Tag Archives: Eoin O’Malley

Final Ireland Training Squad Announced

Ireland take on Wales at the Aviva on Sunday. (c) Ross Wynne.

Declan Kidney and his management team today announced a 32-man squad for the final week of training before Sunday’s Six Nations opener with Wales at the Aviva. Kidney will pick his match day 22 for Sunday from this extended training squad. 23 of last week’s 24-man senior training squad have been retained, with only James Coughlan dropping out.

Dan Tuohy, Simon Zebo, David Kearney, Eoin O’Malley, Brett Wilkinson, Chris Henry, Denis Hurley and Rhys Ruddock have all been promoted from the Wolfhounds squad. Munster’s Peter O’Mahony is the only of last week’s ‘additional players’ included this week.

Here’s a look at the latest squad:

Ireland Training Squad

Forwards (17): Rory Best, Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Mike Ross, Tom Court, Brett Wilkinson, Paul O’Connell (capt.), Donncha O’Callaghan, Donnacha Ryan, Dan Tuohy, Stephen Ferris, Peter O’Mahony, Shane Jennings, Sean O’Brien, Chris Henry, Jamie Heaslip, Rhys Ruddock.

Backs (15): Conor Murray, Eoin Reddan, Jonathan Sexton, Ronan O’Gara, Gordon D’Arcy, Paddy Wallace, Fergus McFadden, Eoin O’Malley, Keith Earls, Tommy Bowe, Andrew Trimble, David Kearney, Simon Zebo, Rob Kearney, Denis Hurley.

Kidney will hope Sean O'Brien is at his destructive best this weekend. (c) Ross Wynne.

After the initial burst of criticism aimed at Kidney’s conservatism, this squad actually has a relatively fresh look to it. While it would still be a surprise to see someone like Zebo or O’Mahony actually make the match day squad, it’s encouraging that Kidney has followed through on his assertion that any players who performed well for the Wolfhounds would be considered for the senior side.

If Kidney had originally named this selection as his Six Nations squad, there would have most likely been a positive reaction. That said, there are certainly still areas of the squad that some will disagree with. The inclusion of Donncha O’Callaghan over Mike McCarthy would appear not to be based on form. James Coughlan’s absence might also provoke some dissent.

However, the time for discussions on who should have been included in the squad is now over. This is the pool of players from which Kidney will (or most likely already has) select his match day 22 for Sunday. That announcement will come at lunchtime on Wednesday. Whatever way Kidney goes, it’s going to be a fascinating match with Wales. The anticipation is rapidly building.

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Photos courtesy:  Ross Wynne.

Wolfhounds vs. English Saxons Preview

England Saxons vs. Ireland Wolfhounds @ Sandy Park, Exeter

Saturday 28th January (17.00) Sky Sports 1

Simon Zebo will be hoping to touch down for the Wolfhounds tomorrow. (c) Ivan O'Riordan.

The first international action of the year sees the Irish Wolfhounds take on the English Saxons in Exeter on Saturday. According to Declan Kidney, these Wolfhounds still have a chance of being selected for Ireland’s Six Nations opener with Wales in two weekend’s time. That should ensure a high-quality performance from this Irish side. Connacht coach Eric Elwood takes charge of the Wolfhounds this season and he has gone for a blend of youth and experience for the clash with the Saxons.

Munster hooker Damian Varley is joined in the front-row by his 23-year-old teammate Stephen Archer, who has only had nine PRO12 starts so far in his career. Connacht’s Brett Wilkinson is at loosehead. The second-row is made up of two players who are having superb seasons, Ulster’s Dan Tuohy and Mike McCarthy of Connacht. Both players will have realistic hopes of impressing enough here to break into the senior squad.

Ulster’s Chris Henry captains the team from openside. John Muldoon’s gritty performances for Connacht are rewarded with a spot on the blindside. Muldoon has ten caps at this level so adds some valuable experience. 21-year-old Rhys Ruddock completes the back-row at No.8. At 16 and a half stone, the youngster is not likely to shy away from the expected physical aspect to this game.

Munster's Keatley starts at outhalf. (c) Martin Dobey.

It’s a Leinster-Munster pairing in the halfbacks with Isaac Boss at scrumhalf and Ian Keatley at 10. With 12 and 7 caps appearances, both players are well accustomed to this level and should direct play with confidence. There’s an exciting-looking centre partnership for Elwood’s side with Ulster man Nevin Spence inside Leinster’s Eoin O’Malley. The power of Spence should nicely complement O’Malley’s evasiveness. Their battle with the Saxons partnership of Billy Twelvetrees and Matt Hopper promises to be one of the highlights of the game.

In the back-three, Gavin Duffy’s experience at fullback is qualified by the youthful talent of Simon Zebo and David Kearney on the wings. Zebo is the man of the moment and the Wolfhounds will look to deliver him ball in space. This trio will have their hands full defensively against the experienced Saxons back-three of Ugo Monye, Matt Banahan and Delon Armitage.

Elwood has some relative experience to call on from the bench, including Tomas O’Leary, Kevin McLaughlin, Denis Hurley and Devin Toner. Leinster’s talented outhalf Ian Madigan will hope for a chance to display his sharp attacking game while Munster hooker Mike Sherry is included despite only recently returning from an ankle injury. Connacht tighthead Ronan Loughney completes the match day 22.

Harlequins' Ugo Monye is on the wing for the Saxons. (c) cormac70.

The Saxons side has an overall youthful look to it. Scrumhalf Ben Spencer is still only 19. He has been vying with Peter Stringer for the number 9 jersey at Saracens this season. Outhalf Freddie Burns, of Gloucester is 21. Outside him is a backline that Saxons coach Jon Callard will expect to deliver tries. Twelvetrees is a combination of creativity and strength at 12, while Hopper offers a natural flair at outside centre. Banahan, Armitage and Monye have 55 England senior caps between them. Their blend of size, inventiveness and pace makes them a threatening unit.

Up front, Leicester No.8 Thomas Waldrom’s strong carrying will need to be stopped at source. He is flanked by Saracens’ Andy Saull, an intelligent natural openside, and James Gaskell. Sale’s Gaskell captains the team despite being only 21. Wasps’ Matt Garvey partners George Robson of Harlequins in the second-row. Paul-Doran Jones, once contracted to Leinster starts at tighthead. ‘Quins hooker Joe Gray and Worcester loosehead Matt Mullan complete the front-row.

One man to watch off the bench is Gloucester’s Jonny May. The speedy outside back showed his talent with a brilliant display in Gloucester’s shock win over Toulouse last weekend. Northampton outhalf Ryan Lamb is also on the bench, hoping to forget about last weekend.

The fact that Declan Kidney has said that the door to the senior squad remains open for these Wolfhounds should make this a game well worth watching. While their English counterparts would appear to have less of a chance of promotion, it’s impossible to guess how many of these players might have a role to play in the Six Nations. The addition of so many young talents on both sides means this clash offers us a glimpse of the future. It may not be a full international, but any game between Ireland and England is likely to be fiercely competitive.

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England Saxons: 15 D Armitage (London Irish), 14 U Monye (Harlequins), 13 M Hopper (Harlequins), 12 B Twelvetrees (Leicester), 11 M Banahan (Bath), 10 F Burns (Gloucester), 9 B Spencer (Saracens), 1 M Mullan (Worcester), 2 J Gray (Harlequins), 3 P Doran-Jones (Northampton), 4 M Garvey (London Irish), 5 G Robson (Harlequins), 6 J Gaskell (Sale, capt.), 7 A Saull (Saracens), 8 T Waldrom (Leicester).                                                                                                                                      Subs: 16 C Brooker (Harlequins), 17 R Harden (Gloucester), 18 K Myall (Sale), 19 T Johnson (Exeter), 20 P Hodgson (London Irish), 21 R Lamb (Northampton), 22 J May (Gloucester).

Ireland Wolfhounds: 15 Gavin Duffy (Connacht), 14  David Kearney (Leinster), 13 Eoin O’Malley (Leinster), 12 Nevin Spence (Ulster), 11 Simon Zebo (Munster), 10 Ian Keatley (Munster), 9 Isaac Boss (Leinster), 1 Brett Wilkinson (Connacht), 2 Damien Varley (Munster), 3 Stephen Archer (Munster), 4 Dan Tuohy (Ulster), 5 Mike McCarthy (Connacht), 6 John Muldoon (Connacht), 7 Chris Henry (Ulster, capt.), 8 Rhys Ruddock (Leinster).                                         Subs: 16 Mike Sherry (Munster), 17 Ronan Loughney (Connacht), 18 Devin Toner (Leinster), 19 Kevin McLaughlin (Leinster), 20 Tomas O’Leary (Munster), 21 Ian Madigan (Leinster), 22 Denis Hurley (Munster).

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Photos courtesy:  Martin Dobey, cormac70, Ivan O’Riordan.

RaboDirect Round-Up

We briefly look at how the four Irish provinces got on in last weekend’s RaboDirect PRO12 action…

 

Glasgow 17 -9 Ulster 

Friday 25th November @ Firhill

Firhill Stadium before Friday's match. Photo via Stuart Crawford

Ulster followed up last weekend’s Heineken Cup defeat to Leicester with another away loss in Glasgow.  Similarly to the Leicester match, the opening half saw Ulster enjoy good territory without capitalising on it. With only one try in their last three matches, this Ulster squad look short on genuine firepower at the moment. Glasgow’s Duncan Weir opened the scoring with a penalty to which Ian Humphreys replied soon after with a three pointer of his own. Weir kicked two further penalties before Humphreys missed a sitter to leave the Warriors with a 9-3 half-time lead.

Humphreys made up for that miss soon after the restart as he kicked a penalty for Ulster. 10 minutes later, Humphreys tied the game at 9-9 with another penalty. However, the outhalf was wide with his next two efforts at goal and Ulster were left rueing those misses as ex-Connacht back Troy Nathan went over for a try after good play between himself and winger David Lemi. Weir missed the conversion but wrapped the game up for Glasgow with a drop goal in the last minute.

This defeat leaves Ulster sitting 8th in the league. They now lie 9 points adrift of the play-off places. Brian McLaughlin and his coaching team must work on how Ulster convert territory and try-scoring chances into scores as this has let them down in their last three matches, even as they beat Clermont 16-11. Next up is the Scarlets at Ravenhill on Friday night. The Welsh side are flying at the moment and Ulster will need to improve if they are to get their PRO12 campaign back on track.

 

Treviso 20-30 Leinster

Saturday 26th November @ Stadio di Monigo

Fionn Carr was on the scoresheet for Leinster. Photo via M+MD

Leinster did just about enough to beat Treviso in Italy on Saturday. Fergus McFadden took over the kicking duties and knocked over 15 of Leinster’s points. Leo Auva’a, Fionn Carr and Eoin O’Malley scored the tries in a match where a determined Treviso never let Leinster pull away. The Italians will be furious with themselves about the opening ten minutes which left them playing catch up for the rest of the match. Leinster will also be thankful for Tobias Botes’ three missed kicks in the second half.

No. 8 Auva’a crossed the tryline within 30 seconds of the kickoff as he took outhalf Ian Madigan’s inside pass and powered through the feeble Treviso defence. The covering Brendan Williams didn’t even attempt a try-saving tackle as Auva’a strolled over untouched. McFadden added the easy conversion. Botes kicked a penalty for Treviso soon after but then Leinster struck again. Madigan showed good vision with a skip pass for O’Malley to make the outside break. The centre drew in the covering defence and hit Carr on his inside shoulder for the winger to score. Again, McFadden converted. 14-3 to Leinster after only 8 minutes.

However, Treviso gradually grew into the game and three Botes’ penalties, with one in reply from McFadden, left the score at 17-12 in Leinster’s favour at the interval. Botes hit another penalty after half-time but McFadden again replied. By now Treviso were troubling the Leinster defence and the Italians levelled the game in the 50th minute. A good scrum platform allowed replacement No.8 Manoa Vosawai to power through Gordon D’Arcy from five metres out. Botes inexplicably missed the conversion from just to the right of the posts.

McFadden put Leinster back in front 3 minutes later after Treviso were penalised for not rolling away. Then O’Malley came up with some magic to all but end the Italians’ hopes when he burst through on a good line from Madigan’s pass. McFadden converted from under the posts. Treviso failed to muster the score that would grab them a losing bonus point.

Leinster stay 2nd in the league with this win, still level on 30 points with the Ospreys above them, but trailing on points difference. The Cardiff Blues come to the RDS on Friday night. The Welsh side are sitting in 5th, a point behind Glasgow but with a game in hand. They will be looking for a win to catapult themselves into the playoff places.

Highlights of Leinster vs. Treviso are here.

 

Connacht 6-17 Ospreys

Saturday 26th November @ The Sportsground

Conditions were poor in Galway. Photo via boocal

Connacht slumped to their seventh loss in a row on Saturday as the Ospreys secured the four points in a poor match. The difficult conditions in Galway made it difficult for both sides as Eric Elwood’s men failed to end their losing streak. Matthew Morgan followed his heroics against Treviso in the Heineken Cup with the important contribution of 12 points for the Ospreys in this match. Connacht did threaten the Ospreys tryline but, even with Ian Gough in the bin, they failed to convert their chances and that cost them dearly here.

Mia Nikora gave Connacht the lead 15 minutes in with a successful penalty. Morgan soon equalised for the Ospreys. The 19-year-old outhalf then went over for a try half an hour into the game. Scrumhalf Rhys Webb offloaded to Morgan who stepped Connacht captain Gavin Duffy to go in under the posts. Morgan converted his own try. Nikora hit back for Connacht with a penalty to leave the score 10-6 at half-time.

Ospreys second-row Gough was binned early in the second half but still Connacht failed to come up with the try that their dominance suggested was coming. Despite their high work-rate and determination, Elwood’s side made too many mistakes in possession. Gough returned without Connacht having got a single score. With the Ospreys scrum getting on top, Richard Fussell created the opening for substitute Sonny Parker to extend their lead. Morgan converted the try from straight in front of the uprights. With twenty minutes still left on the clock, Connacht failed to ignite any sort of comeback  and the Ospreys saw out their 17-6 win.

Connacht remain in 9th place after this loss but they haven’t won a match since the 23rd of September. They host Treviso next Friday and that is a must-win game for them. Treviso are two places above Connacht in the table, four points ahead, so it is imperative that the western province target a win to end this losing streak.

 

Munster 34-17 Edinburgh

Saturday 26th November @ Thomond Park

You can read about Munster’s impressive win over Edinburgh in the match report here.

Munster are 3rd in the table after this win, two points behind the Ospreys and Leinster. They travel to Wales next Saturday to take on the Ospreys in what should be good quality top of the table clash.

 

Photos courtesy:  M+MD, boocal, Stuart Crawford

Four On Form

Heineken Cup Round 2 Matches

Photo via Jukka Zitting

The Heineken Cup weekend just passed saw Munster overcome Castres, Leinster beat Glasgow, Ulster lose away to Leicester and Connacht lose out to Toulouse at home. Four on Form looks at four Irish players who showed good form for their provinces and furthered their international claims.

Eoin O’Malley

O’Malley came into the Leinster team last weekend to replace Fergus McFadden, who suffered a dead leg against Montpellier in Round 1 of the Heineken Cup. The 23-year-old centre scored two tries as Leinster secured a bonus point win. With Brian O’Driscoll out injured, O’Malley was always going to be considered as a possible replacement. This was an impressive outing in only his third Heineken Cup start, and it will be interesting to see if Joe Schmidt sticks with O’Malley when McFadden returns from his injury.

O’Malley’s first try was a simple finish from the base of the ruck as he picked the ball and dived over. He showed good awareness to spot the opening when so many players would have simply rucked over the ball. This type of finish is something we have seen from O’Driscoll on many occasions in the past. O’Malley’s second try was another lesson in simplicity as he took a fantastic short, straight line onto D’Arcy’s pass and burst over the try line from five metres out. Again, this try was O’Driscoll-esque in the intelligence of the line taken by O’Malley.

Defensively too, there is something of O’Driscoll in the young centre. He always looks composed and confident when defending, invariably making the right decision. One particular passage early in the first half highlighted this. As Glasgow attacked from inside their own 22, Nacewa made a tackle with O’Malley outside him. As soon as Nacewa had brought his man down, O’Malley was swiftly over the ball with great, low body position, forcing a turnover penalty. This is something O’Driscoll has always done superbly and O’Malley seems to be capable of such decisive defensive moments too.

See highlights of Leinster’s 38-13 win over Glasgow, including O’Malley’s tries and turnover, here.

Niall Ronan

Munster’s win over Castres has understandably seen most of the attention go to Ronan O’Gara’s drop goal heroics. But the performance of openside Niall Ronan should not go unnoticed as he made several crucial contributions to the win. The ex-Leinster no. 7 has had a strong start to the season as he has nailed down a first-choice spot in Tony McGahan’s back-row. Ronan’s sharp form has continued against Northampton and Castres in the first two Heineken Cup fixtures. As Ireland struggled without a natural openside at the recent World Cup, it could be worth Declan Kidney’s while considering the merits of 29-year-old Ronan.

Ronan has taken on more responsibility for carrying the ball this season. It would appear that he has added some bulk to his frame and he has been far more effective with ball in hand. Against Castres, he continually offered himself up to take on ball and he consistently got Munster over the gain line. Ronan also provided the try-scoring pass for Peter O’Mahony’s try as he ran an intelligent trailing line off Conor Murray and then showed quick hands to release O’Mahony. Meanwhile, Ronan’s work rate was as high as ever. When he wasn’t carrying ball himself, Ronan was hitting rucks and supporting other carriers.

The Meath native also provided two crucial turnovers for his side, showing his ability as a natural 7. With Munster trailing 21-17, and Castres enjoying a spell of possession inside the Munster half, Ronan made a fantastic steal which allowed Munster to kick deep into the Castres’ 22. From the subsequent scrum, O’Gara’s block-down created the try for Chambers. Then, with three minutes left, Ronan turned over Castres’ possession at ruck time as the French side went in search of a winning score with the match tied at 24-24. Ronan’s steal resulted in Chambers making a searing break, almost setting up Doug Howlett for a winning score.

Highlights of Munster’s 27-24 win over Castres can be seen here.

Andrew Trimble

Ulster lost out to Leicester at Welford road on Saturday despite a brave, physical performance. The entire team put in a tremendous effort, none more so than Trimble. The winger carried ball all afternoon for Brian McLaughlin’s men. While Ulster struggled to crack the determined Leicester defence, Trimble was the player who looked most like breaking through. Despite most of his carries being in traffic, he always got over the gain line.

Trimble put in a mountain of work against Leicester. Photo via MD+D

Trimble signalled his intent to get stuck in early on as he followed up and won an Ian Humphreys garryowen. He again showed commitment as he chased a Humphreys restart and came up with a man-and-ball hit on Louis Deacon. Trimble always looked confident under high ball and took everything kicked down his wing with ease. His first-half included an intelligent offload to Chris Henry, but Trimble’s good work went to waste as the move broke down with a loose pass from Wannenburg. Soon after, Trimble came off his wing and showed great strength in handing off Matt Smith to get Ulster onto the front foot.

It was not a flawless 80 minutes from Trimble as he had two knock-ons in promising positions as well as getting bounced off by Tuilagi during one of his trademark surges out wide. Trimble got his own back on Tuilagi in the second half though, racing up out of the line to smash the Samoan in possession, forcing the turnover. He followed this up with a delightful kick deep into the Tigers’ 22 after an aimless Toby Flood garryowen. Trimble continued to make hard carries as Ulster searched for a reply to Matt Smith’s try for Leicester. He never broke through but deserves serious credit for his effort at Welford Road.

You can view the entire Ulster match against Leicester here.

Jamie Heaslip

Heaslip has come in for some criticism over the past year or so as he has failed to match his electric form of 2009, when he played a critical part in Ireland’s Grand Slam as well as starting all three tests for the Lions in South Africa and ended the year with a nomination for IRB International Player of the Year. Any player would find it hard to repeat a year like that every season. However, it is true that Heaslip has been quieter on the pitch in recent times. With Sean O’Brien’s ascendancy to the role of primary ball carrier for both Leinster and Ireland, Heaslip has had less responsibility in that regard. Against Glasgow, Heaslip showed signs that he may be returning to somewhere near his best.

Heaslip after being sin-binned against Munster earlier this month. Photo via MD+D

Heaslip was effective in possession, as he got on the ball more than he has in the previous few games. He carried hard and always made the ball available for Eoin Reddan to move it on quickly. His strength in contact was key to this as Heaslip always took the tackle on his own terms, not allowing the himself to get wrapped up or the ball to be slowed down. It was Heaslip who made the opening for O’Malley to score his first try. It took three Glasgow players to haul Heaslip down as he inched towards the line and his ball presentation was perfect, allowing O’Malley to slip over for the score.

Heaslip got through his usual amount of hard work in clearing out rucks and supporting ball carriers, much of which goes unnoticed. Heaslip had a large role in creating the platform which allowed Leinster to score five tries. It was encouraging to see Heaslip with more ball in hand and the hope is that he can build on this performance over the coming months and return to the form that saw him included in discussions on the best players in the world.

Photos courtesy:  MD+D, Jukka Zitting