Ulster’s Under 21s made a terrific start to their inter-provincial title bids in Dublin on Friday night with impressive opening wins which keep them firmly on course to take the honours on Saturday.
The men stormed back from 2-1 down to defeat Munster 4-2 while the women began with a runaway 8-0 victory over Connacht helped by a treble from Lucy McKee.
Now a win over Leinster on Saturday will be enough for the men to lift the title while the women are well placed to retain the silverware with games against Munster and Leinster to come.
“We started a bit nervously as you might expect but once we got into our stride we played well but there’s a long way to go yet.” said coach Ali McNeill.
“Leinster and Munster both look strong and the tournament will get tougher from here on in.”
The hosts also got off to a winning start when they defeated Munster 3-1 making Saturday’s game with Ulster a likely decider.
Men’s coach Stephen Cuddy was also in a buoyant mood after his side’s comeback win over Munster.
“It was a difficult game in difficult conditions but I am delighted with the win and tomorrow’s game will be tough though we are looking forward to the challenge.” he added.
Places in the Ireland squad are up for grabs for both teams at Grange Road with the men’s national junior side due to face England, Germany and Scotland in a Four Nations tournament at Mossley next week.
The women are off the Vienna for the European Championships in July and both national coaches will name their squads for the respective tournaments over the next few days with the men’s announcement due on Saturday afternoon.
In Friday night’s game Munster took the lead through Simon Wolfe but Matthew Bell levelled matters before the break.
Nick Burns put Munster 2-1 up after the restart but Ulster responded superbly as Bell got his second and further goals followed from Matthew Allister and Jamie Wright.
Ulster’s women led 3-0 at the break and in addition to McKee’s hat trick, Gemma Frazer got a double with the other goals coming from Jo Orr, Chloe Brown and Katie Mullan.
Women: Ulster 8 Connacht 0; Leinster 3 Munster 1.
Men: Ulster 4 Munster 2; Leinster 3 Ireland U18s 0.
Women: Saturday: Ulster v Munster (12.30pm); Connacht v Leinster (2pm); Sunday: Munster v Connacht (9.30am); Leinster v Ulster (1.30pm).
Men’s: Saturday: Irish U18s v Munster (11am); Leinster v Ulster (3.30pm); Sunday: Ulster v Irish U18s (11.30am)