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Women’s All-Ireland League: Round 12 Previews

Women’s All-Ireland League: Round 12 Previews

All focus returns to the Women’s All-Ireland League this weekend for what promises to be a thrilling set of matches, as clubs strive for crucial wins with only three rounds remaining in the regular season, writes Michael Gallagher.

WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE – ROUND 12: Sunday, February 18

Kick-off 1pm unless stated –

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OLD BELVEDERE (3rd) v RAILWAY UNION (2nd), Angelsea Road, today, 5pm

A mouth-watering round 12 begins today at 5pm with this much-anticipated Dublin derby. Both sides are looking to finish in the top two and secure a home semi-final berth, so there will be nothing spared in terms of intensity and the physical approach.

The match is somewhat a battle between youth and experience with Old Belvedere fielding a side filled with seasoned campaigners such as Nora Stapleton and Jenny Murphy, while Railway will send out a squad with five 18-year-olds and three more Under-20s.

Josh Brown, the ‘Belvo coach, is relishing the clash. “We’re all looking forward to playing Railway, who are a very talented side. Their structure in attack is sound,” he said. “They have options to punch it up the middle and to play out wide, so we’ll have to work hard in defence through Elise O’Bryne White and Jenny Murphy in the centre and put momentum in our favour early.

“In attack, Ulster’s Kathryn Dane will organise our forwards around the fringes and hopefully put us on the front foot. This is a really important game as we look to secure second place and put ourselves in a position to achieve a home semi-final.”

Railway have suffered since the international season disrupted their squad, but their director of rugby John Cronin is not complaining. “There’s a two-day Ireland Six Nations camp this weekend, so all teams missing players – some more than others,” he explained.

“We’ll definitely be giving youth its head (today) with four players making their All-Ireland League debuts. Eve Higgins, who has come through our Under-15s and Under-18s, makes her first start at 10, while Claire Coombes, sister of Munster Academy back rower Gavin, is set to make her debut from the bench.

Meg Kendal, our captain, is missing through injury – syndesmosis – which seems to have afflicted the Leinster team this season. She’ll be a big loss but we’ll be going there to win – as always.”
BLACKROCK (5th) v GALWEGIANS (6th), Stradbrook

This meeting of Blackrock and Galwegians may prove pivotal in the race to survive a relegation dogfight. Defeat for either may send them spiralling into the bottom two and almost guarantee a fight for survival for the rest of the campaign.

Both teams have prepared well and the home side will be hoping for a solid platform from their forwards to release their dynamic back-line. Hannah O’Connor is continuing her good form and the return of Ireland Sevens and 15s international Jeamie Deacon is to be noted. Her pace and power is a welcome boost for ‘Rock as they look to secure an important victory.

Galwegians are under no illusion about the task facing them. With their best in camp with the other internationals, the westerners must revert to basic but effective rugby, bereft of a high error count, in order to unlock a Blackrock side keen to put space between themselves and the league ladder’s lowest rungs.

The first round fixture between the sides finished 22-12 in favour of the Galway outfit when both were near full-strength, with none of the competitive pressure weighing as heavily as it does now.

With a tough road to finish against second and third-placed Railway and Old Belvedere, Galwegians must grind out a convincing performance worthy of both the pressure and privilege of playing in the country’s foremost club competition.
HIGHFIELD (7th) v TULLAMORE (8th), Woodleigh Park

This basement clash between Highfield and Tullamore promises to be a hard-fought encounter in Cork as victory could see either side move two places up the table ahead of the final two rounds.

Highfield come into the game on the back of two losses and will be determined to stay ahead of their opponents in the battle to avoid relegation, while newcomers Tullamore are coming to Leeside looking for their third win on the bounce.

Tullamore coach Colin Hughes says his charges are relishing the challenge, noting: “The players all know the significance of the game and have been really focused in training and putting in serious effort. The break has given us a chance to get bodies back up to 100% as well, and we’re traveling south with a strong squad.

Emer Phelan, Jill Draper and Clare Currams have been playing very well of late and will be looking to continue their good form. We also welcome back Brigid Hyland and Shannon Touhey into the team and they’re very determined to make an impact. At the end of the day, we’re looking at this as if it’s a final and our attitude needs to be spot on in order to win.”
UL BOHEMIANS (1st) v COOKE (4th), University of Limerick 4G pitch

These sides will get to know each other well over the next two weekends with a league game tomorrow on the all-weather pitch in UL, followed by an All-Ireland Cup semi-final meeting the following weekend.

UL Bohemians have been hit by a spate of injuries and this, coupled with international call-ups and schedule changes, leaves the defending champions and table toppers a little light going into this one. They were 38-point winners of the corresponding fixture last season.

The Belfast women, whose star centre Claire McLaughlin donned the green jersey against France and Italy, are traveling south in determined fashion. They will need big performances from the likes of Ilse van Staden, Eliza Downey, Brittany Hogan and Vicky Irwin. If they can spring a surprise result by the Shannon, they would not only secure fourth place in the league but the win would also give them a huge boost heading into the cup semi-final.

Related Links –

Women’s All-Ireland League: Round 11 Review

Women’s All-Ireland League Results/Fixtures

Women’s All-Ireland League Table