The starter to tonight’s main course of the Ireland Women’s clash with Italy in Parma is a trio of mouth-watering All-Ireland League games at Crowley Park, Stradbrook and the University of Limerick’s 4G pitch.
WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE – ROUND 12: Saturday, February 23
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. January’s contenders are below.
GALWEGIANS (6th) v OLD BELVEDERE (4th), Crowley Park, 4pm
A strong finish to their 2018/19 campaign is on the agenda for head coach Fraser Gow and his Galwegians players as they welcome title-chasing Old Belvedere to Crowley Park for today’s round 12 fixture. ‘Wegians won 17-12 when the sides met in Dublin back in early November.
Gow is relishing the return of Edel McMahon and Anne-Marie O’Hora from international duty, hailing the pair as ‘big influences on the pitch’. “We’re hopeful of finishing the season strongly and are definitely targeting our remaining home games, starting on Saturday. ‘Belvo will challenge us but I know my players will step up to that challenge,” said the Scotsman.
Having been overtaken by Blackrock in the last round, Belvedere need to get back firing on all cylinders in Galway. Josh Brown’s side are boosted by some returning players, with Ailbhe Dowling making her first start of 2019, winger Megan Williams released from Ireland camp for club action, and vice-captain Elise O’Byrne-Whyte in line to return from injury in the centre.
Brown is also banking on strong performances from Grace Miller, younger sister of Ireland star Alison Miller, along with props Alice O’Dowd and Victoria Dabanovich-O’Mahony, in what should be ‘a close game’.
BLACKROCK (3rd) v RAILWAY UNION (1st), Stradbrook
Blackrock will be aiming to make the most of home advantage and extend their five-match winning streak when they tackle leaders Railway Union in a eagerly-awaited Dublin derby. Only five points separate the top three teams and there is potential for ‘Rock to cause a big upset.
Philip Doyle’s charges have been growing in confidence of late and following their All-Ireland Cup semi-final win over Suttonians last weekend, they are challenge for both league and cup honours. Tess Meade has caught the eye as an all-action flanker, while agile scrum half Niamh Griffin is a livewire from ruck to ruck.
Railway Union’s young squad went down 35-19 to UL Bohemians last time out. Despite their respective league positions, Railway boss John Cronin admitted: “Blackrock are the form team and they haven’t lost a game since we beat them (24-15) at the start of November. We expect them to be a huge challenge.”
Notably, the table toppers’ selection is strengthened by the return of Shirley Corcoran, Katie O’Dwyer, Erin Coll and Juliet Short, who made her Six Nations debut against England three weeks ago, to their matchday squad. 18-year-old winger Hazel Simmons, the scorer of two tries on her senior bow against Galwegians in the All-Ireland Plate, is also included.
UL BOHEMIANS (2nd) v COOKE (5th), University of Limerick 4G pitch
After an astute five-try performance against Railway, defending champions UL Bohemians are eager to get another win under their belts as they close out the regular season. Cooke shocked Bohs the last time they met, carving out a 27-22 home win in November.
The Red Robins, whose play-maker Niamh Briggs tops the league’s scoring charts with 84 points (including five tries), were understandably ‘disappointed’ with their performance in that Belfast tussle. They are eyeing today’s contest as an opportunity to ‘right our wrongs in the hopes of a home semi-final’.
Cooke are currently going through what head coach Wayne Kelly calls ‘a bit of an injury crisis’, meaning the services of a number of seconds players have been employed for this fixture. Caoimhe Rooney, Sophie Allen, Amanda Morton, Caitlyn Fisher, Laura Cairns and Anastasia Perysinakis have been drafted into the squad.
Kelly is confident, however, that this experience will be invaluable to these players for the remainder of the season and looking ahead to next year. Former Ireland international Eliza Downey should also make an impact from the bench, which could be vital for Cooke’s try-scoring chances.