Three teams – leaders Munster, Connacht and last year’s winners Leinster – are still in the running to be crowned IRFU Women’s Interprovincial champions for 2014/15. It all makes for a fascinating final round on Saturday.
2014/15 IRFU WOMEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP:
ROUND 3 – Saturday, September 20
LEINSTER WOMEN (3rd) v ULSTER WOMEN (4th), Ashbourne RFC, 1.30pm
MUNSTER WOMEN (1st) v CONNACHT WOMEN (2nd), Tralee RFC, 2.30pm
Munster Women’s head coach Wayne Falvey has kept faith with the side that beat Leinster 7-0 last week for Saturday’s crucial clash with Connacht at Tralee RFC.
A win for the Munster girls, who currently top the table with nine points, will see them regain the Interprovincial crown and celebrate an incredible seventh title in nine years.
Second-placed Connacht (six points) travel south with high hopes, however, after their emphatic 39-5 bonus point win over Ulster at the Sportsground.
Laura Guest, who scored the match-winning try against Leinster, captains the youthful Munster side who have yet to concede a single point in this season’s Interprovincial Championship.
Saturday’s round 3 tie will also have the very unusual occurrence of a sibling rivalry. Munster out-half Laura O’Mahony and her sister, Connacht winger Emer O’Mahony, face off at their home club.
It will be a very special occasion for Tralee RFC as, along with the O’Mahony sisters, there are five other Tralee players involved in the game.
Munster lock Ciara Griffin and replacement Ayesha Roche play their club rugby for the Kerry side, as do Connacht hooker Ciara O’Connor, winger O’Mahony and replacements Christine Arthurs and Niamh Dempsey.
The westerners’ head coach Luke O’Donnell has made one change for the title-deciding match, with Lisa McDonagh promoted from the bench to form an all-Galwegians centre pairing with Emer Clery.
MUNSTER WOMEN: Mairead Kelly (UL Bohemians); Deirbhile Nic A Bhaird (Highfield), Ger Rea (Highfield), Nicola Scully (Highfield), Ashling Hutchings (UL Bohemians); Laura O’Mahony (Tralee), Mona Fehily (Highfield); Fiona Hayes (UL Bohemians), Amy Desmond (Highfield), Leah Lyons (Fermoy), Maeve Darcy (UL Bohemians), Elaine Anthony (Highfield), Roisín Ormond (Highfield), Ciara Griffin (Tralee), Laura Guest (Highfield) (capt).
Replacements: Kate Sheehan (UL Bohemians), Maura Collins (Abbeyfeale), Leah Barbour (UL Bohemians), Gerda Coyne (Highfield), Maria Eviston (UL Bohemians), Ayesha Roche (Tralee), Mollie O’Donnell (UL Bohemians), Amy O’Callaghan (Highfield).
CONNACHT WOMEN: Mairead Coyne (Galwegians); Jill Draper (Tullamore), Lisa McDonagh (Galwegians), Emma Clery (Galwegians), Emer O’Mahony (Tralee); Clare Rafferty (Galwegians), Mary Healy (Galwegians); Laura Feely (Galwegians), Ciara O’Connor (Tralee), Ruth O’Reilly (Galwegians) (capt), Rita Breen (NUIG), Catriona Cassidy (Portlaoise), Marion Sheridan (Tuam/Galwegians), Heather Cary (Galwegians), Grainne Egan (St. Mary’s College).
Replacements: Jean Moore (Portlaoise), Edel Durkin (Tuam), Christine Arthurs (Tralee), Niamh Dempsey (Tralee), Edel McMahon (NUIG/Galwegians), Nicole Fowley (Sligo), Michelle Fitzpatrick (Galwegians), Rhona Julian (NUIG).
Leinster finish the Interpro series with a second successive outing at Ashbourne RFC, targeting a bonus point victory over Ulster and hoping that the result of the Munster-Connacht clash goes their way.
There is one change to the side that lost 7-0 to Munster as Kim Flood will start at inside centre, coming in for her Railway Union club-mate Claire Ryan.
Meanwhile, Belfast Harlequins duo Alanagh Chipperfield and Rebecca Smyth, Cooke flanker Laura Johnston and Queen’s University centre Claire McLaughlin have all been brought into Ulster’s starting line-up.
* The Leinster Women’s Committee are also hosting a friendly, social season opener blitz in Ashbourne. This is specifically designed for teams where the majority of players are brand new to the game.
Malahide, Clontarf, Greystones and Balbriggan, are taking centre stage, and are keen to showcase the hard work undertaken in pre-season by their players.
It is a perfect opportunity to see what development rugby is about, and gives a taste as to whether you may want to partake, without going to a club’s open day. So come along and make up your own mind, with no pressure.
The day will kick off for the opening blitz at 11am and finish shortly before the Leinster v Ulster match.
Round 1 – 11-11.20am: Malahide v Clontarf (pitch 2), Greystones v Balbriggan (pitch 3); Round 2 – 11.30-11.50am: Malahide v Balbriggan (pitch 2), Greystones v Clontarf (pitch 3); Round 3 – 12-12.20pm: Malahide v Greystones (pitch 2), 12.20-12.45pm: Clontarf v Balbriggan (pitch 3).
LEINSTER WOMEN: Vikki McGinn (Blackrock College); Aoife Tyrrell (Blackrock College), Elise O’Byrne-White (Old Belvedere), Kim Flood (Railway Union), Janice Daly (Old Belvedere); Aine Donnelly (Cill Dara), Ailsa Hughes (Tullamore); Ruth McElroy (Old Belvedere), Ann-Marie Rooney (St. Mary’s College) (capt), Fiona O’Brien (Old Belvedere), Ciara Cooney (Tullow), Orla Fitzsimons (St. Mary’s College), Katie Norris (Blackrock College), Jennie Finlay (Navan), Sharon Lynch (Old Belvedere).
Replacements: Cliona O’Toole (Cill Dara), Joanna Mahon (County Carlow), Aoife Maher (Railway Union), Niamh Fitzgerald (St. Mary’s College), Mairead Holohan (Clondalkin), Meg Parkinson (County Carlow), Chrissy Doyle (Old Belvedere), Claire Ryan (Railway Union).
ULSTER WOMEN: Peita McAlister (Queen’s University); Vicky Irwin (Ormskirk), Stacey Sloan (City of Derry), Claire McLaughlin (Queen’s University), Emma Jordan (Queen’s University); Jemma Jackson (Queen’s University), Imogen Porter (Queen’s University); Alanagh Chipperfield (Belfast Harlequins), Janine Mullan (Queen’s University), Nikita Armstrong (Cooke) (capt), Lauren Maginnes (Queen’s University), Rebecca Smyth (Belfast Harlequins), Laura Johnston (Cooke), Noreen Nethercot (Enniskillen), Gemma McCutcheon (Queen’s University).
Replacements: Ilse van Staden (Belfast Harlequins), Lesley Megarity (Belfast Harlequins), Sabrina Higgins (Carrick), Sorcha Chipperfield (Cooke), Shirelle Wilson (Cooke), Steffi Clarke (Queen’s University), Emma Rea (Cooke), Claire Johnston (Cooke).