Railway Union begin their title defence after a bye last week, travelling down to Limerick to face a UL Bohemians side that is determined to right the wrongs of their opening 14-5 defeat to Old Belvedere.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE WOMEN’S DIVISION – ROUND 2:
Saturday, September 17
Kick-off 5pm unless stated –
BALLINCOLLIG (9th) v OLD BELVEDERE (3rd), Tanner Park
A dose of home comforts for Ballincollig after a heavy opening loss at the hands of Galwegians. Head coach Fiona Hayes says they have ‘worked a lot on defence’ this week and are hoping to ‘see a huge improvement in that area’.
‘Collig’s defence will be thoroughly tested again as Belvedere, who got off the mark with a well-judged 14-5 win over UL Bohemians, have some talented attack-minded players in their mix.
However, Belvedere’s try-scoring captain from last week, Lesley Ring, has unfortunately been ruled out for four to six weeks with an ankle issue. Recent Ireland cap Aoife Dalton misses the trip to Cork with a minor foot injury.
‘Belvo head coach Johnny Garth confirmed: “Jenny Murphy and Minnona Nunstedt come into the matchday squad. Minnona is a Swedish international and we look forward to her involvement with us for the AIL campaign.
“She has fitted in very well with the group and looks a real prospect. Dannah (O’Brien), Aoife and Emma (Tilly) have been huge additions to our squad and already all have shown a great desire to learn and become better players,
“They will reap the benefit of Tania Rosser’s experience as a first class attack coach, and we are thrilled to have them and very excited about what they will bring to the team.”
Garth is expecting a much-improved performance from Ballincollig after their disappointing start in Galway. Hayes says there will be a couple of enforced changes in the back-line due to injury.
“We’re hoping to go toe to toe with Belvedere in the set piece, and the team will be hoping to align better with one another in defence and attack,” said the former UL Bohemians, Munster and Ireland prop.
BLACKROCK COLLEGE (2nd) v COOKE (4th), Stradbrook
Cooke made their seasonal debut in the All-Ireland League with new head coach Colm Finnegan at the helm. It is a tough start for the Belfast side, but Finnegan has been pleased with the foundations they are putting in for the year ahead.
“We’ve brought together a strong overall squad, which has allowed us to have a high intensity at training,” he said. “Hopefully that will give us the platform to develop as the season progresses. It’s a great blend of experience and youth in the group.
“Blackrock are one of the league’s top teams. We’re looking forward to take on the challenge and pitting ourselves against the best the AIL has to offer. It’s where we aspire to be.”
Gemma McCamley makes a very welcome return after a season out with an ACL injury. She joins captain Aishling O’Connell in the second row, with Megan Edwards, the Co. Cavan flyer, getting her first AIL start on the left wing.
Current Ulster Under-18 Girls captain Sadhbh McGrath and vice-captain Cara O’Kane are two talented youngsters on the Cooke bench, both eager to make an impact in the forwards.
Meanwhile, Blackrock head coach Ben Martin wants his charges to be far more clinical in putting their chances away after a misfiring first half against Wicklow last Saturday.
Into the back-line for tomorrow come Méabh Deely and Natasja Behan, who both made their Ireland debuts in Japan last month, along with veteran centre Jackie Shiels. Ella Durkan switches to out-half.
Martin could also hand Ireland star Enya Breen her ‘Rock debut off the bench, while fellow international Emma Hooban shows her versatility in switching from hooker to the openside flanker role.
SUTTONIANS (6th) v GALWEGIANS (1st), JJ McDowell Memorial Grounds
Suttonians and Galwegians meet in a repeat of last season’s Conference final which Sutts won convincingly on a 26-0 scoreline. They recruited very well over the summer also, with seven of the new players in the squad for tomorrow’s clash.
One of them is centre Annie Buntine, who has joined from Australian side Melbourne Rebels. She will combine in midfield with captain Catherine Martin, a try scorer from last February’s victory over Galwegians.
‘Wegians ran in twelve tries in a runaway triumph over Ballincollig last week, while Suttonians’ opening game was postponed. Sutts head coach Stephen Costelloe is hoping it will not have too much impact tomorrow.
“It does give Galwegians an edge (having played last week) and they will be more battle hardened coming into this game, but it give us the opportunity to go out a lay down a marker,” he said.
“We know how tough it will be but we are relishing that. The players are excited, it’s been a while since (our last league match) last February. It promises to be a belter of a game.
“We have an exciting team selected, full of youth and experience. We have changed in certain areas from last season and show have Galwegians. It’s such a competitive league and with the new format, no one can dwell on the past.”
There is some squad rotation by new head coach Eoghan Maher for the Blues’ first away trip. Orla Dixon, Lea Turner and Jordan Hopkins come into the starting XV, with Faith Oviawe and Grace Browne Moran bolstering the bench.
Wingers Tanya Farrell and Sinead O’Brien, who are promoted from the seconds team, will make their first AIL starts. ‘Wegians are missing Laoise McGonagle this week, the scorer of four tries in their first round flurry.
UL BOHEMIANS (7th) v RAILWAY UNION (5th), UL Arena
Railway Union director of rugby John Cronin says ‘you couldn’t pick a harder first game than away to Bohs’, highlighting the depth of Munster talent they have at their disposal and how highly he regards Niamh Briggs as a coach.
“It’s a huge challenge for our players and our coaching team. We’ll have a good idea of where we stand on Saturday evening,” acknowledged Cronin, who is pleased to see the clubs’ seconds also facing off in Limerick as a curtain raiser.
Former Ireland internationals Larissa Muldoon and Lindsay Peat have joined the Railway coaching set-up as senior coach and scrum coach respectively. Peat is still packing down at loosehead prop.
Ailsa Hughes, Katie O’Dwyer and Molly Scuffil-McCabe return from Ireland duty last month, filling starting berths in a mostly settled side that includes Ireland Sevens international Anna McGann in midfield alongside captain Niamh Byrne.
Anna Caplice, who retired from international rugby in April, is back in UL Bohemians colours. She is set to start at openside flanker tomorrow, with Chloe Pearse skippering from the number 8 position.
Bohs team manager Carol O’Sullivan commented: “Obviously, Railway are defending champions, so we expect a big game. But we have been building our squad over the summer months and have added some new talented young players.
“Anna Caplice has also returned to the squad, bringing her vast experience. We’re looking forward to a competitive game on Saturday, but our primary focus is our own continuous improvement.”