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Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Division Reduced To Nine Teams For 2022/23

Malone warm up ahead of the game 2/4/2022

The Malone players warm up ahead of last season's Energia All-Ireland Women's Shield final against Co. Cavan in Armagh ©INPHO/Tom Maher

Malone RFC have advised the IRFU of their reluctant withdrawal from the Women’s Division of the Energia All-Ireland League for the 2022/23 season.

The Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Division and Cup Series will continue with nine remaining teams for the new campaign. Teams that were due to play Malone as per the agreed fixture list will now have a bye week instead.

Malone have the ongoing support of the IRFU and Ulster Rugby, who will continue to work with the club to ensure the needs of their players are met throughout the season.

Commenting on the news, IRFU Women’s Development Manager Amanda Greensmith said: “We engaged with all participating AIL Women’s Division clubs throughout the 2021/22 season and we could see real potential in Malone’s set-up for women and girls, particularly in their age-grade structures.

“There are almost 100 females registered in the club and we saw a number of players come through to feature for Ulster in this season’s Under-18 Girls Interprovincial Championship.

“The announcement is disappointing to all stakeholders, but we accept the eleventh-hour nature of the decision was due to efforts being made to take their place in the AIL as expected.

“They have our full support as they continue to develop their rugby programmes for women and girls in Belfast.”

The Malone Women first entered the All-Ireland League in 2019. They were then among the 10 teams to be included in the expanded format for the 2020/21 season having submitted a development plan detailing operating standards across governance, finance, player development and player welfare.

They finished in tenth place in the 2021/22 Women’s Division, but capped off their season with a 53-0 win over Cavan in the final of the Energia All-Ireland Shield competition. Their men’s team compete in Division 1B of the Energia All-Ireland League.

Malone RFC Vice Chair Michael Kearney stated: “This decision was made with the utmost reluctance. We had made a particular effort to bolster the set up for our women and girls over the summer with a new committee, new coaches and improved sponsorship arrangements in place.

“We are confident that the club will see the results of this work over time. The structures are in place and there is a strong commitment from our executive to see us return to All-Ireland competition as soon as we can. We’ll keep pressing ahead.”