Energia Park will be the venue for the upcoming Women’s All-Ireland League final on Saturday week (April 27). Defending champions UL Bohemians and first-time finalists Railway Union go head-to-head as the club season comes to an exciting climax.
It will be a double header at the Donnybrook venue next week as the Provincial Qualifying League final between Malone and Suttonians will be the curtain raiser at 12.30pm. The winners of that game will be promoted to the All-Ireland League for next season, making it an eight-team division along with the current seven clubs.
The day’s headline act is guaranteed a historic outcome with John Cronin’s Railway side chasing the club’s maiden top flight title – they were Division 2 champions in 2014 – and UL Bohs, who are coached by Australian Ben Martin, bidding to claim a three-in-a-row and extend their record haul to 14 league trophies. They are also 80 minutes away from a league and cup double.
With nine wins and a draw, the Red Robins finished top of the table for the fourth year in a row. Former Ireland captain Niamh Briggs has played a leading role, top-scoring with 90 points, while Stephanie Nunan and captain Fiona Hayes scored their fifth tries of the season during last Saturday’s 20-0 semi-final win over Blackrock. Back rower Chloe Pearse leads the way with six tries.
After three heartbreaking semi-finals in recent seasons, Railway Union got the job done against Old Belvedere last weekend with a terrific 29-7 victory at Anglesea Road. Playing at number 8, Lindsay Peat’s closing score topped off a five-try performance that gives them plenty of momentum heading into the decider.
The south Dubliners are back-boned by a number of 15s and Sevens internationals, with versatile Canadian forward Emma Taylor topping their scoring charts with seven tries, while New Zealand-born centre Meg Kendal, a try scorer against ‘Belvo, is another classy operator. They finished third in the table and won the All-Ireland Plate last month.
A much-coveted place in the All-Ireland League awaits either Malone or Suttonians, who both enjoyed unbeaten provincial league runs before registering convincing promotion play-off semi-final wins over Westport (27-7) and Shannon (47-11) respectively. Malone are coached by 2013 Grand Slam winner Grace Davitt.
Number 8 Lauren Maginnes, who touched down twice against Westport, and former Ulster Under-18 Interprovincial title-winning captain Neve Jones are two Malone players to look out for. Hooker Jones was part of the IRFU Women’s Emerging Talent Day squad this season, along with the Suttonians trio of Nicole Carroll, Lauren Farrell McCabe and Nicole Purdom.
Robert Forbes’ Suttonians side showed their mettle when overcoming Tullow 26-18 after extra-time in a closely-fought Leinster Women’s League Division 1 decider. They gained valuable experience of playing top level opposition when reaching the semi-finals in their first ever All-Ireland Cup campaign, claiming the scalp of Malone’s Belfast rivals Cooke on a 15-5 scoreline.
WOMEN’S PROVINCIAL QUALIFYING LEAGUE FINAL:
Malone v Suttonians, Energia Park, Donnybrook, 12.30pm, Saturday, April 27
WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE FINAL:
Railway Union v UL Bohemians, Energia Park, Donnybrook, 3pm, Saturday, April 27