Carolan proud despite his starlets' World U20 final defeat
Ireland had to settle for silver after they were comprehensively beaten 45-21 by England in the World Rugby Under-20 Championship final on Saturday.
Nigel Carolan's men had been enjoying a fine tournament in Manchester, and had already exceeded expectations before the weekend's showpiece in the AJ Bell Stadium, but their dream of glory came to an abrupt halt against a superior England side.
Martin Haag's men had raced into a 21-0 lead by half-time and always looked in control of proceedings with Irish coach Carolan admitting as much after the final whistle.
"We felt we were beaten by the better side," the Ireland coach conceded.
"They were very clinical, any chance they got they took and, at 21-0 down at half-time, it was always going to be an uphill battle."
Despite the defeat, Carolan hailed the efforts of his players in securing Ireland's best ever finish at this tournament.
"I'm extremely proud of the way these guys have conducted themselves over the last three and a half weeks, it's been an immense tournament for them," he added.
Nerves were evident early on from both sides but England enjoyed plenty of possession only for Ireland's work at the lineout to disrupt their efforts.
As the quarter hour mark approached however, England had a deserved breakthrough thanks to a fine individual score from Joe Marchant.
Only five minutes later, and with the Ireland scrum in trouble, they added another through Callum Chick and, when Huw Taylor profited from careless kicking to provide a third before half-time, Ireland looked in real trouble.
Having stormed back from a large deficit to beat Wales in their opener, they won't have panicked unduly but when man of the match Harry Mallinder cantered home for a fourth, what had been an uphill battle now looked impossible.
Still, they offered a response and Adam McBurney, the Ulster hooker who had a strong tournament, forced his way over.
Despite further scores from Shane Daly, coming after superb work from Jacob Stockdale, and player of the tournament Max Deegan, the result was never in doubt as England also added their fifth and sixth.
In what was a disappointing weekend for Irish rugby, the women's sevens team came up short in their bid to reach the Rio Olympics yesterday.
With the final spot at the Games up for grabs in Dublin, Ireland came through their pool on Saturday thanks to wins over China, Portugal and Trinidad and Tobago.
A comfortable win over Tunisia yesterday afternoon had them in the final four but a strong Russian outfit proved just too good in the semi-finals and were victorious 19-10.