With provinces refusing to release players, young Irish team have opportunity to shine in first foray into the SAR While most of Hong Kong's Irish community were out celebrating St Patrick's Day last night, the Republic's Sevens squad were in bed - quite early - as they prepared to meet the big guns in their pool, defending World Cup champions New Zealand and Scotland, today. 'We will celebrate Paddy's Day afterwards,' said young captain Ian Humphreys. 'We don't want to make fools of ourselves out there and we are here to take it seriously.' In the past, Irish teams were noted for celebrating long and hard on the day devoted to their patron saint. One year, the team were en route to Hong Kong on St Patrick's Day, and they apparently drank the plane dry. They arrived a wee bit tipsy, not knowing if they were in Limerick or in Lamma. But that is all in the past, in the days before professionalism. Humphreys and Co are a bunch of young, aspiring players who are on the fringes of the four big provincial teams in Ireland - Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connacht. They know a good performance won't go unnoticed back home. 'None of the big four released players because of European Cup commitments. This side is basically a young development side,' said 22-year-old flyhalf Humphreys. 'None of us has been to Hong Kong before and we don't have much experience at sevens, but we are quietly confident.' Compared with the Kiwis and the Scots, who are regulars on the sevens circuit, this Irish team are completely wet behind the ears. Having qualified in the European zone tournament in Mallorca, Spain last year, Ireland took part in the opening two legs of the IRB Sevens this season - in Dubai and George. 'We finished 12th in Dubai and 10th in George,' said Ireland coach Ryan Constable. 'It was a massive learning curve for us and we were there to gain some experience of playing against the big boys.' 'Our goal in Hong Kong is to continue and develop as a team. It would be naive to expect Ireland to bridge that gap of experience in such a short time. But this team has a lot of enthusiasm and, although inexperienced and short of a sevens tradition, I expect them to do well.' The team may lack sevens experience, but Constable has loads of it having represented Australia in sevens from 1992 to 2000. He played in the inaugural World Cup Sevens in 1993 and also captained the Australian side at the 1997 World Cup in Hong Kong. Having played the past four seasons for Ulster, Constable retired eight months ago when he took up the sevens coaching job. 'He is just brilliant and he has brought so much to the side,' said Humphreys. 'His experience is second to none and we have benefited from it. 'Although we are all basically XVs players, I believe we are good enough to adapt quickly.' While nine members of the squad figured in the qualifying campaign and also played in Dubai and George, it will be a new ball game for sevens debutants Kevin Croke, Brendan O'Connor and Brian Tuohy. Two players to watch are speedsters Andrew Maxwell and James Norton, although Humphreys stresses that it will be a team effort that turns Ireland's wheels. Team: 1. Mark Bruce, 2. Kevin Croke, 3. David Hewitt, 4. Tomas O'Leary, 5. Ian Humphreys, 6. Andrew Maxwell, 7. Michael McComish, 8. Martin McPhail, 9. James Norton, 10. Brendan O'Connor, 11. Niall Roman, 12. Brian Tuohy. WC flashback: 1993 - cup semi-finals; 1997 - bowl semi-finals; 2001 - bowl semi-finals. Player to watch: Ian Humphreys Numbers: 96,500 registered players (84,500 men, 12,000 women). Prediction: Bowl. Ireland 7 Facts 1 When Irish Eyes Are Smiling was written by George Graff, who was German, and never in Ireland in his life 2 St Patrick was Welsh 3 Boasts the highest per capita consumption of cereal in the world - 15 pounds per person annually 4 The only place where windmills turn closckwise 5 The most common surname in Ireland is Murphy 6 A sex change has never been performed in Ireland 7 Gave the world: Lola Montez, 'the biggest whore in Christendom'