The standard bearers of Irish Women’s club rugby will meet for a second successive year in Saturday’s eagerly-awaited final at Donnybrook, as table toppers UL Bohemians and defending champions Old Belvedere go head to head again.
WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE FINAL: Saturday, April 8
UL BOHEMIANS (1st) v OLD BELVEDERE (3rd), Donnybrook, 6pm (€;5 entry, kids go free)
Women’s All-Ireland League Form – UL Bohemians: WWLWW; Old Belvedere: LLLWW
Women’s All-Ireland League Title Wins – UL Bohemians: 11 (2001/02, 2002/03, 2003/04, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2006/07, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13); Old Belvedere: 3 (2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16)
Recent League Meetings – Sunday, September 25, 2016: UL Bohemians 23 Old Belvedere 12, Annacotty; Sunday, February 19, 2017: Old Belvedere 14 UL Bohemians 29, Anglesea Road
Preview: This will be the third time the sides meet this year, with UL Bohemians the victors on both occasions during the regular season, beating Old Belvedere 23-12 at home in Annacotty and 29-14 up at Anglesea Road.
While Bohs will be looking to make it three wins from three over their opposition, Alex Denby’s ‘Belvo team are on the hunt for their fourth league title in a row.
Mike Storey’s Red Robins finished the regular season with 13 wins from 14, only losing 8-6 to Railway Union in March. They topped the league table and scored an impressive 401 points in doing so.
In the semi-finals, UL defeated Galwegians 43-17 but it was only in the second half that they managed to rack up the points. The sides were level at 12 points-a-piece at half-time before the Limerick girls turned the screw and ran out convincing winners.
Belvedere, who finished third in the final standings, had a tighter semi-final than Bohs, edging out Railway Union 13-12 in a tight Dublin derby last weekend.
It took a determined defensive effort and the experience of Jackie Shiels, who has 20 Ireland caps to her name, to guide the Dublin 4 outfit to victory. Having trailed 12-10 for a good portion of the game, Shiels kicked a vital penalty to claim a one-point triumph for her team.
In Saturday’s decider, ‘Belvo will look to 50-times capped international Marie Louise Reilly to claim lineout ball so that out-half Nora Stapleton – and fellow international backs Shiels and Aine Donnelly – can attack UL though midfield.
Bohemians will be looking to captain Fiona Hayes and Fiona Reidy to take ‘Belvo on at scrum time, while in the backs, the likes of Niamh Kavanagh and Liz Burke have had no problem crossing the try-line this season.
With good weather forecast, and on the fast track of the 4G pitch in Donnybrook, the final is set to be a classic battle between two clubs who have lit up the league for a number of seasons.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UL Bohemians to win