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Women’s All-Ireland League Update

Women’s All-Ireland League Update

After a weekend off last week, the Women’s All-Ireland returns this Saturday and Sunday for its fourth round. Aisling Crowe takes a look at the first three weekends of action.

Revamped, restructured and rejuvenated, the new version of the Women’s All-Ireland League kicked off in September and it has provided plenty of sparks and a few fireworks.
Reformatted as a longer league with home and away fixtures but retaining the top four play-off for the championship at the end, Anthony Eddy, the IRFU’s Director of Women’s and Sevens Rugby, has a huge year ahead with the countdown on to the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2017, but his innovation has already born fruit with an exciting start to the new Women’s club season.
The westerners are leading the charge after three games with Galwegians and UL Bohemians unbeaten at the top of the league, but it is the Galway team who are setting the pace with their scoring prowess giving them a two-point lead over the Limerick club.
Last season’s All-Ireland Cup winners have made a blistering start to the new season, running in at least four tries in each of their three victories. Ireland winger/full-back Mairead Coyne has been one of their most devastating attackers, touching down four times in ‘Wegians’ opening fixture away to St. Mary’s. Coyne was instrumental in their thrilling single-point success at home to Cooke with a hat-trick of tries, but Galwegians are by no means a one-woman operation.

Mairead Coyne has been in excellent try-scoring form for Galwegians

Under their new coach, Black Ferns World Cup winner Beth Mallard, Galwegians play an expansive attacking game with Mary Healy and Nicole Fowley starring in the pivotal half-back positions. Both players were involved in the Ireland Women’s training camp held in DCU last weekend.
Sitting second in the league and trailing Galwegians by two points, it has been a historic start to the season for UL Bohemians, who fielded two Women’s XV teams for the first time on the opening day of the season. The aristocrats of Irish Women’s rugby are seeking to regain the league trophy which has resided on Shannonside for much of the last decade.
Led by Ireland Women’s captain Niamh Briggs, Bohs made an auspicious start to the campaign with a 55-0 trouncing of Highfield at Annacotty. The team, powered by internationals Fiona Reidy, Gillian Bourke and Fiona Hayes, topped the league at the end of the regular season last year but lost out to Old Belvedere in the final.

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Niamh Briggs in action with UL Bohemians

A wealth of representative experience, including former Richmond star Anna Caplice, has helped the Limerick women start the season in determined manner, as their three-point defeat of Railway Union showed. In a repeat of last season’s league final, UL gained a modicum of revenge by inflicting a first defeat of the season on reigning champions Old Belvedere.
That loss saw Old Belvedere slip down the ranks to third place with ten points from their opening two games. Last year’s winners have added Ireland’s flying winger Alison Miller to their roster, along with Jackie Shiels who is back from working in London.

The pair join fellow Ireland players Ailis Egan, Sophie Spence, Marie Louise Reilly and Nora Stapleton at the Dublin 4 club. Ulster’s Under-18 Sevens star Kathryn Dane is just one of a group of promising young players that Old Belvedere have snapped up.
In each of their first two wins this season, bonus points were secured and 24 points scored as Miller made an instant impact for her new team. Jenny Murphy also made her long-awaited return from injury when she came on as a second half replacement in the loss to UL Bohs.

Jenny Murphy made her return from injury for Old Belvedere
Dublin rivals Blackrock are finding their way through a transitional phase but after an opening day derby loss to Old Belvedere, they have secured successive victories in different manners. They ground out victory in another Dublin derby with a hard-fought 5-0 success over St. Mary’s which was followed by bonus point win on the road against Cooke.
After a difficult opening day of the season, Blackrock are a solitary point off Old Belvedere in fourth place and have opened up a gap between themselves and Cooke and St. Mary’s in fifth position.
The only Ulster team in the league, Cooke carry the expectations of the province on their shoulders, a responsibility which is well within the compass of their coach, former Ireland international Grace Davitt.
Cooke broke with tradition by winning at home in their opening outing of the year but their trip to Galwegians left them heartbroken. Leading until the dying seconds of the game, they conceded a late try which consigned them to a single point defeat – Galwegians 44 Cooke 43 the final score. The pair of bonus points picked up in that game have given them added momentum as they currently are tied on six points with St. Mary’s.
The third of the league’s four Dublin sides, St. Mary’s new coaching team of Philip Lynch and Gareth Logan (both men’s All-Ireland League winners as players with the club), had a daunting away trip to Galwegians to deal with as their opening game and it was a difficult beginning for them.
They played in a Dublin derby against Blackrock which did not go their way but it was a case of third time’s the charm for St. Mary’s who overcame the wind and Highfield to earn a bonus point victory. The return of Ireland star Paula Fitzpatrick from Toulouse has given St. Mary’s an extra scoring threat and her hat-trick was pivotal in securing the win and added point for her team.
Railway Union have endured a difficult start to the season with many of their best players away on Sevens duty. Despite their depleted numbers, they have suffered two narrow defeats out of three, gaining two losing bonus points.
Highfield currently prop up the league table but showed improved form in their third game, that 25-17 defeat to St. Mary’s gave the team their first tries and best score of the season.
The November Internationals next month will challenge all of these teams as they will have to cope with the loss of their international stars, however it will give up-and-coming players the chance to stake a claim in this exciting new world of Women’s club rugby.


Kick-off 1pm unless stated –

GALWEGIANS (1st) v UL BOHEMIANS (2nd), Crowley Park, Saturday, October 8, 4pm

BLACKROCK (4th) v RAILWAY UNION (7th), Stradbrook, Saturday, October 8, 5.30pm

HIGHFIELD (8th) v COOKE (5th), Woodleigh Park

OLD BELVEDERE (3rd) v ST. MARY’S (6th), Anglesea Road

Related Links –

Women’s All-Ireland League Fixtures

Women’s All-Ireland League Table

This article originally appeared in In Touch Magazine