Munster stepped in to host the junior interpros for the second year in succession at Garryduff, after the tournament was moved from Ulster due to a lack of suitable accommodation this weekend.
Women’s coach Graham Catchpole is hoping the familiar surroundings will help his side make a crucial final step to taking overall honours.
“Four years ago we struggled to get a squad, but this time we had over 50 girls from 13 clubs trialling, which shows the growing interest in the juniors team,” he said. “This is the strongest juniors squad I’ve had in that time. Last year we finished second to Ulster, who have dominated the tournament in recent years. But we controlled large periods of the game last time out and were only narrowly beaten.”
Leinster will also look to douse the hosts’ fire while South East can’t be discounted as their squad contains a number of the Kilkenny players who pushed eventual Irish Trophy winners Cork C of I all the way in an eventual 5-4 quarter-final defeat.
Bandon’s Rachelle Nyhan, a member of the Irish Universities team, captains Munster with Blackrock’s Mel Ryan her deputy; the pace of Nyhan’s clubmate Steph Peters and Ashton pair Emma Harrington and Ailse Holland up front will be key to Munster’s gameplan too.
On the men’s side, Munster finished third last year, a late comeback in a 4-3 reverse to Leinster costing them second place, but Ulster are the team to beat here too and have certainly enjoyed the longest preparation period.
With Connacht not partaking this year, the each province will play each other twice and coaches Chris Blaney and Mark Holland will be hopeful that lessons can be learned fast between games.
Munster have a stronger side on paper than last year, with former U21 provincial captain Roger Gray (Ashton) manning midfield while former U18 interpro colleagues Colin Kingston (Bandon) and Ian Gibson (Limerick) team up in defence alongside the more experienced Gavin Jeffery (C of I) and Alex Newenham (Harlequins) Junior Interpros, Garryduff Sports Centre, Cork.
Saturday: Munster v Leinster, 9am (water); Leinster v Ulster, 1pm (sand), Ulster v Munster, 5pm, (water); Sunday: Ulster v Leinster, 9am (water), Munster v Ulster, 12.30pm (sand), Leinster v Munster, 4pm (sand).
Saturday: Munster v South East, 10.30am (sand); Leinster v Ulster, 11am (water), Ulster v South East, 3pm (sand); Sunday: Leinster v South East, 10.30am (sand); Munster v Ulster, 11am (water); Leinster v Munster, 3pm (water).
J Scheffel (GK, Limerick), E Callender (Catholic Institute), I Gibson (Limerick), A Newenham (Cork Harlequins), J Jeffers (Midleton), D Herbert (Cork C of I), C Kingston (Bandon), D Treacy (UCC), M Horgan (UCC), G Healy (UCC), P Holland (Cork Harlequins), C Duggan (Limerick), F McElroy (UCC), D Hawkins (Midleton), R Gray (Ashton), G Jeffery (Cork C of I), M Cosgrave (GK, UCC), S O’Halloran (Ashton).
K Burke (Ashton), F Buttimer (Clonakilty), L Buttimer (Bandon), M-C Cummins (Ashton), E Donnelly Murphy (GK, Ashton), E Harrington (Ashton), L Hogan (Blackrock), A Holland (Ashton), J Kingston (Ashton), J Lyttle (Limerick), C McCarthy (Ashton), E Helen (Clonakilty), M Murphy (Fermoy), R Nyhan (Bandon, capt), S Peters (Bandon), S Rossiter (Limerick), M Ryan (Blackrock, vice-captain), E White (GK, Bandon).