It is first plays fourth in the Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Division as Old Belvedere face a stiff test from Galwegians. Ireland international Enya Breen will feature for Blackrock College against her former club UL Bohemians.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE WOMEN’S DIVISION – ROUND 5:
Saturday, October 15
Kick-off 5pm unless stated –
OLD BELVEDERE (1st) v GALWEGIANS (4th), Ollie Campbell Park
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Belvedere: WWWW; Galwegians: WDWL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Dannah O’Brien 48; Tries: Clare Gorman 4; Galwegians: Points: Nicole Fowley 50; Tries: Laoise McGonagle 5
Preview: Leaders Old Belvedere are protecting one of only three unbeaten records left in the division. Elise O’Byrne-White returns on the right wing, while Laois teenager Caoimhe Guinan makes her debut in the second row.
Ireland Sevens commitments mean Belvedere are missing Emma Tilly, Katie Whelan, Aoife Dalton and Erin King. Their top try scorer Clare Gorman remains out injured, as does Rachel Whelan.
‘Belvo head coach Johnny Garth, who has Brittany Hogan packing down at number 8 in the absence of Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, said: “Galwegians will be a significant test for us as they showed last week against Blackrock.
“They are a big side and so we will need to match them at set-piece time and physically. It’s a challenge that we will embrace and are looking forward to.”
Galwegians are without their captain and the division’s top points scorer, Nicole Fowley. French signing Maelle Jouve will deputise for her at out-half having ‘stepped up at training to claim the number 10 jersey’, according to head coach Eoghan Maher.
“This week is a big challenge for us. A lot of changes have been made and with injuries in the squad, it gives some girls an opportunity play,” said the Blue Belles boss.
“Old Belvedere are going to be a fast-paced side. They’ll have a very mobile pack which we will have to match with our work-rate. I’m confident in our own abilities and I’m looking forward to a hard game.”
Galwegians lost for the first time this season last Saturday, going down 36-19 to a Beibhinn Parsons-inspired Blackrock. It is a crunch part of the campaign for ‘Wegians who host reigning champions Railway Union next weekend.
Maher added: “This is a tough block of three games. We have trained hard and are relishing playing the top teams because we know that we have the potential to get wins.
“We showed last week with Blackrock that it’s possible. Our girls work extremely hard each week to better themselves and they are excited to face these challenges one game at a time.”
Recent League Meetings – Sunday, January 19, 2020: Galwegians 19 Old Belvedere 10, Crowley Park; Saturday, November 27, 2021: Galwegians 38 Old Belvedere 26, Crowley Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win
RAILWAY UNION (2nd) v COOKE (9th), Park Avenue
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Railway Union: WWW; Cooke: LLLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Railway Union: Points: Carmen Rodera 25; Tries: Carmen Rodera 5; Cooke: Points: Dolores Hughes 7; Tries: Dolores Hughes, Helen McGhee, Ilse van Staden 1 each
Preview: Railway Union are fully locked and loaded for the visit of Cooke, a glance at their back-three of Molly Scuffil-McCabe, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe and Aoife Doyle showing the calibre of attacking talent at their disposal.
Ireland dual international Eve Higgins switches to out-half, captain Niamh Byrne and Katie Heffernan pair up together in the centre, and Deirdre Roberts reverts to number 8 with Molly Boyne occupying the openside flanker berth.
Nikki Caughey returns from injury to take a spot on the Railway bench, while Cooke welcome back lock Gemma McCamley and winger Megan Edwards as starters. The Ulster-capped Katie Hetherington broadens their bench options too.
Chloe McMorran slots in on the blindside, and there could be All-Ireland League debuts for Katie McNeill and Beth McCamley as replacements. While a win has remained out of reach, Cooke are focused on making steady improvements under their new head coach.
“We’ve been improving each week, both in training and matches, so our focus will be on continuing those improvements this weekend,” said Cooke’s Colm Finnegan, who is assisted by Roben Anderson, Robbie Williamson and Ashleigh Orchard.
“We have a tremendous group of players who are developing our style of play week on week, so we’ll look to implement that and play some exciting rugby.
“We were very competitive for large parts of the match against Old Belvedere. We need to convert the pressure into points and that’s something we’ll aspire to do this week.
“Some of the scorelines this season haven’t reflected the flow of the games, but it’s a lesson in accuracy and taking chances when they arise.”
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, November 27, 2021: Cooke 0 Railway Union 63, Shaw’s Bridge
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Railway Union to win
UL BOHEMIANS (6th) v BLACKROCK COLLEGE (3rd), UL Arena
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UL Bohemians: LLW; Blackrock College: WWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UL Bohemians: Points: Claire Bennett 10; Tries: Claire Bennett 2; Blackrock College: Points: Beibhinn Parsons 25; Tries: Beibhinn Parsons 5
Preview: UL Bohemians have been waiting in the long grass for this one. They last played three weeks ago when edging out Wicklow 27-24, and they have used the break in matches to train well and target a complete 80-minute performance.
“With the break, we’ve looked to balance our short-term preparation for this next game with our longer term needs. The players have been applying themselves superbly,” said UL Bohs team manager Carol O’Sullivan.
“Things have been very positive in terms of overall club development with our Blues (seconds) team also now competing in the Munster League. We’re expecting a huge challenge from Blackrock this weekend.
“We have to embrace this challenge. We’re looking to play consistently well across the 80 minutes. There are many positive improvements in our game over the course of the season, we just need to make sure they are being executed for the full duration.”
Ireland Under-18 international Clara Barrett steps up on the right wing for Bohs, Stephanie Nunan and Fiona Reidy return in the centre and front row respectively, and Kerry pair Muirne Wall and Rebecca Reilly also have starting roles.
Reilly joins the experienced Clodagh O’Halloran and Chloe Pearse, the Red Robins’ captain, in the back row. Blackrock have made changes too in the loose forwards, bringing in Hannah Hodges and Ali Coleman.
There are the twin threats of Parsons, the scorer of five tries on her debut against ‘Wegians, and her former Ireland Sevens team-mate Anna Doyle on the wings for ‘Rock. Captain Michelle Claffey returns to the starting XV.
Highlighting Claffey’s inclusion as a significant boost, Blackrock head coach Ben Martin said: “We have a number of players unavailable this week, but have been able to rotate a little. The return of our captain is a timely one to bolster the leadership on field.
“The Sevens girls have made an obvious impact and again with their limited availability, we need to balance their development and involvement and the competition for places, which is huge especially in the back-line this week.
“Beibhinn has always been a star with a very grounded attitude. We’ve been waiting for her to mark her debut in the AIL with us and she has certainly taken that opportunity very well.”
While Parsons will be hoping to continue her try-scoring exploits on UL’s 4G pitch, Martin is mindful of how good the Bohs forwards can be if they are given the time and space to exert pressure.
“UL are always a team that can score from anywhere and at anytime, so we need to respect that when in possession and ensure we have accuracy in our attacking phases.
“Defensively we will be tested and need to be on our ‘A’ game to eliminate their offloading game and their skilful forwards. They’ll be raring to go and have had three weeks to focus on their game-plan, so it’ll be a nice tough battle.”
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 27, 2021: Blackrock College 16 UL Bohemians 17, Stradbrook; Saturday, January 29, 2022: UL Bohemians 22 Blackrock College 31, UL Arena
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Blackrock College to win
WICKLOW (7th) v SUTTONIANS (5th), Ashtown Lane
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Wicklow: LLD; Suttonians: DLWL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Wicklow Points: Beth Roberts 11; Tries: Ella Roberts, Jocelyn Jones 2 each; Suttonians: Points: Órfhlaith Murray 10; Tries: Annie Buntine, Molly Fitzgerald, Sophie Gibney, Emma Jordan, Janita Kareta, Catherine Martin, Emily McKeown, Lena Kibler, Shannon Touhey 1 each
Preview: Experienced duo Erin McConnell, the club captain, and Niamh Ni Dhroma, the player coach, have recovered from injury and illness respectively to be named on the Wicklow bench for this Leinster derby against Suttonians.
It is a timely return for both players, especially with Wicklow missing Ella Roberts and Vicky Elmes Kinlan who are away with the Ireland Sevens squad. Knee injuries rule out both Saoirse O’Reilly and Emma Curran.
Wicklow head coach Jason Moreton was ‘delighted’ with how his young side bounced back late on to earn a draw with Ballincollig. Ella’s sister Beth (20) and 18-year-old scrum half Roisin Stone run the back-line again.
“It’s not the ideal game to be missing Ella and Vicky as Suttonians are strong across the park and very dangerous out wide,” said Moreton. “(Being) back at home this week will make a big difference.
“We are getting fantastic support to games and need to keep up our intensity in defence against a very strong Suttonians team. We need to start strong and play in the right areas of the field to get on top of them.”
Caoimhe Molloy, the scorer of that levelling try in Cork, moves to number 8. Naoise O’Reilly makes her first start at full-back, and Sarah Gleeson and Aoibhin Stone continue their centre partnership and are ‘building a great bond’, according to their coach.
Meanwhile, Suttonians have made four changes to the team that lost to Railway in round four. Captain Catherine Martin remains sidelined, but Amber Redmond, Sophie Gibney, Carrie O’Keeffe and Casey White all return to the starting line-up.
Redmond, who won a recent AFL tournament with Ireland in Croatia, takes over at scrum half from Emily McKeown who is unfortunately set for a lengthy lay-off after breaking both her tibia and fibia during the Railway game.
Head coach Stephen Costelloe commented: “Thankfully surgery went well and Emily is on the road to recovery and in good spirits. She will be a big loss on the pitch. We’ll do all we can to support her through recovery.
“Kate Farrell McCabe is unavailable also as she hasn’t recovered yet from an ankle injury. We’re excited and focused for this weekend to go out and show what we can do.”
Gibney replaces Emma Jordan at full-back, Australian Annie Buntine reverts to outside centre, and White and O’Keeffe make up two-thirds of the Dubliners’ back row.
An early Lena Kibler try showed signs of promise for Sutts against Railway, with Costelloe noting: “We will look to come out like we did last week and hit the ground running from minute one. We know when we impose our game, we’re very difficult to contain.
“Wicklow are a great club and a team that will no doubt improve year on year with the fantastic underage set-up they have. We know at home they are a very strong side and we’re expecting a battle from minute one to 80.
“We’re relishing the physical battle. The crowd down there gives them an extra edge. They have made it a tough place to go, but we’re looking forward to it and to a great game.”
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 27, 2021: Suttonians 38 Wicklow 6, JJ McDowell Memorial Grounds; Saturday, February 19, 2022: Wicklow 15 Suttonians 20, Ashtown Lane
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Suttonians to win