The eleventh round of the Women’s All-Ireland League on Sunday throws up some intriguing ties with a lot still to be decided at both ends of the table. Many of the teams are relying on youth, given the fact that some of their more experienced players are on international duty and this makes for some intriguing contests, writes Michael Gallagher.
WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE – ROUND 11: Sunday, January 28
Kick-off 1pm unless stated –
COOKE (4th) v HIGHFIELD (7th), Shaw’s Bridge
Cooke will be looking to do the double when Highfield come calling on Sunday. The Belfast women were 7-0 winners when the teams met in Cork earlier this season and will be looking to repeat that feat. However, that may be easier said than done.
Highfield come into this encounter with great confidence after turning over Galwegians (22-14). Tries from Heather O’Brien, Alice Brislane and Linda McNamara did the damage against the westerners and they will be hoping to win again this weekend.
Cooke welcome back strong-carrying prop Ilse van Staden to the squad following her Ireland commitments last week, but are without a few other key players as Gemma McCutcheon and Eliza Downey are both unavailable. Some of their benched players from previous rounds will get a chance to impress.
Highfield are always tough opposition as they are tenacious on both sides of the ball and bring a lot of fight to their game. Previous fixtures have ended with very close scorelines so the hosts will have to work hard to achieve the desired result.
GALWEGIANS (6th) v UL BOHEMIANS (1st), Crowley Park
Both teams come into this game hungry for victory. Galwegians were hugely disappointed to lose away to Highfield last weekend, while UL Bohemians will be looking to consolidate their position at the top of the table after a recent hiccup against Old Belvedere.
Bohs got back on track last weekend against Railway Union but will be very wary of the ‘Wegians threat. “We’re down a few bodies again this week but we’re really looking forward to the challenge. ‘Wegians are always a nice team to play and it’s always an enjoyable game when we meet,” said UL team manager Kate Kirby.
“We’re delighted to see so many of our players on the Irish squad (for the Six Nations), which in turn gives others a chance to show what they can do and that’ll certainly be the case again on Sunday afternoon.”
RAILWAY UNION (2nd) v BLACKROCK (5th), Park Avenue
Railway Union will be looking to get the show back on the road this weekend after losing 29-12 to defending champions UL Bohs last time out. Blackrock were idle last week due to the weather conditions but will relish the chance of taking on their high-flying south Dublin rivals.
Railway welcome back experienced Ireland international Larissa Muldoon and Daisy Earle for this round 11 clash. It is a youthful Railway side – Earle’s fellow 18-year-olds Aimee Clarke and Aoife O’Shaughnessy are in a back-line which also includes the 20-year-old Meaghan Kenny and Sevens representative Niamh Byrne (22).
“We’ve always invested in youth and focused on development,” said Railway’s director of rugby John Cronin. “We had a few of their peers perform excellently (with the Ireland Sevens side) in Sydney overnight and these players have undoubted ability and potential. It’s just about gaining experience and mastering the fundamentals of the game under pressure.
“It’s great to have Lari back. With 40-odd Irish caps, travelling to two World Cups and making a full international debut at 19, she’s been there and done that. Her experience and mentoring is a huge asset.”
TULLAMORE (8th) v OLD BELVEDERE (3rd), Spollanstown
Tullamore host third-placed Old Belvedere on Sunday knowing that they need a big performance and result after falling back to the bottom rung. A disappointing 34-10 defeat at the hands of Cooke last weekend did not sit well with the midlanders and they will be determined to bounce back.
However, Belvedere enjoyed a 49-0 win when the sides met at Anglesea Road earlier in the season and are gunning for their fourth straight league victory. Josh Brown’s charges were rained off last weekend but previous to that they inflicted a first defeat of the season on UL Bohs.
They will be hoping to repeat that form at Spollanstown and will be trying out new combinations this week. Linda Djougang, who is more known as a back rower, has been selected in the front row. She is a very dynamic player around the pitch with great potential in the scrum.
Munster’s Ellen Murphy at scrum half boasts a high-quality kicking game and can apply pressure via box-kicks, while Elise O’Byrne White will start at full-back and the ‘Belvo management are looking forward to seeing her break the line from counter attacks. Sunday’s match promises to be a cracker – one not to be missed.
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