The two IRFU Under-18 Women’s Interprovincial Championship semi-finals are repeats of the recent third round tussles, so will there be similar outcomes or can Connacht and Munster both bite back and reach the final?
IRFU WOMEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP: Saturday, September 14
UNDER-18 SEMI-FINALS –
ULSTER U-18 WOMEN (2nd) v CONNACHT U-18 WOMEN (3rd), St. Mary’s College RFC pitch 2, 12pm
LEINSTER U-18 WOMEN (1st) v MUNSTER U-18 WOMEN (4th), St. Mary’s College RFC pitch 2, 2.45pm
SENIOR SEMI-FINALS –
MUNSTER WOMEN (2nd) v CONNACHT WOMEN (3rd), St. Mary’s College RFC main pitch, 1.30pm
LEINSTER WOMEN (1st) v ULSTER WOMEN (4th), St. Mary’s College RFC main pitch, 3.45pm
The middle two finishers in the table, second-placed Ulster and Connacht in third, get proceedings underway at noon today at St. Mary’s College RFC. The Ulster girls won two of their three round-robin phase matches, including a 19-12 home victory over the westerners last time out.
Ulster’s four representatives from the Ireland Under-18 Women’s Sevens squad are back in provincial action, with Dungannon’s Lucy Turkington selected at full-back and Amanda McQuade of Virginia slotting in as inside centre. Farrah McCloskey moves to the left wing.
Enniskillen’s India Daley also returns at number 8 in the third and final personnel change. Her club-mate Sophie Barrett reverts to the blindside berth, while Letterkenny talent Mya Alcorn, who scored three tries for Ireland during the recent European U-18 Sevens Championship, is added to the bench.
Charlie Farrell’s youngsters are targeting a more rounded performance after scoring all 19 of their points in the first half against Connacht two weeks ago. Westport lock Eva McCormack, who missed that game, returns to captain the westerners in tomorrow’s semi-final.
Connacht head coach Fraser Gow, who oversaw their U-18 title success last season, has made nine changes – five of them in the pack. Westport’s Grace Brown Moran is another returning Ireland U-18 Sevens international, packing down at number 8.
Claremorris’ Aisling Hahessy partners McCormack in the second row, and Ballinasloe pair Emily Gavin and Zara Grehan are drafted into the front row. Caoimhe English McNamara, Meghan Walsh, Katie Hogan and Olivia Haverty come into the back-line, with Hannah Gullane, the captain in the last round, moving to the right wing.
ULSTER U-18 WOMEN: Lucy Turkington (Dungannon); Sophie Kinghan (Dundalk), Zara Flack (Enniskillen), Amanda McQuade (Virginia), Farrah McCloskey (Enniskillen); Toni Macartney (Larne), Sarah Shrestha (Dungannon); Ella Garland (Cooke), Aoife Cahill (Malone), Ava Fannin (Virginia) (capt), Kim Johnston (Dungannon), Taryn Schutzler (Malone), Sophie Barrett (Enniskillen), Erin Carson (Malone), India Daley (Enniskillen).
Replacements: Cara O’Neill (Malone), Hannah Cooney (Malone), Delyth Cook (Ballyclare), Rachel McGee (Ballyshannon), Lauren Kilfedder (Enniskillen), Moya Hill (Enniskillen), Mya Alcorn (Letterkenny), Lucy Thompson (Enniskillen).
CONNACHT U-18 WOMEN: Caoimhe English McNamara (Westport); Hannah Gullane (Ballinasloe), Fodhla Ni Bhraonain (Corinthians), Meghan Walsh (Connemara), Katie Hogan (Westport); Caoimhe Geraghty (Corinthians), Olivia Haverty (Portumna); Mary McLoughlin (Westport), Emily Gavin (Ballinasloe), Zara Grehan (Ballinasloe), Eva McCormack (Westport) (capt), Aisling Hahessy (Claremorris Colts), Katelyn Bourke (Ballina), Hannah Johnston (Sligo), Grace Browne Moran (Westport).
Replacements: Molly Ager (Claremorris Colts), Aimee Kelly (Buccaneers), Leah Hogarty (Ballinasloe), Mollie Starr (Portumna), Aisling Browne (Westport), Alana Roche (Oughterard), Nina McVann (Ballina), Ava Ryder (Westport).
Leinster and Munster also meet for the second time in the space of two weeks, with Blues boss Niall Neville naming his strongest possible side. Regular captain Ellie Meade is a notable absentee, so Mullingar out-half Ava Jenkins takes the reins.
Meade’s place at number 8 is filled by Erin King with Enniscorthy’s Aoife Wafer resuming at openside flanker. Naas’ Rachel Murtagh will have Emily Slater and Megan Colis alongside her in the front row, which is backed up by the new lock pairing of Holly Leach and Dara Yore.
Leinster’s nine changes are completed in a back-line which contains the tournament’s leading points scorer and the two top try scorers. Tullamore centre Ciara Faulkner has 17 points to her name, including three tries which is a tally only matched by in-form Enniscorthy scrum half Katie Whelan.
Ella Roberts, Laura Carty and Caoimhe O’Callaghan, who returns from Ireland U-18 Sevens duty, team up in the back-three, while Jenkins and Whelan get their second run-out of the Championship together at half-back.
Meanwhile, Munster U-18 Women’s head coach Fiona Hayes has opted for four personnel changes and two positional switches. The most significant news is the return of backs Meabh McElligott and Chisom Ugwueru, who scored seven tries between them at the European U-18 Sevens Championship.
The much-altered back-line sees Saskia Morrissey move inside McElligott to don the number 12 jersey, Ennis’ Alana McInerney switches to the left wing, and Kilrush talent Clodagh McMahon is preferred at scrum half this time around.
With Munster only scoring three tries and 22 points during the first third rounds, the availability of McElligott and Ugqwueru gives their attack a timely boost heading into this crunch tie. Shannon flanker Aaliyah Te Pou, who missed the 22-10 defeat to Leinster in the last round, swaps places with Aoife Costello.
LEINSTER U-18 WOMEN: Ella Roberts (Wicklow); Laura Carty (Edenderry), Ciara Faulkner (Tullamore), Kathryn Dempsey (New Ross), Caoimhe O’Callaghan (Dundalk); Ava Jenkins (Mullingar) (capt), Katie Whelan (Enniscorthy); Rachel Murtagh (Naas), Emily Slater (Arklow), Megan Collis (Greystones), Holly Leach (MU Barnhall), Dara Yore (North Meath), Hannah Foxe (Tullamore), Aoife Wafer (Enniscorthy), Erin King (Naas).
Replacements: Katie Anne O’Neill (Naas), Emily Jo White (North Meath), Eimear Douglas (Wicklow), Ivanna Dempsey (Naas), Ellen Murray (Naas), Beth Roberts (Wicklow), Emma Kelly (Tullamore), Orla Hayes (Ashbourne).
MUNSTER U-18 WOMEN: Aoife Corey (Ennis); Chisom Ugwueru (Ennis), Meabh McElligott (Listowel), Saskia Morrissey (Kilrush), Alana McInerney (Ennis); Emma Connolly (Skibbereen), Clodagh McMahon (Kilrush); Eileen Gleeson (Nenagh Ormond), Sarah Murphy (Kanturk) (capt), Erika Kiely (Carrick-on-Suir), Eilish Cahill (Ennis), Aine Enright (Listowel), Aaliyah Te Pou (Shannon), Faye Dowling (Fethard & District), Eimear Minihan (Ennis).
Replacements: Rebecca Collins (St. Mary’s), Marea Walsh (Shannon), Chloe Ann O’Driscoll (Skibbereen), Aoife Costello (St. Mary’s), Alex O’Sullivan (Skibbereen), Courtney Duhig (St. Mary’s), Marlese Flynn (Carrick-on-Suir), Abbie Salter Townsend (Skibbereen).
IRFU UNDER-18 WOMEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP – TOP SCORERS AFTER ROUND 3:
17 – Ciara Faulkner (Leinster)
15 – Katie Whelan (Leinster)
12 – Ava Jenkins (Leinster)
10 – Rachel Conroy (Leinster), Rachel McGee (Ulster), Ellie Meade (Leinster), Faith Oviawe (Connacht), Aoife Wafer (Leinster)
6 – Moya Hill (Ulster)
5 – Laura Carty (Leinster), Emma Connolly (Munster), Ivanna Dempsey (Leinster), Kathryn Dempsey (Leinster), Caoimhe English McNamara (Connacht), Ava Fannin (Ulster), Zara Flack (Ulster), Ella Garland (Ulster), Eileen Gleeson (Munster), Zara Grehan (Connacht), Hannah Gullane (Connacht), Emma Kelly (Leinster), Toni Macartney (Ulster), Farrah McCloskey (Ulster), Mary McLoughlin (Connacht), Aoibhinn O’Loughlin (Munster), Emma Ryan (Ulster), Sarah Shrestha (Ulster), Lucy Thompson (Ulster), Emily Jo White (Leinster)
3 – Ciara Faulkner (Leinster), Katie Whelan (Leinster)
2 – Rachel Conroy (Leinster), Rachel McGee (Ulster), Ellie Meade (Leinster), Faith Oviawe (Connacht), Aoife Wafer (Leinster)
1 – Laura Carty (Leinster), Ivanna Dempsey (Leinster), Kathryn Dempsey (Leinster), Caoimhe English McNamara (Connacht), Ava Fannin (Ulster), Zara Flack (Ulster), Ella Garland (Ulster), Eileen Glesson (Munster), Zara Grehan (Connacht), Hannah Gullane (Connacht), Toni Macartney (Ulster), Farrah McCloskey (Ulster), Mary McLoughlin (Connacht), Aoibhinn O’Loughlin (Munster), Emma Ryan (Ulster), Sarah Shrestha (Ulster), Lucy Thompson (Ulster), Emily Jo White (Leinster)