Rugby: 'Rock's Doris is star performer as the Irish boys finish on a high
The Ireland Schools concluded a disappointing FIRA-AER European U18 Championship with a 21-12 win over Scotland in Tournefeuille, France on Saturday.
It was not exactly a story of triumph as the Irish just about avoided 'the wooden spoon' in this competition by overturning their pre-tournament friendly defeat to the Scots (21-13) to show a degree of improvement.
"There is no doubt about it, that the players have developed.
"Had that not been the case, they wouldn't have won," said Team Manager John McKinney, after turning the tables on Scotland.
"The gap between good football as a school and good football as an international team is a far wider gap than that between schools and provincial level.
"There is less time to prepare for it, which makes it more of a challenge as well," he said.
The poor preparation time mostly comes down to the pre-eminent position of the Schools Cup campaigns.
On Saturday, Blackrock flanker Caelan Doris was the standout performer in a match Ireland took control of through centre Jack Kelly's first-half try and a second from full-back Colm Hogan after the break.
This international selection featured a half-dozen Leinster starters, including Senior Cup finalists Tim Carroll, on the left wing, and Tom de Jongh at flanker.
Locks Oisín Dowling and Johnny Guy, Doris and Kelly completed the set.
Captain Bill Johnston kicked eleven points in an out-of-the-blue competition in which Portugal made the last four and Georgia the final.
It could have all been so different as the Irish went out in a penalty shoot-out (3-1) to Georgia after dominating an 8-all draw, their conquerors going on to make their first final before taking a 57-0 beating from France.
This was compounded by Ireland's narrow 14-9 loss to Wales in one that could have gone either way.
Ireland: C Hogan (Glenstal); R Lyttle (Methodist), C Nash (Crescent), J Kelly (St Michael's), T Carroll (Roscrea); B Johnston (Rockwell, capt), J Stewart (Wallace High); D Kealey (Campbell), C McEvoy, P Cooper (both Sullivan Upper), J Guy (St Andrew's), O Dowling (St Michael's), C Doris (Blackrock), T de Jongh (Belvedere), J Foley (St Munchin's).
Replacements: J O'Sullivan (PBC) for de Jongh (12 mins); T Foley (Roscrea) for Nash (42mins); J Lyons (Crescent) for Stewart (65 mins); A Clarke (Ballymena) for McEvoy (66 mins); J Kendrick (Rockwell) for Kealey, D Murphy (Roscrea) for Cooper (both 68 mins); C Dean (Blackrock) for Kelly, J McKeown (Ballymena) for Guy (both 69 mins); McEvoy for Clarke (70 mins).