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kevin@tullamoretribune.ie

TULLAMORE rugby players, Jordan Conroy and Megan Burns enjoyed very mixed luck when their Irish sevens teams took part in big qualifying tournamets for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games last weekend.

Conroy and the mens' sevens squad kept their hopes alive as they won bronze at the Rugby Europe Olympic qualifier in Colomiers, France – it means they will compete at next summer's World Rugby Repechage, where only the champions advance to Tokyo.

However, there was bitter disappointment for Megan Burns and the Irish womens' sevens squad as they bowed out at the quarter-final stage of the Olympic qualifier in Kazan, thus ending their ambitions of making the Olympics.

Once again, Jordan Conroy was in scintilating form for the mens' squad, scoring nine tries over the tournament and using his blistering pace to great effect on the wing. Now playing his club rugby with Buccaneers, Conroy played in underage ranks with Tullamore on his way up and was also a talented athlete and soccer player before concentrating on the oval ball.

The other confirmed Repechage sides so far are Brazil, Chile, Jamaica and Mexico and they will be joined by six more.

While the current season wraps up next weekend with the final leg of the European Grand Prix Series in Lodz, the Ireland squad have their much-anticipated debut as a World Series core team to look forward to in 2019/20. A full season at the top tier of the game should be ideal preparation for the final Olympic Repechage event.

Ireland played well throughout the tournament and got the win they needed to keep their hopes alive when they beat Portugal 26-12 in the bronze final – Conroy got one try here.

Drawn in pool B, the Tullamore man got two tries in the opening 41-0 win over Ukraine, four in the 52-14 rout of Russia and one in the 17-17 draw with Spain as Ireland qualified.

He got another try as Ireland had a fine 21-0 win over Germany in the cup quarter-final but France proved too strong in the semi-final, winning 19-12 in a game where Ireland performed with great character – it was the only game that Conroy did not get on the score sheet. England went onto claim the Olympic qualifying spot in the final, beating France by 31-7.

Sadly, there was no joy for the womens' sevens as a 17-7 quarter-final loss to England dashed their Olympic dreams. With a young squad (11 of the 13 traveling players in Kazan were under 25), Ireland can still reflect on a season of progress as they try to build the womens' sevens game. They secured a best ever finish of sixth at the World Rugby Sevens and were eight at the World Series, including a semi-final appearance in Australia. They finish the 2019 season at the Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix series leg in Ukraine.

Megan Burns, an excellent performer for Tullamore and Leinster, has been a regular all season and she once again came on as a sub in all the games – Ireland beat Romania 48-0 and Czech Republic 50-0 while losing 19-5 to Spain in Pool C. England denied them in the quarter-final, 17-7, thus ending their chances of going to Tokyo.

There was consolation as Ireland beat Romania 48-0 in the 5th-8th place play off and Poland 33-5 in the 5th-6th place play off – Burns crossed for a try in both games.

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