Tullamore will compete in the Women’s All-Ireland League next season following a brilliant performance against City of Derry in yesterday afternoon’s promotion play-off at Spollanstown.
A runaway 46-7 victory means the Co. Offaly club have reached All-Ireland senior level, their rapid progress continuing just four years after their Women’s team was relaunched and entered into the Leinster Development League.
Tullamore head coach Colin Hughes told Midlands 103: “It’s absolutely fantastic, the effort the girls put in, the dedication. One of the girls even said it in the warm-up there that today was all about those mucky, wet nights over Christmas when you’re coming up to training, you don’t want to train but you still do it, and it manifested itself today.
“Some of the skills that were on show there today were fantastic. The girls deserve everything they get, they put so much effort into it. We’re all immensely proud of them, the club is immensely proud of them. It’s a great achievement.”
The recently-crowned Leinster League Division 1 champions had City of Derry playing catch-up early on with Ciara Dunican and Shannon Touhey crossing for tries inside the opening eight minutes. Dunican and Roisin Kane finished with first half braces, while Clare Cantwell also chipped in with a try and Pauline Keating kicked three conversions as Tullamore led 36-0 at the interval.
The hosts made sure of their progress to the All-Ireland League – they will replace the relegated St. Mary’s for the 2017/18 campaign – with further tries from Caroline Ahern and Kim Cobbe who was on the end of a terrific team move.
Tullamore’s firepower was too much for City of Derry who deserved to be closer on the scoreboard given the effort shown. A late consolation try from Ciara McGurk closed out a campaign that saw Derry win the Ulster Women’s league title with six wins in seven games, and they were runners-up to Ballynahinch in the inaugural Ulster Junior Cup final.
Tullamore second row Nichola Fryday, who made her Ireland debut last November, was delighted with her side’s historic step up to senior rugby. “It’s unbelievable to think we’ve come this far in just a few years. It’s a great achievement and we’re all delighted,” she told Midlands 103.
“Just last Friday at the World Cup Trophy Tour event, the club was packed with young girls – Under-18s, Under-12s, the whole lot – all wanting to enjoy the sport and play on. We’ve given them that chance to actually show that they can progress up through the club and play at the highest standard in the country, so hopefully they keep going.”
Tullamore’s AIL promotion will set up some intriguing battles next season, with their former scrum half and captain Ailsa Hughes playing for Railway Union and fellow Ireland international Niamh Kavanagh, a trailblazer for Offaly Women’s rugby, having starred for new champions UL Bohemians this year.
The hard work being put in at underage and adult levels is certainly paying dividends for Tullamore whose Under-18 Girls team were crowned Leinster U-18 Division 1 Cup champions in Ashbourne yesterday. Tries from Megan Burns (2), Holly Ravenhill and Kate Foxe saw them defeat Wicklow 24-7.