Valuable Energia All-Ireland League points and local bragging rights are on the line as the Women’s division takes centre stage on Saturday evening.
ENERGIA WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE:
ROUND 8: Saturday, December 4
Kick-off 5pm unless stated –
BLACKROCK COLLEGE (4th) v OLD BELVEDERE (3rd), Stradbrook
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Blackrock College: LWWWWWL; Old Belvedere: WWLWWWL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Blackrock College: Points: Maggie Boylan 40; Tries: Maggie Boylan 8; Old Belvedere: Points: Clare Gorman 45; Tries: Clare Gorman 9
Preview: Looking to recover from last week’s deflating finish against UL Bohemians, Blackrock College have made two personnel changes as they prepare to welcome another of the ‘big four’ to Stradbrook.
Pacy winger Mairead Ni Chathasaigh and Connacht flanker Meadbh Scally are brought in by head coach Ben Martin. Scally’s selection sees Tess Meade, a try scorer against Bohs, move to the base of the scrum.
This Dublin derby is set to feature the league’s leading two try scorers, with Blackrock’s Maggie Boylan (eight tries) reverting to the full-back position, and nine-try winger Clare Gorman a serious threat out wide for Belvedere.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 23, 2019: Blackrock College 8 Old Belvedere 25, Stradbrook; Thursday, March 5, 2020: Old Belvedere 3 Blackrock College 12, Ollie Campbell Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Blackrock College to win
MALONE (6th) v SUTTONIANS (7th), Gibson Park
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Malone: WLDLLLW; Suttonians: LLWLLLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Malone: Points: Holly Brannigan 19; Tries: Sarah Murphy, Holly Brannigan, Emma Jordan 3 each; Suttonians: Points: Mary Healy 20; Tries: Mary Healy 4
Preview: Last week’s results provided a big lift for both of these teams, Malone bringing home the full five points from Ballincollig with Ireland hooker Neve Jones, Ella Durkan and Lauren Maginnes leading the way.
Jamie McMullan’s charges are now tasked with repeating that performance on home turf. They stand a good chance if full-back Holly Brannigan – with three tries and 19 points to her name – continues to prosper in attack.
However, Suttonians, who are just a single point behind Malone, are hungry for more after a clinical six-try dismissal of Wicklow. There were braces from speedster Molly Fitzgerald and Ireland prospect Mary Healy.
Prop Healy, who was on the bench for Ireland’s recent win over Japan, is a brilliant broken-field runner. She broke tackles and evaded others, showing great acceleration to finish off both solo scores last week.
Sutts head coach Stephen Costelloe commented: “The result (against Wicklow) was brilliant for us and again brings us a step forward on how we want to play. It’s all about building on this now.
“The aim is to take how we finished against Wicklow into the Malone game as a minimum, but with the aim to raise our level. It’s two really exciting games ahead, against two really good teams, but as always we aim for two wins.”
Katie Reel, another powerful ball carrier, will start at tighthead tomorrow. Healy is held in reserve, Louise Catinot returns at lock, and Nicola Bolger fills the openside berth. Carrie O’Keeffe shifts to number 8.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, November 23, 2019: Suttonians 41 Malone 21, Castle Avenue
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Suttonians to win
RAILWAY UNION (1st) v GALWEGIANS (5th), Park Avenue
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Railway Union: WWDWDWW; Galwegians: LLLWWLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Railway Union: Points: Nikki Caughey 72; Tries: Maggie MacKinnon, Niamh Byrne, Aoife Doyle, Deirdre Roberts, Stephanie Carroll 5 each; Galwegians: Points: Emma Keane 27; Tries: Orla Dixon 5
Preview: After emotional outings for Ireland and the Barbarians in recent weeks, Lindsay Peat is ‘buzzing’ to be back in Railway Union colours for the tail-end of the first half of the All-Ireland League season.
Peat will pack down at number 8 for the visit of in-form Galwegians, who have won three of their last four league matches, including last week’s terrific 38-26 takedown of Old Belvedere.
“Galwegians are in good form,” said Railway boss John Cronin. “Obviously, we know Lisa-Marie (Murphy) and Nicole (Fowley) well from their time with us, and Mairead Coyne is always a threat.
“I’ve been impressed by young (centre) Megan Walsh, in particular. We’ve rotated our squad again this week, with Katie (O’Dwyer) and Lindsay coming back in after their November commitments.
“Amanda (McQuade) has been outstanding in the absence of Lindsay and Grainne (O’Loughlin), and she deservedly keeps her place at loosehead.
“We’re also delighted to have (Emer) O’Mahony back for her first game of the season. She brings a lot of experience and is a great influence on the squad.”
With captain Mary Healy still sidelined, Saskia Morrissey switches from wing to scrum half for Galwegians. Ursula Sammon, another of their Connacht contingent, is bumped up from the bench to the left wing.
French recruit Nolwenn Dubois steps up for her first AIL start at hooker, while the versatile Fiona Scally reverts to the second row, and Clare native Kate Feehan slots back in at blindside flanker.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 23, 2019: Galwegians 22 Railway Union 34, Crowley Park; Saturday, February 15, 2020: Railway Union 40 Galwegians 0, Energia Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Railway Union to win
UL BOHEMIANS (2nd) v BALLINCOLLIG (8th), UL Arena
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UL Bohemians: WWWLWWW; Ballincollig: WLWLDLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UL Bohemians: Points: Nicole Cronin 37; Tries: Stephanie Nunan, Aoife Corey, Chloe Pearse 4 each; Ballincollig: Points: Gemma Lane 15; Tries: Gemma Lane 3
Preview: Lily Brady, another of the talented Westport players making waves in the senior ranks, is promoted from the UL Bohemians bench to start tomorrow’s Munster derby.
Louise Costello’s selection at scrum half for UL holds added significance as she started playing rugby with Ballincollig’s first ever Women’s team back in the 1990s. She was only 15 at the time.
The proud Corkonian, a former Ireland international and wife of Munster Rugby Academy manager Ian Costello, will relish coming up against ‘Collig’s class of 2021, especially their 20-year-old number 9 Gemma Lane.
The multi-talented Brady starts at openside flanker, as well as covering the hooker position, with Sarah Garrett reverting to the second row for the Red Robins. Ireland prop Fiona Reidy rejoins the bench.
Niamh Briggs’ charges are brimming with confidence after that last-gasp victory at Blackrock, while Ballincollig have been licking their wounds following a disappointing home outing against Malone.
Ballincollig head coach Fiona Hayes has made three personnel changes, bringing in Ellen O’Keeffe on the left wing and bolstering the pack with Sarah O’Donovan and experienced number 8 Denise Remond.
Orla Creedon will be the visitors’ last line of defence, in a rejigged back-three, and Eimear Perryman, a proud product of Cobh Pirates, moves back to the loose forwards.
Recent League Meetings – N/A
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UL Bohemians to win
WICKLOW (9th) v COOKE (10th), Ashtown Lane
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Wicklow: LLLWLWL; Cooke: LWLLLLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Wicklow: Points: Sarah Gleeson 10; Tries: Sarah Gleeson 2; Cooke: Points: Amanda Morton 16; Tries: Naomi McCord 3
Preview: With Ella Roberts away in Dubai with the Ireland Women’s Sevens Development squad, Meagan Parkinson continues at full-back for Wicklow’s round eight date with Cooke.
Head coach Jason Moreton selects a reshuffled back-line, pairing Sue Brady and rugby league international Tammy Breen together in the centre. Their wing positions are filled by Orla O’Neill and Aoife Dunne.
Lauren Barry switches sides in the scrum to cover for injured co-captain Amy O’Neill. Kathy Byrne, Laura Newsome and former Leinster Under-18 forward Jessica Schmidt are all added to the starting pack.
Cooke will be mindful that Wicklow defeated Malone and Ballincollig in their last two home games, but the Belfast side will be hoping to use the experience and guile of Ilse van Staden, Beth Cregan and Amanda Morton to dictate play.
Recent League Meetings – N/A
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cooke to win