But, it was a disappointing tournament all-round for Ulster, who were going for a hat-trick of wins in both the Ulster Senior and Under 21 tourneys, to hand the titles to Leinster.
Both sides were outplayed in their opening game by hosts Leinster, the seniors going down 4-1 and the Under 21’s coming out on the wrong side of a 2-1 scoreline.
And then against Munster, Ulster seniors had to come back from behind twice to secure a draw, with the U21’s securing maximum points against Munster winning 3-2.
Granted Leinster and Munster had full strength squads, and the question is if Ulster’s five ‘Europeans’ had been available, there may have been a completely different slant on the outcome.
Questions must also be asked as to why Ulster don’t include the Dutch pair Mark Gleghorne and Iain Lewers. Albeit they have opted to play for GB, and not Ireland, but that shouldn’t mean that they can’t play for Ulster. Are we not shooting ourselves in the foot, and depriving our supporters the opportunity of watching two superb hockey players, and holding onto the Inter-pro title? Maybe that argument is for another day.
Meanwhile, Ulster used the opportunity to introduce several debutantes, Stephen Arbuthnot, Diarmid Reay, and Fraser Mills into the senior squad, and the step up from premiership hockey to inter-pro level was evident. Paul Cleghorne also made his senior debut, but his international and English premiership experience with Loughborough, shone through.
The pace of the game at this level is unrelenting, and the new self pass rule, which is played the way it is meant to, means that there is no time to take a quick ‘breather’.
Ulster’s performance against Munster was much better than their game against Leinster. After a scoreless first half, in which both defences reigned supreme, the game burst into life just two minutes into the second half.
And it went in Munster’s favour, albeit somewhat harshly as Ulster had been in the ascendency, when John Jermym speared home Munster’s first penalty corner of the game.
Their lead was short-lived, as three minutes later Ulster swung into attack, and as the ball fell to Bruce McCandless just inside the Munster circle, he unleashed a sweetly struck reverse stick shot, which soared into the net for the leveller.
Ulster were now in the hunt for the winner, as they forced Munster on the back foot, but they were still getting little change out of the Muster defence.
In the 62nd minute, with Ulster pushing forward, Munster sprung from defence to score a somewhat strange goal. From the left handside of the Ulster circle, the ball defelected high off a defenders stick to lob over the Ulster defence for it to fall to a bemused Jermyn to simply tap home at the far post.
With the clock ticking down, Ulster threw everything into attack and with two minutes to go, they were back on level terms. Chris Cargo cut down the left to smash in a low hard cross, which was met by Todd diving at full stretch to guide the ball home.
After the match David Scott the Ulster Coach said:
“I think that some of our new guys realised that there is a big step up to this level from club level. They played very well but the speed of the game is a speed they wouldn’t have been used to, and it was a good eye-opener for them, and it is good to get this experience behind them.
“We were well beaten by Leinster in our opening game, and the guys were honest with themselves, and knew they needed to step up. But our performance against Munster was much better all round. Overall I was very pleased with the squad, and the guys attitude was excellent.”
Meanwhile Ulster U21’s squandered a one goal advantage after Neil Hamilton had given them the lead going down 2-1 to Leinster.
And, in the next game Hamilton fired Ulster into a three-goal first half lead, scoring three penalty corners on 13, 17 and 33 minutes. But Munster hit back in the second half, through Dan Hobbs to put the game on a knife edge, with Ulster just hanging onto their one goal advantage to take the points.
Senior Inter Provincial
Ulster 1 Leinster 4
Ulster 2 Munster 2
Leinster 2 Munster 1
Final Positions: 1st Leinster 6pts; 2nd Munster 1pt; 3rd Ulster 1pt.
U21 Inter Provincial
Ulster 1 Leinster 2
Ulster 3 Munster 2
Munster 2 Leinster 3
Final positions: 1st Leinster 6pts; 2nd Ulster 3pts; 3rd Munster 0pts.
Armagh 1 Antrim 1
Harlequins 6 Down 1
Cliftonville 0 South Antrim 6
Portadown 0 Civil Service 7
Sussex Regiment Cup
Ballymena 2 Larne 3 (AET)
PSNI 4 Saintfield 4
(PSNI win 3-0 PS)
Parkview 1 Campbellians 2
Tuesday 30th March
Instonians V Annadale (7.45pm)
Queens V Harlequins (7.45pm)
Larne V Parkview
PSNI V Campbellians
Portrush V Ballymena