Old Belvedere grabbed a dramatic one-point victory over Railway Union in Sandymount to secure their place in next weekend’s All-Ireland League final where they will take on table toppers UL Bohemians, writes Aisling Crowe.
WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE SEMI-FINALS: Sunday, April 2
UL BOHEMIANS 41 GALWEGIANS 17, University of Limerick 4G pitch
RAILWAY UNION 12 OLD BELVEDERE 13, Willow Lodge
Railway Union built a nine-point lead midway through the second half thanks to tries from Niamh Byrne and Kim Flood, but defending champions Old Belvedere, who were hunting for a fourth final appearance in a row, showed the benefit of their nous and experience to pull off an improbable triumph.
The tension was ratcheted up to the highest point when the game was halted at a critical juncture so that an injury to Old Belvedere’s young scrum half Kathryn Dane could be treated. Dane suffered an injury to the neck and shoulder area with six minutes remaining and her team holding a slender one-point lead and Railway Union attacking five metres from the line.
Play resumed after a break of roughly 30 minutes. Having been taken to hospital in an ambulance, thankfully her injury is not believed to be serious at this time. Her ‘Belvo side stood firm in the final six minutes despite wave after wave of Railway Union attacks.
“It was a hugely intense game,” said thrilled Old Belvedere forward Ruth McElroy. “In those final few minutes we put in seven smashing tackles in a row and drove them from our five-metre line back to the 22. We got a penalty and took the lineout with ten seconds to go, kept possession and then when time was up kicked it out.”
Old Belvedere’s comeback from 5-3 down at half-time and a deficit of 12-3 in the second half was orchestrated by Jackie Shiels, who scored all 13 of their points. Starting at inside centre, Shiels ended the game at out-half when Nora Stapleton was substituted for a blood injury that prevented her from returning to the pitch.
For John Cronin, Railway Union’s director of rugby, this was a game he knows was let slip away. “We are bitterly disappointed but we have only ourselves to blame. We didn’t manage the game well at all and failings in our 22 cost us the 13 points,” he admitted.
“‘Belvo squeezed out a result and they got what they deserved from the game and so did we. The players and myself have lots of regrets about today but we have nobody to blame but ourselves. We wish ‘Belvo the very best of luck in the final.”
Old Belvedere will face UL Bohemians at Donnybrook at 6pm next Saturday in a repeat of last season’s decider which the Dubliners won 19-17. The Limerick team topped the table this term by a wide margin and lost just one of the 14 games they played.
Galwegians went toe to toe with Bohs in the first half of today’s semi-final on UL’s 4G pitch and the half-time score was 12 points apiece. UL opened the scoring after six minutes when Anna Caplice intercepted a pass inside her own 22 and raced almost the length of the pitch for a try which was converted by Kerry goalkeeper Edel Murphy.
Nicole Fowley claimed a try for Galwegians that was not converted before fellow Ireland international Eimear Considine made it 12-5 to the hosts. Mairead Coyne then made a break on the left and evaded the UL Bohs defence for a try that was converted by Claire Raftery to bring the sides level.
UL were forced to up their game in the second half and Murphy’s penalty three minutes after the restart restored a lead that they would not relinquish. Four tries followed, the first from captain Fiona Hayes which was quickly followed, but Galwegians got in a riposte when Denise Redmond’s try in the 56th minute brought the score back to 20-17.
UL star Niamh Kavanagh went on a solo run that was rewarded with a try near the posts which Murphy converted. Two minutes later, another of Bohs’ Ireland-capped players, Liz Burke, tore down the right wing and dashed over the line for a try that was converted by Ireland Sevens regular Claire Keohane.
In the final minute, Galwegians were still on the attack but a fumble was pounced on by Kavanagh who was away down the pitch before anyone noticed and with Keohane adding the conversion, the game finished 41-17 in the home side’s favour.
“It was a fine game between two strong teams,” remarked John Keane of UL Bohemians. “We were quite evenly matched in the first half but I feel we played the better rugby and deserved the victory. It has been a very good season so far, we only lost a single league game and we have nothing to fear ahead of the final. We are as good as any team in the league.”
– UL Bohs photos by Tony Bourke Sports Photography
WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE FINAL: Saturday, April 8
OLD BELVEDERE v UL BOHEMIANS, Donnybrook, 6pm
WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE PROMOTION PLAY-OFF: Sunday, April 9
TULLAMORE v CITY OF DERRY, Spollanstown, 3pm