Joyce hopes senior success can inspire Ulster ‘A’
Ulster ‘A’ get a rare taste of knockout rugby this weekend when they travel to Munster ‘A’ for Sunday’s British and Irish Cup quarter-final at Cork’s Irish Independent Park (kick-off 3.00pm).
‘A’ team coaches Kieran Campbell and Willie Anderson are hoping to again have a strong squad to take south with a well-balanced mixture of experience and youth on show for what will be first time the side have made it this far in the competition since 2012.
And an added incentive for what will be a formidable challenge against unbeaten pool winners Munster will be that should Ulster triumph — they qualified as a best-runner up from their group after winning four from six games — they will have their semi-final at the Kingspan.
Though the ‘A’ team will be without Johnny McPhillips as the out-half will be with Ireland U-20s, Brett Herron looks set to fill the number 10 shirt for what will be a mighty clash between the rival provinces.
At least flanker Conor Joyce knows what it is like to actually win in Munster as he was part of the senior Ulster squad which pulled off a shock 19-17 win at Thomond Park back in 2014.
“We had a very young team that day,” recalls the 23-year-old.
“But we came out with the victory and it was a great game to play against them especially as Paul O’Connell, one of my idols, was playing too.
“Munster is a tough place to go down to at the best of times but we’re looking forward to the challenge anyway.”
The English-born player, who has represented Ireland U-20s, has been one of the mainstays of Campbell’s squad in this B&I Cup campaign and he knows that fronting up at Munster will be essential.
“It starts with the forwards and Willie (Anderson) has already given us a few passionate speeches behind closed doors and, to me, he’s a great guy to have in your corner.
“We just want to keep the journey going.
“It’s a great tournament too and we want to keep progressing,” adds Joyce who has played six times for the senior side.