Stephen Coleman will lead Ireland into the Ireland’s British Isles Under-25 Indoor Home International Series in Glasgow over the weekend.
The young County Antrim player has been handed the captaincy for the first time. Having lost a number of their most experienced back end players due to the age restriction, the Irish selectors have drafted in nine debutants for the two-day campaign.
Included for the first time are Andrew Johnston, Michael Hedley, Sam Barkley, Scott Jess, Dean Mills, Nigel Beggs, Ryan Cavan, Jordan Millar and Shay Martin.
“We may be missing a huge chunk of experience, but that is part and parcel of this tournament,” said Irish boss Roy McCune.
“We are about to go into a new phase in terms of players. The team has virtually been rebuilt. This is all part of their growth and development. It gives the the new lads an opportunity of competing in an international environment.”
Ireland will be missing Andy Duncan, Gary Kelly, Robert Allen, George Carson, Stephen Shields, Kris Matchett and Terry Crawford. It’s hardly surprising their aspirations of lifting the title may have to be shelved a little while longer. In many ways it takes the pressure off the new breed of players - they basically have nothing to lose.
“The other nations have a huge amount of players to choose from,” added McCune.
“We are not in that position. In saying that, even though we’ve lost quite a few, we will still be taking a good squad of players to Glasgow.
“It will be an inexperienced group. But for the first time in a few years, we’ll be in a position to rotate the team as we are taking a travelling panel of 20. They will all play a part.
“Most of them are only developing at this level. The experience of playing against this sort of opposition will be a steep learning curve.
“There are still a few boys in there that been here before, the likes of Stephen Coleman; the Kirkwood brothers, Stephen and Robert; Reece Millar and Jamie Watson, so we’ll be relying on the experience they have.
“And, of course, the big benefit is that fact that Kelly, Ali Coleman and Allen have gone on to become established in the senior team. They’ll be joined in that capacity by Duncan and Jess at Stanley next month.”
Ireland Under-25 squad: C Prunty (BIBC), Stuart Coleman (CAIBC), D Atkinson (BIBC), Alistair Coleman (CAIBC), A Johnston (BIBC), M Hedley (BIBC), C Brogan (BCIBC), S Kirkwood (BIBC), Aaron Coleman (CAIBC), S Barkley (CAIBC), S Jess (BIBC), Stephen Coleman (CAIBC), R Millar (BIBC), D Mills (BIBC), J Watson (BIBC), R Kirkwood (BIBC), J Millar (BCIBC), S Martin (BCIBC), N Beggs (CAIBC), R Cavan (BIBC).
Saturday (9.45am): Ireland v Wales (A Coleman v R Owen; S Kirkwood v D Salmon; S Coleman v J Breen; R Kirkwood v L Stone). Scotland v England (S Stein v J Walker; C Taggart v P Martin; B Burnett v R Atkins, K Anderson v A Walton).
Saturday (2.45pm): England v Ireland (P Martin v S Kirkwood; R Atkins v S Coleman; A Walton v R Kirkwood; J Walker v A Coleman). Scotland v Wales (C Taggart v L Stone; R Burnett v R Owen; K Anderson v Salmon; C Stein v J Breen).
Sunday (9.30am): Wales v England (D Salmon v R Atkins; J Breen v A Walton; L Stone v J Walker; R Owen v P Martin). Scotland v Ireland (K Anderson v S Coleman; C Stein v R Kirkwood; C Taggart v A Coleman; R Burnett v S Kirkwood).
North West put their IIBA Junior Inter-zone title on the line at the Watson Stadium on Saturday (10am).
Ryan O’Neill’s young squad lifted the title for the first time last season at Ardboe, defeating North Down, who were the current champions, in the final. The title holders have been pitched in with Northern, Western and Oriel at the group stage.
“We’ve a good young crop of players and we are looking forward to defending the title,” said O’Neill.
“After qualifying for the semi finals last season, the team produced two superb performances, defeating Armagh by 17 shots before going on to beat North Down by 11 shots in the final.
“Obviously, with being champions, the pressure will be on but the players are up for it.”
IIBA Junior Inter-zone groups:
Section A: Mid Ulster, South Tyrone and Mid Tyrone. Section B: Larne, North West and West Down. Section C: Armagh, Monaghan and Donegal. Section D: North West, Northern, Western and Oriel.