The Energia Women’s All-Ireland Cup resumes this weekend, with Dublin rivals Railway Union and Blackrock duelling it out. The Queen’s University-Galwegians clash is a late cancellation.
ENERGIA WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND CUP:
QUARTER-FINAL: Saturday, January 8
RAILWAY UNION v BLACKROCK COLLEGE, Park Avenue, 5pm
Railway Union have USA international Tess Feury making her debut on the wing, as they look to make a strong start to the New Year and build on an unbeaten first half of the season.
Blackrock College also visit Railway in the new Top Four league competition on January 20, and their captain Michelle Claffey is clearly relishing these early 2022 battles with John Cronin’s side.
“Both teams will want to put a marker down tomorrow,” said centre Claffey. “We worked hard to cement our place in the top four and are excited at the prospect of the challenge to come over the next run of games.
“The returning Tess Meade and Maeve Óg O’Leary, in the back row, will give us go-forward ball, and Meadbh Scally is ready to make an impact at blindside.
“Our back-three of Maggie Boylan, Natasja Behan and Adele Leogue will look to get on the ball, to show their pace and ability.”
She added: “Like every team in the country, we have struggled with elements that Covid has brought to the sport, however the team have adapted so well in the face of uncertainty.
“The strength and depth of the squad has ensured that we continued our build for this second phase of the campaign.”
Cronin, Railway’s director of rugby and head coach, has rotated his squad this week. Winger Stephanie Carroll has had her season cruelly cut short through injury, with Feury coming in as a timely replacement.
“The break was good,” admitted Cronin. “We dropped back on training a little and took the time as a squad to review what we did well and where we can improve. The second half of the season is fairly intense and we’re really looking forward to the challenge.
“Sonia (McDermott), joining her sister Aoife in the second row, and Alex (McGuinness) also get starts tomorrow, with Emma (Fabby), Lisa (Callan) and Ava (Ryder) coming onto the bench.”
Noting the already impressive lines of communication from incoming Ireland head coach Greg Williams, Cronin knows how important this stage of the season is for players hoping to feature in the Six Nations.
“Greg sent a letter to all the AIL players and coaches this week, outlining his plan towards the Six Nations and what he sees as important for selection,” he acknowledged.
“This was tremendously refreshing and it was extremely well received by the players. They are super excited to get out there, perform to their best and put their hands up for national selection.”
RAILWAY UNION: Molly Scuffil-McCabe; Tess Feury, Aoife Doyle, Alex McGuinness, Emer O’Mahony; Nikki Caughey, Ailsa Hughes; Lindsay Peat, Chloe Blackmore, Katie O’Dwyer, Aoife McDermott, Sonia McDermott, Keelin Brady, Emma Murphy, Deirdre Roberts.
Replacements: Lisa Callan, Megan Collis, Amanda McQuade, Kate McCarthy, Emma Fabby, Erin Coll, Ava Ryder.
BLACKROCK COLLEGE: Maggie Boylan; Natasja Behan, Michelle Claffey (capt), Ciara Scanlan, Adele Leogue; Jackie Shiels, Lisa Mullen; Casey O’Brien, Niamh Tester, Christy Haney, Mairead Holohan, Eimear Corri, Meadbh Scally, Maeve Óg O’Leary, Tess Meade.
Replacements: Caoimhe Molloy, Ann-Marie Rooney, Roisin McWey, Katie Fitzhenry, Niamh Griffin, Valerie Power, Ellen Taite.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Railway Union to win