The third round of Women’s All-Ireland League action promises great things with pivotal matches at both ends of the table, writes Michael Gallagher.
WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE – ROUND 3: September 30-October 1
Saturday, September 30 –
COOKE (3rd) v UL BOHEMIANS (2nd), Shaw’s Bridge, 5pm
Reigning champions UL Bohemians go to Belfast to take on Cooke tomorrow evening with both sides looking to maintain their 100% records so far in the Women’s All-Ireland League.
UL scrum half Nicole Cronin is coming back after debuting for Ireland at the Women’s Rugby World Cup, while Laura O’Mahony will make her debut at centre. Former Ireland international Gill Bourke resumes at hooker with Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird returning to her wing position.
Cooke were impressive 28-5 winners over Blackrock last time out and know that victory over the title holders would be a huge statement of intent. Cooke head coach Alasdair McKee has made a number of changes to their pack, with powerful carrier Ilse van Staden, a try scorer last week, primed for an impact role off the bench. Leah McGoldrick, an Interpro title winner with the Ulster Under-18s last year, is poised to make her debut for the Belfast club.
RAILWAY UNION (1st) v OLD BELVEDERE (4th), Park Avenue, 5pm
High-scoring Railway Union host fourth-placed Old Belvedere in Sandymount tomorrow and such is the league leaders’ current strength-in-depth, Ireland internationals Ciara Cooney and Kim Flood will start on the bench.
Railway have been setting the pace with two impressive victories against Galwegians and Tullamore but will face their sternest test to date against the champions for three of the last four years.
Railway captain Meg Kendal is excited about the Dublin 4 derby, saying: “We’re looking to build on our first two games, working on our systems and challenging ourselves to improve. We’ve been training really well, there’s a great atmosphere and energy with players pushing to make the squads.
“JC (director of rugby John Cronin) has made five changes to the squad from last week’s game against Tullamore and the players coming in will be keen to drive our standards.”
Old Belvedere will be determined to lay down a marker and build on their big win over Galwegians last weekend.
Alex Whyte. Linda Djougang, Clodagh Dunne and Ailbhe Dowling were try scorers in that encounter and should pose plenty of problems for the home side.
Sunday, October 1 –
GALWEGIANS (7th) v BLACKROCK (5th), Crowley Park, 1pm
Galwegians host Blackrock on Sunday afternoon with both sides looking for a boost. The Connacht side go into this encounter dogged by major injury problems. Edel Murray is out for the season and Mairead Coyne will not be fit to play this weekend, while the trio of Nicole Fowley, SJ Fox and Tess Peters are very doubtful after picking up niggles last week.
Blackrock are delighted to see some senior players return for their trip out west and will be working hard to bounce back from last week’s 23-point reversal against Cooke. The Stradbook outfit have trained well this week are well aware how pivotal this encounter could prove to be.
TULLAMORE (8th) v HIGHFIELD (6th), Spollanstown, 1pm
Tullamore host Highfield at Spollanstown on Sunday and the Co. Offaly club have had a tough introduction to All-Ireland League rugby with heavy defeats to Railway and Bohs, but they will be looking for a much-improved performance on their home patch.
Ireland international Nichola Fryday and Roisin Feighery have been to the fore for Tullamore in the early season and will be hoping for a stronger collective display against the Cork women. Former Sacred Heart School captain Kim Cobbe is also showing plenty of promise at full-back.
Highfield have been beaten by Blackrock and UL Bohemians already and know they will get nothing easy at Spollanstown. However, with full-back Linda McNamara and Ireland front row star Leah Lyons in great form, they will fancy their chances of posing a first win. McNamara was their player-of-the-match against Bohs.
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