IT has been more years than they care to remember, but the Munster U18 and U16 boys and girls hockey sides go in search of inter-provincial glory over the next two weekends.
It won’t be an easy task for any of the four sides, as all four tournaments have been dominated by either Ulster or Leinster for some time.
But Munster have been making strides in recent years and have come close on a number of occasions. They will now be hoping that at least one of their teams makes the breakthrough this year.
Up first, starting tomorrow are the boys U18 and U16 tournaments that are taking place in Belfast.
First into action will be the U16 side, at 12.30pm, and they couldn’t have asked for a much tougher opener, taking on the host province. Since 2005, either Ulster or Leinster have won this particular tournament and the latter are hoping to make it two in a row.
Munster are managed by Mandy Dorgan, who was a prolific player for Ashton in her day. She certainly will have them primed and ready to go and if they lose out, it won’t be for lack of effort .
They follow their opener with two games on Saturday, against the defending champions and Ulster again (Connacht don’t compete at this level so they all play each other twice).
They round off the tournament against Leinster on Sunday and hopefully, there will be all to play for in that game. The side is captained by Ashton student Cian Dorgan, who also plays with Church of Ireland at club level. Their vice-captain is Paul Curtin, who plays with Midleton school and club.
The U18s also start on Friday against Ulster, and their games will follow the same pattern as the U16 fixture list.
Managed by John Dennis, who has been around the game for some time, he will know what it takes to win a tournament like this and, much like Dorgan, will have them well-primed tomorrow.
They are captained by Ian Balding, who plays with Kilkenny College, with Kevin O’Dea, from Ashton installed as their vice-captain. A key player will be keeper Iarlaith O’Neill, who plays with Bandon Grammar School.
The following weekend, September 20-22, the girls’ sides are in action and they will be hoping that home advantage can count, with the games being played at Garryduff Sports Centre.
Facilities at Garryduff are amongst the best in the country at the moment, with Belfield still being renovated, and it is surprising that more top tournaments are not held there.
The girls tournament has five sides taking part as they split it into the traditional four provinces, but also add in the South-East at these levels.
Both teams start with two games on Friday, with ties against Connacht and Leinster. They then have a game each on Saturday, again both facing the South-East, before they finish off against Ulster on Sunday.
For the U16 side, they will be hoping to see the province win for the first time since 2002, two years before most of the squad were even born.
Leinster will be hot favourites for this title, as they bid for three-in-a-row, but Munster will look to the likes of Siri Forde and Alex Hally to lead them to glory.
You have to go back further, 1999, for a Munster win at U18 level and since then Ulster have been the dominant province, with 15 wins.
Munster will look to the likes of Nicky Barry and Sophie Clein to break that streak.
Boys U18 inter-pros: Munster v Ulster, 2.45pm.
Boys U16 inter-pros: Munster v Ulster, 12.30pm.
Boys U18 inter-pros: Munster v Leinster, 12.15pm; Munster v Ulster, 4.45pm.
Boys U16 inter-pros: Munster v Leinster,10am; Munster v Ulster, 2.30pm.
Boys U18 inter-pros: Munster v Leinster, 3.45pm.
Boys U16 inter-pros: Munster v Leinster, 1.30pm.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 20
All games at Garryduff
Girls U18 inter-pros: Munster v Connacht, 1.15pm; Munster v Leinster, 6.15pm.
Girls U16 inter-pros: Munster v Connacht, 12 noon; Munster v Leinster, 5pm.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 21
Girls U18 inter-pros: Munster v South-East, 4.15pm.
Girls U16 inter-pros: Munster v South-East, 3pm.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 22
Girls U18 inter-pros: Munster v Ulster, 12.15pm.
Girls U16 inter-pros: Munster v Ulster, 11am.