Exciting news rugby-wise on Leeside has seen Irish Independent Park announced as the home venue of the Irish Under-20 6 Nations side for the 2019 instalment of the competition. The competition will see Ireland host both England and France this year, the first year that the Irish Independent Park, and indeed the province of Munster, host a 6 Nations game of any level. Head of Finance and Operations Philip Quinn said: “We are delighted to welcome the Ireland U20s home games to Irish Independent Park. This is part of an overall plan to attract additional high-quality matches and events to the region following the recent upgrade of the pitch. I am sure the future stars of Irish Rugby will be well supported, and it will be a fantastic occasion for all involved.”
With Munster headquarters calling Limerick home, Cork has tended to be left by the wayside in years gone by, even though it is seen as a focal point for rugby in South Munster. Since 2015 however, efforts have been made to improve the facilities and further the opportunities of the region. The redevelopment of the seating plan led to an extra 3,500 seats being installed with a covered terrace, and in May the club announced it was beginning the installation of an artificial pitch in the Cork ground. Artificial surfaces are growing in popularity due to the lower maintenance costs and the durability of the material.
The new pitch has facilitated the park’s ability to host more games, and that’s exactly what is happening. The new Irish-Welsh development competition, the Celtic Cup, sees Munster A play host at Irish Independent. Now the announcement of the Under-20 6 Nations is sure to have the city abuzz with anticipation. The U20 side has fostered the careers of some of Ireland’s stars such as Jacob Stockdale, James Ryan, and Jordan Larmour. UCC’s own John Hodnett, picture above with Jonathan Wren and Sean French, has played with Munster A in the Celtic Cup this season and is sure to be involved in the U20 set-up and with Munster and Ireland for the years to come.