Another enthralling day’s action awaits in the final round of the IRFU Under-18 Women’s Interprovincial Championship, as the semi-final seedings are decided with Leinster set to finish top of the table.
IRFU UNDER-18 WOMEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP – ROUND 3: Saturday, August 31
MUNSTER U-18 WOMEN (4th) v LEINSTER U-18 WOMEN (1st), Irish Independent Park, 1pm
ULSTER U-18 WOMEN (2nd) v CONNACHT U-18 WOMEN (3rd), Queen’s Sport, Upper Malone, 1pm
The Munster and Leinster Under-18s meet at Irish Independent Park in what could be a semi-final pairing in two weeks’ time. Two bonus point wins have Niall Neville Leinster’s side in pole position, while their Munster counterparts are fourth and chasing their first win under new head coach Fiona Hayes.
Reacting to their 10-0 defeat at Connacht, Hayes has made five changes in personnel and two positional switches. Most of the alterations are in the back-line where scrum half Abbie Salter Townsend and wingers Roisin Houlihane and Emer Tuohy are all promoted from the bench.
Kilrush’s Saskia Morrissey rejoins Alana McInerney of Ennis in the centre with Aoife Corey, another of the Clare contingent, shifting to full-back. Aoife Costello from St. Mary’s makes her debut at blindside flanker, and there is a second start for Carrick-on-Suir tighthead Erika Kiley.
For a game which will be live streamed by Munster Rugby, the Leinster line-up shows plenty of rotation with Vicky Elms Kinlan and Kathryn Dempsey both starting in midfield and Tullamore’s Emma Kelly moving to half-back where she is partnered by Katie Whelan, one of the players who is bumped up from the replacements.
Naas pair Rachel Murtagh and Katie Anne O’Neill form an all-new front row with Cill Dara’s Oreoluwa Olateju, Dundalk lock Nina Hjalmers steps up for her first start, and there is a second outing together for a promising back row unit which is led from number 8 by Hjalmers’ club-mate Ellie Meade.
MUNSTER U-18 WOMEN: Aoife Corey (Ennis); Roisin Houlihane (Ballina/Killaloe), Saskia Morrissey (Kilrush), Alana McInerney (Ennis), Emer Tuohy (Nenagh); Emma Connolly (Skibbereen), Abbie Salter Townsend (Skibbereen); Eileen Gleeson (Nenagh Ormond), Sarah Murphy (Kanturk) (capt), Erika Kiley (Carrick-on-Suir), Eilish Cahill (Ennis), Aine Enright (Listowel), Aoife Costello (St. Mary’s), Faye Dowling (Fethard & District), Eimear Minihan (Skibbereen).
Replacements: Rebecca Collins (St. Mary’s), Chloe Ann O’Driscoll (Skibbereen), Niamh Thornton (Skibbereen), Marea Walsh (Shannon), Alex O’Sullivan (Skibbereen), Clodagh McMahon (Kilrush), Courtney Duhig (St. Mary’s), Aoibhinn O’Loughlin (Ennis).
LEINSTER U-18 WOMEN: Laura Carty (Edenderry); Rachel Conroy (Tullamore), Vicky Elms Kinlan (Wicklow), Kathryn Dempsey (New Ross), Orla Hayes (Ashbourne); Emma Kelly (Tullamore), Katie Whelan (Enniscorthy); Rachel Murtagh (Naas), Katie Anne O’Neill (Naas), Oreoluwa Olateju (Cill Dara), Ivanna Dempsey (Naas), Nina Hjalmers (Dundalk), Hannah Foxe (Tullamore), Erin King (Naas), Ellie Meade (Dundalk) (capt).
Replacements: Emily Slater (Arklow), Emily Jo White (North Meath), Megan Collis (Greystones), Ellen Murray (Naas), Beth Roberts (Wicklow), Ava Jenkins (Mullingar), Ciara Faulkner (Tullamore), Ella Roberts (Wicklow).
Ulster (five points) are just a point ahead of Connacht in the race to finish second in the standings. Playing at the resplendent Queen’s Sport venue, the Ulster girls are determined to build on their strong second half performance against Leinster which earned them a try-scoring bonus point.
Head coach Charlie Farrell has made just one change, bringing Zara Flack back in at outside centre where she replaces her Enniskillen club-mate Lucy Thompson. Ballyshannon’s Rachel McGee, the scorer of two tries against Munster, remains at blindside flanker.
Fraser Gow’s Connacht charges dug deep to see off Munster with two second half tries last Saturday. One of their try scorers, Ballinasloe’s Hannah Gullane, moves position in the back-three this week as she captains the team from full-back.
Oughterard winger Alana Roche and Westport scrum half Aisling Browne are two of the westerners’ nine changes, with Avril Deely and Maeve Muldoon also included in the back-line. Buccaneers’ Faith Oviawe is rewarded for her explosive second round try with a start in the second row.
Mary McLoughlin from Westport and Claremorris’ Molly Ager are newly introduced into the front row, while Leah Hogarty’s inclusion at the base of the visitors’ scrum makes it four Ballinasloe players in the starting XV.
ULSTER U-18 WOMEN: Farrah McCloskey (Enniskillen); Sophie Kinghan (Dundalk), Zara Flack (Enniskillen), Moya Hill (Enniskillen), Emma Ryan (Virginia); Toni Macartney (Larne), Sarah Shrestha (Dungannon); Ella Garland (Cooke), Aoife Cahill (Malone), Ava Fannin (Virginia) (capt), Kim Johnston (Dungannon), Taryn Schutzler (Malone), Rachel McGee (Ballyshannon), Erin Carson (Malone), Sophie Barrett (Enniskillen).
Replacements: Cara O’Neill (Malone), Hannah Cooney (Malone), Delyth Cook (Ballyclare), Samantha Cassidy Campbell (Ballyclare), Jennifer Collins (Donaghadee), Lauren Kilfedder (Enniskillen), Lucy Thompson (Enniskillen), Jana McQuillan (Larne).
CONNACHT U-18 WOMEN: Hannah Gullane (Ballinasloe) (capt); Avril Deely (Ballinasloe), Fodhla Ni Bhraonain (Corinthians), Maeve Muldoon (Ballinasloe), Alana Roche (Oughterard); Caoimhe Geraghty (Corinthians), Aisling Browne (Westport); Mary McLoughlin (Westport), Molly Ager (Claremorris Colts), Aimee Kelly (Buccaneers), Mollie Starr (Portumna), Faith Oviawe (Buccaneers), Katelyn Bourke (Ballina), Hannah Johnston (Sligo), Leah Hogarty (Ballinasloe).
Replacements: Emily Gavin (Ballinasloe), Zara Grehan (Ballinasloe), Aisling Hahessy (Claremorris Colts), Hannah Coen (Creggs), Rachel Larkin (Ballinasloe), Olivia Haverty (Portumna), Meghan Walsh (Connemara), Katie Hogan (Westport).
IRFU UNDER-18 WOMEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP – TOP SCORERS AFTER ROUND 2:
17 – Ciara Faulkner (Leinster)
10 – Rachel Conroy (Leinster), Ava Jenkins (Leinster), Rachel McGee (Ulster), Faith Oviawe (Connacht), Aoife Wafer (Leinster)
5 – Laura Carty (Leinster), Ivanna Dempsey (Leinster), Kathryn Dempsey (Leinster), Caoimhe English McNamara (Connacht), Ella Garland (Ulster), Hannah Gullane (Connacht), Farrah McCloskey (Ulster), Ellie Meade (Leinster), Aoibhinn O’Loughlin (Munster), Emma Ryan (Ulster), Sarah Shrestha (Ulster), Lucy Thompson (Ulster), Katie Whelan (Leinster), Emily Jo White (Leinster)
3 – Ciara Faulkner (Leinster)
2 – Rachel Conroy (Leinster), Rachel McGee (Ulster), Faith Oviawe (Connacht), Aoife Wafer (Leinster)
1 – Laura Carty (Leinster), Ivanna Dempsey (Leinster), Kathryn Dempsey (Leinster), Caoimhe English McNamara (Connacht), Ella Garland (Ulster), Hannah Gullane (Connacht), Farrah McCloskey (Ulster), Ellie Meade (Leinster), Aoibhinn O’Loughlin (Munster), Emma Ryan (Ulster), Sarah Shrestha (Ulster), Lucy Thompson (Ulster), Katie Whelan (Leinster), Emily Jo White (Leinster)
2019 IRFU SENIOR & UNDER-18 WOMEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIPS:
Round 1 – Saturday, August 17
Leinster U-18 Women 39 Connacht U-18 Women 10, Parsonstown, MU Barnhall RFC
Leinster Women 34 Connacht Women 6, Energia Park
Munster U-18 Women 12 Ulster U-18 Women 17, Irish Independent Park
Munster Women 38 Ulster Women 12, Irish Independent Park
Round 2 – Saturday, August 24
Connacht U-18 Women 10 Munster U-18 Women 0, the Sportsground
Connacht Women 6 Munster Women 27, the Sportsground
Ulster U-18 Women 20 Leinster U-18 Women 38, Palace Grounds, City Of Armagh RFC
Ulster Women 5 Leinster Women 24, Palace Grounds, City Of Armagh RFC
Round 3 – Saturday, August 31
Ulster U-18 Women v Connacht U-18 Women, Queen’s Sport, Upper Malone, 1pm
Ulster Women v Connacht Women, Queen’s Sport, Upper Malone, 3pm
Munster U-18 Women v Leinster U-18 Women, Irish Independent Park, 1pm
Munster Women v Leinster Women, Irish Independent Park, 3pm
Semi-Finals – Saturday, September 14
Finals – Saturday, September 21