The Women’s All-Ireland League resumes this evening with Blackrock looking to regain form, St. Mary’s taking stock as defending champions UL Bohemians come to town, and leaders Railway Union calling on their reserves. Katie Byrne previews the three round 7 ties.
WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE – ROUND 7: Saturday, December 1
Kick-off 5pm unless stated –
Clubs are invited to post the best tries from their Women’s All-Ireland League fixtures on the club’s Twitter, Facebook or Instagram pages using the hashtag #AILWomensTry and tag @irishrugby. The scorer of #AILWomensTry of the Month will receive a voucher for €;250 and each of the monthly winners will be entered into the #AILWomensTry of the Season competition.
BLACKROCK (6th) v COOKE (4th), Stradbrook
After an encouraging start to their league campaign, Blackrock have struggled to pick up points in their recent fixtures, losing to the leading three clubs in the last three rounds. Philip Doyle’s side are second from bottom as they face an ever-improving Cooke outfit.
Despite the departure of key Ulster players Jemma Jackson and Claire McLaughlin to Old Belvedere over the summer, Cooke have been building with every game. They have overcome St. Mary’s, UL Bohemians and Galwegians with opponents failing to curb the influence of strong-carrying prop Ilse van Staden and centre Kelly McCormill, who has an eye for the try-line.
DCU’s Deirdre Byrne is in line for her first cap for Blackrock, with the young player expected to showcase her agility and stamina in the back-line, while former Leinster Under-18 representative Natasja Behan is set to build on her solid start to All-Ireland League rugby.
Cooke head coach Wayne Kelly is also keen to inject some youth into his squad, with Alanagh Chipperfield introduced at prop after ‘excellent performances off the bench in the last few games’. Number 8 Aishling O’Connell is also set to make a comeback after a few weeks off following a niggling ankle injury.
Rugby is a game of fine margins and this is an area that Kelly is keen to exploit, with his players ‘concentrating on the smaller details’ of their plays in order to continue their winning streak this weekend. They are chasing their fourth victory on the trot.
RAILWAY UNION (1st) v OLD BELVEDERE (2nd), Park Avenue
With five players rested following the Ireland Women’s November internationals and several more called away on Sevens duty with the Ireland senior and Development sides in Dubai, Railway Union have had to call on their reserves once again.
Head coach John Cronin is expected to hand Italian newcomer Laura Barachetti her All-Ireland League debut at scrum half, having impressed in the Leinster League with Railway’s seconds, while the dynamic duo of Emma Murphy and Emma Taylor retain their places in the back row.
Old Belvedere won 10-7 when the sides clashed at the semi-final stage of last season’s competition and another close encounter is expected here. With Railway hogging top spot in the table, Belvedere will be eager to reduce the gap in points tallies before the reverse fixture next Saturday.
Conscious of the fact that Railway ‘are very quick to get organised in attack and dangerous too’, ‘Belvo assistant coach Marie Louise Reilly has prepared her charges to react fast in defence. Ireland international Megan Williams is also set to cause defensive problems for Railway with her pace on the left wing.
In addition, Reilly feels that Ailbhe Dowling’s ‘impressive ball carrying’ at number 12 will give them that extra edge. One player they need to keep close tabs on is former Dublin University captain Niamh Byrne. With five tries to her name so far, if the Railway centre gets any space, she will be confident of scoring.
ST. MARY’S (7th) v UL BOHEMIANS (3rd), Templeville Road
Title holders UL Bohemians make the trip to Templeogue to take on bottom side St. Mary’s. Having suffered a dip in form recently, the Red Robins have lost their last two matches to Cooke and Railway by five and eight points respectively.
With the hosts desperate to register their first points of the season, both on the scoreboard and the table, UL will need to be diligent in defence. Chloe Pearse will take up her station at number 8 and should be a physical enforcer in both defence and attacker, while skilful stalwart Niamh Briggs will lead the Bohs attack from out-half.
Having used the last few weeks to ‘concentrate on the basics like set pieces and general defence’, UL will be hoping that it all clicks and that they can reignite their spark. They last played Mary’s during the 2016/17 season when they won 36-10 at home and 31-5 at Templeville Road.
Mary’s are keen as mustard for kick-off after their sixth round clash with Blackrock was postponed due to an injury to the referee. With Ireland new cap Emma Hooban having picked up an injury on international duty, Jet Duinmeijer, captain Aoife Moore and Ciara Scanlan will all need to work harder to pick up the slack in her absence.
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