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Women’s All-Ireland League: Round 9 Review

Women’s All-Ireland League: Round 9 Review

The return of the Women’s All-Ireland League after the Christmas break conjured up the shock of the season as reigning champions UL Bohemians lost their unbeaten record to a rampant Old Belvedere side, throwing the race for the title wide open once again, writes Michael Gallagher.



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The opening game of the weekend provided a hugely unexpected result. UL Bohemians came to Dublin with a proud eight-match winning streak but it came to an end at Anglesea Road where Old Belvedere deservedly won 19-0.

Josh Brown’s ‘Belvo side led 19-0 at the break after a brace of tries from recently-retired Ireland international Sophie Spence, one from Stephanie Barman, and two successful conversions from Nora Stapleton, another player who bowed out of the international game following the Women’s Rugby World Cup.

Kathryn Dane was excellent all through with extremely accurate passing and several line-breaks to her credit. Half-backs Dane and Stapleton kicked for territory very effectively, while impressive tackle counts from winger Clodagh Dunne and back rower Oonagh Hynes kept UL from breaking through.

At the other end, Spence and Elise O’Byrne-White kept the Dubliners on the front foot as they recorded their best result of the season so far. UL, who were missing some key players due to international commitments, never really got into the game and looked lethargic in the first half. Even though they were much more switched on after half-time, they could not break through a stubborn Old Belvedere rearguard.


In the most entertaining game of the weekend, Blackrock edged out Tullamore 23-22 at Stradbrook. This was a hard-fought battle that could have gone either way but the scoring heroics of Hannah O’Connor ensured that ‘Rock, resplendent in their new kit, prevailed by a single point.

O’Connor’s penalty from 35 metres out edged the hosts in front in the closing stages and try as they might, Tullamore could not muster a response. Blackrock were boosted by the return of Carmela Morey and Debbie Clarke to the starting XV for the club’s first league outing of the calendar year.

Ann-Marie Rooney got the first try on the board for the Dubliners with an incredible solo try from outside the 22. The remainder of the winners’ scores came from the excellent O’Connor who chipped in with three tries and that vital penalty at the death.

‘Rock, who have moved back up to fifth in the table, will look to build on this performance and result in the coming weeks, while Tullamore, whose scores included a Ciara Farrell effort and a penalty try, will be disappointed to begin 2018 by slipping to seventh overall. 

GALWEGIANS 22 COOKE 12, Crowley Park

An out-of-sorts Galwegians welcomed Cooke to Crowley Park with nothing short of a win and a possible bonus point on their wish list. The Ireland internationals on duty for the hosts immediately made their mark on the game with Ciara O’Connor benefiting from a great break by Marian Doolan to score the first try of the game.

Cooke were not without the influence of their own internationals, with great back play from Claire McLaughlin and her team-mates, and the strong-running centre followed up with a try of their own. Consistent pressure from Cooke in attack for the remainder of the first half saw them profit from Galwegians’ lack of concentration with their pack scoring directly from a lineout. 

However, Galwegians finished the half with O’Connor once again crossing the whitewash to cut the gap to 12-10. The second half kicked off in terrible conditions with the wind and rain impacting play. Both sides were guilty of handling errors and failed to get any promising attacks going.

Crucially, ‘Wegians finally broke the stalemate with huge pressure from their forwards making the difference, and finally Edel McMahon, the recent Barbarian, crashed through the Cooke defence for a try converted by Denise Redmond. The hosts secured their bonus point in the dying minutes when Shannen Lane took advantage of an overlap in the left wing to score and seal a 10-point winning margin.


Railway Union took full advantage of UL Bohs’ defeat when they recorded a comprehensive 67-0 triumph over Highfield to move back to the top of the table. It was an excellent all-round display from the Sandymount side and they were deserving winners, dominating from the first whistle to the last.

“It’s a difficult time of year, with Six Nations camps and the Irish Sevens flying out to Sydney this morning, but it gives a great opportunity for players to step up when the internationals are gone,” said Railway director of rugby John Cronin. 

Rachel Healy, Daisy Earle and Meaghan Kenny certainly stepped up and all got on the scoresheet in an 11-try victory as Railway powered their way back to the summit. Highfield started the game slowly and their tackling left a lot to be desired early on. They improved this aspect as the game progressed and proved harder to break down in the second half. Bottom of the standings, they face Galwegians next week in a crunch clash at Woodleigh Park.

– Railway Union v Highfield photos by Colbert O’Sullivan


Saturday, January 20 –

COOKE (4th) v TULLAMORE (7th), Shaw’s Bridge, 5pm

UL BOHEMIANS (2nd) v RAILWAY UNION (1st), University of Limerick 4G pitch, 5pm

Sunday, January 21 –

BLACKROCK (5th) v OLD BELVEDERE (3rd), Stradbrook, 1pm

HIGHFIELD (8th) v GALWEGIANS (6th), Woodleigh Park, 1pm

Related Links –

Women’s All-Ireland League Results/Fixtures

Women’s All-Ireland League Table