Under 15 Interprovincial Championship 2014, NCU, 30 June-2 July

Eyebrows were raised last year when, following the U15 Inter-Pro series of 2013, no NCU players were included in the Irish Squad selected for the European Championships, the squad comprising 10 players from Leinster and 3 from the North West.

That selection was entirely vindicated when the U15s became our only European Champions of 2013, going through the Tournament at Rugby School undefeated in their four matches.

That age-group had been seen for a couple of seasons as a particularly good ‘crop’ and the result when it came was more expected than a surprise. In their cases interest now shifts to see whether as Jim Bennett, Chair of the Youth Committee puts it - they have ‘Trained on’.

Already that question seems to have been answered, as five of them, Fiachra Tucker, Rory Anders, Colin Currie, Ben White and David Delany have caught Craig Hogan’s eye and been included in the initial intake of the ‘Irish Academy’.

Indeed one of the above, Fiachra Tucker is in the Leinster Lightning squad and played for them in a match versus the Ireland U19s.

Most of the others are playing in their club 1st XIs, with off-spinner Aaron Heywood of Fox Lodge up among the leading wicket-takers in the North West Premier averages. While Ryan McBeth (St. Johnston) and Ross McCay (Burndennett) may ‘only’ be playing Championship cricket they are nonetheless taking wickets and scoring runs, McBeth is third leading wicket-taker and McCay has a highest score of 86 in the published averages.

So what can we expect from this year’s ‘crop’ in the Interprovincial Championships which take place in Belfast next week (Monday 30 June – Wednesday 2 July)

Leinster, the Champions, are playing things close to the chest. At the time of writing they are holding a Trial match and no final squad has been announced but it is thought that Conor O’Gorman (Leinster CC) who played last year may lead a side that is expected to include Josh Little a left-armer from Pembroke, Sam Murphy a top-order left-handed bat from YMCA and Jamie Grassi who has been keeping wicket at North County.

Whoever they finally select there will no doubt be confidence that the title can be retained. The introduction of a ‘Southern XI’ rather than a full Munster side caused some controversy when first mooted.

The thinking behind its inclusion was that a purely Munster XI would not be competitive without some degree of an age dispensation, but to permit that would decrease the selection pool for the Irish U15s.

In addition there appeared to be a surfeit of talent in Leinster and the solution was to mix the two, a decision that was justified when they beat both the NCU and North West and ran Leinster close in the Championship decider.

The North West has five players in the Irish Winter Training Squad, a quartet from Bready, Dawson Crumley, Dylan McCorkill, Reece Kelly and Ross Dougherty along with Graeme Kennedy from Ballyspallan.

Add to these Varun Chopra whose 5 for 19 versus Glendermott recently won him the Senior Cup Performance of the Round Award and you a have a basis of a useful team.

 Most disappointed by their performance last year was the NCU. Finishing bottom of the table and with no players selected for the Irish side was a first for them and it hit hard. What it did do is emphasise the point that no one is guaranteed a place and that if you don’t perform on the day or days you can have no complaints. Reputations count for little in these matches, where at the end of the competition the scorebooks are there for all to see.

The NCU’s response has been to embark on their most extensive programme of Winter and Spring training sessions ever and the final squad will have only themselves to blame if they fail to perform on home ground this time, although it may be a couple of years before the full benefits of the programme feed through the age-groups.

Of the squad itself, Captain Stuart Nelson is an opening bat who has scored runs for Cregagh 1stXI. There are off-spin options with Morgan Topping and Jack Carson, both of Waringstown.

Slow Left arm spin from Charlie Shannon of Holywood and Stephen Hodgson of CIYMS and looking through the squad there seems to be a good few who can contribute with both bat and ball, and as is customary there are a number who will be available next year.

Realistically then, maybe not this year for the NCU and Leinster will go in as favourites, but at a personal level all to play for and perhaps follow the ‘Class of 2013’ who have certainly ‘Trained on’.

Fixtures for U15 Inter Provincials are as follows:-

Monday 30 June

  • NCU v NWCU, Stormont (12.00 noon start)
  • LCU v Southern XI, Cregagh (12.00 noon start)

Tuesday 1 July

  • NWCU v Southern XI, Belmont (11.00 a.m. start)
  • NCU v LCU Stormont, (11.00 a.m. start)

Wednesday 2 July

  • NCU v Southern XI Shaws Bridge, (11.00 a.m. start)
  • NWCU v LCU Shaws Bridge, (11.00 a.m. start)

NCU U15 Squad

  • Jack Burton   (Carrickfergus)
  • Jack Carson  (Waringstown)
  • Callum Gibson  (Lurgan)
  • Stephen Hodgson  (CIYMS)
  • James Hume  (Cregagh)
  • Jonathan Hunter  (Lurgan)
  • James McClean  (Ballymena)
  • Stuart Nelson  (Cregagh)
  • Chris Robinson  (CIYMS)
  • David Robinson  (CIYMS)
  • Charlie Shannon  (Holywood)
  • Morgan Topping  (Waringstown)
  • Jonathan Waite  (Waringstown) 
  • NW U15 Squad

  • Manager: Brian Allen
  • Coach: Dean Curry
  • Billy Dougherty Donemana
  • Dawson Crumley Bready
  • Dylan McCorkill Bready
  • Graeme Kennedy Brigade
  • Harry Waterstone Brigade
  • James Colhoun Bready
  • Jamie McIntyre Fox Lodge
  • Mark McCloskey Bready
  • Matthew Alford Brigade
  • Reece Kelly Bready
  • Ross Dougherty Bready
  • Scott Torrens Coleraine
  • Varun Chopra Coleraine
  • The Leinster and Southern sides have still to be announced -hopefully these will both be confirmed following their trial match today (Wednesday June 25).