Munster teams have regrouped in recent seasons with a couple of high-profile results and second-placed finishes. But none have yet produced the consistency required to win a tournament, something the respective coaches Peter Catchpole (U16) and John McGrath (U18) are keen to put right.
McGrath’s U18s have the most potential on paper, back-boned by seven players who have spent time in Irish underage panels. Julian Dale, who co-captains the side with Alex Deane, is the most experienced of these.
Catchpole has a new-look U16 panel, with just three players — skipper Calum Crowley, fellow forward Mark Gallagher and midfield anchor Euan Stothers — returning from last year.
The majority of the newbies come from Midleton College, who are beginning to compete with traditional big guns Bandon Grammar and Ashton again. Italian Fabio Greco, in Ashton for the school year, brings a superb skill set, and size and has been appointed vice-captain.
Domestically, the main attraction is Bandon’s women hosting of Catholic Institute. Ger Burns’ girls have continued to improve, boosted this season by the return of former Irish U21 international Olivia Roycroft, forward Steph Peters and key defender Rachelle Nyhan. They rued a host of missed chances in a 2-1 defeat to Cork C of I in midweek, and the visit of Institute — who put a 100% record on the line — should tell a lot about where they stand in terms of upsetting the established top four.
The biggest clash of the Division 1 campaign so far comes on Monday night when UCC host Cork Harlequins. That will be the students’ third game in seven days, having crushed Fermoy in midweek while they host Cashel/New Inn tomorrow.