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Tuesday 27 September 2016

Deegan nominated for U20 World Player as Irish contend for first World Championship

Ireland U20 Max Deegan. Photo: Matt McNulty/Sportsfile
Ireland U20 Max Deegan. Photo: Matt McNulty/Sportsfile

Max Deegan has joined Garry Ringrose (2014) and JJ Hanrahan (2012) as the third Irishman to be shortlisted for the U20 World Player of the Year.

The in-form number eight will look to go one better than both of his predecessors by claiming the prestigious accolade.

It is a hot contest for the individual award as England's Harry Mallinder, son of Northampton coach Jim, New Zealand's Shaun Stevenson, South Africa's Curwin Bosch and Japan's Ataata Moeakiola are also in the pot.

The voting will take place on the public forum that is Facebook which can lead to a popularity contest rather than a 'world's best' outcome.

In hindsight, the overall winner is almost guaranteed to become a fully-fledged senior international, Ringrose losing out to one Springbok in Handre Pollard and Hanrahan to another in Jan Serfontein.

The Leinster Academy loose forward would gladly forsake the individual prize for the collective one of becoming the first Irish squad to win this tournament.

In truth, captain James Ryan, loose-head Andrew Porter and full-back Jacob Stockdale could all have been nominated as well, such has been the consistency of performance from their shock wins over Wales (26-25) and New Zealand (33-24) before they tamed Georgia (35-7) in the last Pool match of the campaign.

They simply refused to bow to their increasing injury pile-up, losing Cillian Gallagher in the lead-in to the semi-final bombardment of a highly touted Argentina (37-7), in what was the most complete in-tournament performance by an Ireland outfit at any level.

However, this was quickly tempered by how England laid waste to South Africa (30-7) in the second semi-final on Monday evening.

Ireland will be the underdogs, even though the hosts' coach Martin Haag had the cheek to label Ireland as favourites.

This, despite the fact, the English will be at home in Manchester in their seventh final from nine editions of the competition of which they have won two in 2013 against Wales and 2014 against South Africa.

The Irish have been moulded out of a unity of purpose and an uncommon bond, generated by coach Nigel Carolan, which has given them the extra edge to come through hard times.

U20 WORLD CUP FINAL: IRELAND V ENGLAND (TOMORROW 7.0 lIVE TG4/ SKY SPORTS 1)

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