Reigning champions UL Bohemians resume their Women’s All-Ireland League campaign with a top of the table clash with leaders Railway Union, while Cooke and Blackrock are also looking to make home advantage count in round 11.
WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE – ROUND 11: Saturday, February 9
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. December’s winner is below.
COOKE (5th) v GALWEGIANS (6th), Shaw’s Bridge
With four rounds remaining before the league semi-finals, both Cooke and Galwegians are running out of games to push Blackrock for fourth place. ‘Rock lie on 16 points in sixth position with the Belfast side a point better off and ‘Rock, who are in possession of that coveted last semi-final spot, sitting on 25 points.
Despite an encouraging start to the season, Wayne Kelly’s Cooke team have experienced a lull in recent weeks with four straight defeats. They came close to changing their luck last time out at Old Belvedere, but they struggled in attack and were held scoreless.
Kelly is expecting ‘a forwards-dominated encounter with Galwegians’, noting: “They have big forwards and powerful outside backs, so possession will be key for us.” Injuries and unavailability see Cooke make a couple of changes with Amanda Morton making her first start of the season at scrum half and Mary Louise Barter set to pack down at flanker.
Galwegians boss Fraser Gow said: “The players are really determined to get back to winning ways. They are fully focused on going up there and putting in a better defensive performance.” The Blue Belles lost 22-10 to Blackrock in the last round and were 24-14 losers when they hosted Cooke in November. Fiona Scally returns for ‘Wegians, while the dynamic Ursula Sammon is set to ‘continue her good form from the last match’.
BLACKROCK (4th) v ST. MARY’S (7th), Stradbrook
It might only be a month since Blackrock and Mary’s last met, but a lot has changed for both sides in that time. Bottom-placed Mary’s were boosted by their All-Ireland Cup victory away to Ballynahinch, while Blackrock are on course for the semi-finals after stringing together four wins on the trot.
Philip Doyle’s ‘Rock side will be boosted further by the return of Natasja Behan along with their top scorer Hannah O’Connor (42 points). The goal-kicking number 8, who was released from Ireland camp for this fixture, admitted that she is ‘excited to get back in the mix’.
Blackrock are way of Mary’s ‘big ball carriers and their ability to do damage’, but the visitors will have their work cut out for them out wide, with Ali Coleman, Ray Lawless and Roisin Crowe aiming to ‘keep things flowing in the back-line’ for ‘Rock. The trio all chipped in with impressive scores in recent weeks.
St. Mary’s boss Stephen Costelloe is confident that his side are up to the challenge. “The focus is to build on our second half performance against ‘Rock in January by introducing some new combinations in order to create more go-forward ball,” he said. Big performances are expected from Amy Moran, Niamh Tester and Alannah O’Carroll.
UL BOHEMIANS (2nd) v RAILWAY UNION (1st), University of Limerick 4G pitch
The Women’s Six Nations might be in full swing, but there will still be plenty of rugby talent on display when UL Bohemians and table toppers Railway Union lock horns on the University of Limerick’s 4G pitch on Saturday evening.
It is UL’s first league outing since mid-December and two weeks ago Railway took the opportunity to hammer Mary’s 62-0 to move six points clear at the summit. Bohs, who overcame Railway 13-10 in last month’s cup clash, have a game in hand and will want to take a step closer to a home semi-final with their seventh win in nine games.
Despite a few injuries, the Limerick women are confident that they ‘are definitely in a better place’ – especially with stalwart out-half Niamh Briggs leading the league’s scoring charts with 69 points (including four tries). Their captain Fiona Hayes said: “If you give Railway an inch, they’ll take a mile. They play a good offloading game so we have been working on our defence over the last few weeks in preparation.”
It will certainly be a tough challenge for John Cronin’s Railway squad who are without the services of injured captain Niamh Byrne, while Claire Boles – the winner of the Women’s AIL Try of the Month for December – is poised to make her Ireland 15s debut tonight in Glasgow. However, Railway do welcome back Katie O’Dwyer who returns to the squad for the first time since November.