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Old Belvedere Women Retain All-Ireland League Crown

Old Belvedere Women Retain All-Ireland League Crown

Old Belvedere backed up their stunning form from throughout this season to seal the Women’s All-Ireland League Division 1 title in a fast-paced final against an extremely dogged Blackrock, writes Kate Rowan.

WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: Saturday, December 13


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Old Belvedere 26 Blackrock 5, Donnybrook

In Pics: Old Belvedere v Blackrock


Carlow 0 Cooke 47, Donnybrook back pitch

In Pics: Carlow v Cooke


Galwegians 25 UL Bohemians 29, Crowley Park

Women’s All-Ireland League – Fixtures/Results

It was clear from kick-off under the Donnybrook floodlights that this would be a high intensity match. Blackrock were keen to knock the defending champions off their perch and in the match’s opening moments, they attacked with great gusto.
However, after just three minutes when Blackrock were making all the metres, a stray pop pass from Ireland international Vikki McGinn found its way into the hands of outside centre Elise O’Byrne White who raced away to touch down for Old Belvedere. McGinn’s international colleague Nora Stapleton was unable to add the extras.
After starting so brightly, Blackrock were not willing to succumb and their work-rate was immense. Talented inside centre Jeamie Deacon and former Canadian international number 8 Jessica Belchos were running lots of hard lines, making life difficult for the ‘Belvo defenders.

Old Belvedere began to leak penalties due to this sustained Blackrock pressure and referee Helen O’Reilly sin-binned O’Byrne White in the 25th minute. Openside Niamh Fitzgerald also saw yellow just seven minutes later and the title holders were down to 13 players.
Blackrock’s persistence finally paid off when winger Tammy Breen scored a try after 35 minutes. Deacon missed the conversion, and the first half ended honours even at 5-all.
After the interval, there was a reversal of fortunes with Old Belvedere making all the attacking metres. There was a big blow for Blackrock when their inspirational captain Debbie Clarke O’Connor was yellow carded in the 48th minute.
After a number of scuppered chances, ‘Belvo grabbed their second try through replacement prop Roisin O’Donnell just shy of the hour mark. This time Stapleton added the conversion for 12-5.

The pressure began to get to both sides in the closing stages and the match drifted into being a rather cagey affair. Old Belvedere began to show their ability to close out a match and it looked as if they had sealed the title when another front row replacement, Ruth McElroy, went over after a series of pick and goes.
Stapleton, who had been controlling the match from out-half with great composure, successfully kicked the conversion to put 14 points between the sides with just over five minutes left on the clock.
With Old Belvedere now firmly in the driving seat, Jenny Murphy, who is just back from captaining Ireland to victory at the Dubai Invitational Sevens, powered through the Blackrock defence to score under the posts. Stapleton duly converted.
The final scoreline of 26-5 did not fully reflect the huge endeavour of Blackrock’s players, but yet again this season Old Belvedere showed their clinical side and they will have the league silverware safely locked up at Anglesea Road for another year.

Earlier in the afternoon on the Donnybrook back pitch, the Division 2 final was played out between Cooke and Carlow. Cooke, with classy players such as international backs Grace Davitt (pictured above) and Ashleigh Baxter, ran out 47-0 winners. As a result, the Belfast club have gained promotion to Division 1.
Next week Carlow will face St. Mary’s to decide who will have the final place in the top flight for 2015.