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Energia Women’s All-Ireland League: Top Four & Conference Previews

Energia Women’s All-Ireland League: Top Four & Conference Previews

Energia Women’s All-Ireland League: Top Four & Conference Previews

Ireland scrum half Kathryn Dane is hoping Old Belvedere can get back to winning ways against UL Bohemians tomorrow ©INPHO/Bryan Keane

Blackrock College, the early Top Four pacesetters, host Railway Union who remain unbeaten this season, while promoted clubs Wicklow and Ballincollig face off in an eagerly-awaited Conference clash.

ENERGIA WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE – TOP FOUR:

ROUND 2: Saturday, January 22

Kick-off 5pm unless stated –

RAILWAY UNION (2nd) v BLACKROCK COLLEGE (1st), Park Avenue

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Railway Union: WWDWDWWWWW; Blackrock College: LWWWWWLWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Railway Union: Points: Nikki Caughey 96; Tries: Aoife Doyle, Niamh Byrne 7 each; Blackrock College: Points: Hannah O’Connor 56; Tries: Maggie Boylan 8

Preview: It is almost two years on from Blackrock College’s 16-12 victory over Railway Union at Stradbrook. Hannah O’Connor scored all of their points that day, and the goal-kicking number 8 remains a key figure for the Top Four title run-in.

Ireland starlet Dorothy Wall makes a timely return from a hand injury, as she targets a run of games in advance of the Women’s Six Nations. She packs down at blindside flanker for Blackrock.

Anna Potterton is also added to the hosts’ pack, while Ballinasloe natives Meabh Deely and Aoibheann Reilly come in at full-back and scrum half respectively. Natasja Behan switches to the right wing and Lisa Mullen is at out-half.

Lindsay Peat starts at loosehead prop for Railway, following the announcement of her international retirement. The reigning champions’ pack also includes the freshly-introduced Sonia McDermott, Keelin Brady and Molly Boyne.

Railway director of rugby and head coach, John Cronin, has made five changes to the starting XV, the last of them seeing Aoife O’Shaughnessy and Ava Ryder returning to the back-line.

“We’ve won both games so far this month without playing particularly well, yet we had a really positive week of training this week,” Cronin explained.

“We got a lot of clarity on how we want to play and there was a buzz at the end of every session. All of the players coming in have been performing at training and they deservedly get their opportunity this week.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 22, 2020: Blackrock College 16 Railway Union 12, Stradbrook; Saturday, September 25, 2021: Blackrock College 11 Railway Union 25, Stradbrook

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Railway Union to win

UL BOHEMIANS (3rd) v OLD BELVEDERE (4th), UL Arena

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UL Bohemians: WWWLWWWWWL; Old Belvedere: WWLWWWLLLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UL Bohemians: Points: Nicole Cronin 60; Tries: Chloe Pearse 7; Old Belvedere: Points: Clare Gorman 45; Tries: Clare Gorman 9

Preview: Ireland international Eimear Considine is back on the left wing for UL Bohemians’ home encounter with Old Belvedere. Both teams had losing starts to the Top Four series.

Bohs boss Niamh Briggs also swaps in Muirne Wall for Louise Costello at scrum half. The Red Robins beat Belvedere 46-17 at the same venue in October, when ‘Belvo captain Jenny Murphy was red carded.

Johnny Garth’s charges will be eager to create more opportunities in attack after being held scoreless by Blackrock. They have not scored more than one try per game since losing 38-26 at Galwegians in late November.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 11, 2020: Old Belvedere 14 UL Bohemians 29, Ollie Campbell Park; Saturday, October 9, 2021: UL Bohemians 46 Old Belvedere 17, UL Arena

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UL Bohemians to win

ENERGIA WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE – CONFERENCE:

ROUND 2: Saturday, January 22

Kick-off 5pm unless stated –

GALWEGIANS (1st) v COOKE (5th), Crowley Park, 2.30pm

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Galwegians: LLLWWLWLWW; Cooke: LWLLLLLWWL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Galwegians: Points: Orla Dixon 30; Tries: Orla Dixon 6; Cooke: Points: Aishling O’Connell 30; Tries: Aishling O’Connell 6

Preview: Conference leaders Galwegians, who have won five of their last seven fixtures, will have Emma Keane and Aoife Williams at half-back, and exciting youngster Faith Oviawe at lock, for the visit of Cooke.

The Belfast side are boosted by the return of Ulster’s Kelly McCormill at inside centre. They are much changed from last week’s disappointing 37-13 reversal at home to Suttonians.

Cooke’s ever-reliable captain Aishling O’Connell, who bagged a brace off the bench to take her season’s haul to six tries, returns at tighthead prop. There are also starts for Teah Maguire, Hannah Downey, Fiona McCaughan and India Daley.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 22, 2020: Galwegians 19 Cooke 12, Crowley Park; Saturday, October 30, 2021: Cooke 7 Galwegians 47, Shaw’s Bridge

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Galwegians to win

SUTTONIANS (2nd) v MALONE (4th), JJ McDowell Memorial Grounds

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Suttonians: LLWLLLWWLW; Malone: WLDLLLWLLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Suttonians: Points: Mary Healy, Molly Fitzgerald, Emily McKeown 25 each; Tries: Mary Healy, Molly Fitzgerald, Emily McKeown 5 each; Malone: Points: Holly Brannigan 29; Tries: Holly Brannigan 5

Preview: In-form Suttonians are chasing their fourth win in five games and their second of the Conference campaign. Mary Healy and Emily McKeown, two of their top try scorers, will have impact roles off the bench tomorrow.

Malone head coach Jamie McMullan has kept faith with the same 15 players who started last week’s frustrating 17-15 defeat to Ballincollig. Full-back Holly Brannigan now has five tries to her name.

When Sutts visited the Cregagh Red Sox last month, they prevailed 13-12 in nail-biting fashion. With the squad rotated this week, there are seven changes and a new second row pairing of Grainne Tummon and Aislinn Layde.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 23, 2019: Suttonians 41 Malone 21, Castle Avenue; Saturday, December 4, 2021: Malone 12 Suttonians 13, Gibson Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Suttonians to win

WICKLOW (6th) v BALLINCOLLIG (3rd), Ashtown Lane

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Wicklow: LLLWLWLLLL; Ballincollig: WLWLDLLLLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Wicklow: Points: Beth Roberts 17; Tries: Sarah Gleeson, Aoibhin Stone 2 each; Ballincollig: Points: Denise Redmond 16; Tries: Gemma Lane, Heather Kennedy 3 each

Preview: Both clubs will have been targeting this IRFU-live streamed game since before Christmas, particularly Wicklow who, on the back of four successive defeats, are fiercely determined to get back to winning ways on home turf.

Wicklow could not take advantage of Ella Roberts’ rapid counter-attacking runs last Saturday, something they hope to rectifying against Ballincollig. The visitors have a speedster of their own in Heather Kennedy, the scorer of two crucial tries at Malone.

That tense two-point triumph in Belfast gave ‘Collig an early New Year lift. Head coach Fiona Hayes has rewarded her battlers with an unchanged starting XV. Their mission is to avenge November’s 15-10 loss to Jason Moreton’s youngsters.

Recent League Meeting – Saturday, November 6, 2021: Wicklow 15 Ballincollig 10, Ashtown Lane

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballincollig to win