team also features three players from my local club Larne RFC. The talented Toni Macartney is in for her second season and is joined by speedster Jana McQuillan and Ballynahinch native Erin Carson who played for Hinch and Larne but has run out for Malone of late in her search for game time.

We’ll have a catch up with the players after Sunday’s game for our final review ahead of the Interpros.