While the main event has been postponed, the Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Conference final will take centre stage today as Wicklow and Galwegians face off in a live-streamed decider.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE WOMEN’S CONFERENCE FINAL:
Saturday, December 10 –
WICKLOW (5th) v GALWEGIANS (6th), Ashtown Lane, 4pm
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Wicklow: LLDWWWLLW; Galwegians: WDWLLLLLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Wicklow: Points: Beth Roberts 37; Tries: Ella Roberts 3; Galwegians: Points: Nicole Fowley 66; Tries: Laoise McGonagle 5
Preview: Silverware is on the line in the Garden County as Wicklow and Galwegians both bid to follow in the footsteps of Suttonians, who won the inaugural Women’s Conference title last February with a 26-0 final win over ‘Wegians.
Their best ever league finish of fifth, coupled with last week’s impressive 46-12 semi-final victory over Ballincollig, gives Wicklow home advantage. They have reached this stage with almost a full squad available, only missing Emma Curran (knee) and the Sevens-tied Vicky Elmes Kinlan.
Wicklow head coach Jason Moreton felt they produced their ‘best team performance of the season so far’ when running in eight tries last Saturday, so it is very much a case of building on that. Erin McConnell captains the side from scrum half.
Linda Dempsey slots back in at loosehead prop in their only personnel change, meaning Caoimhe Molloy switches back to the back row. Out-half Beth Roberts kicked 11 points to see Wicklow prevail 16-14 at home to the Blue Belles last month.
Acknowledging that ‘Wegians will be all out for revenge, Moreton said: “We’re well aware that Galwegians were disappointed with their performance in our last meeting and will be ready for this big game. They have experience across their squad.
“We need to continue playing to our strengths and home advantage is massive. We play our best rugby at home, with all the support from our underage girls, the Warriors, and the Men’s team as well as the massive support we get from the club, families and supporters.”
Meanwhile, prop Jessica Loftus and influential lock Fiona Scally come into the Galwegians team that edged out Suttonians 15-10 in their semi-final. Faith Oviawe, Kayla Waldron and Grace Browne Moran will provide impact off the bench.
Out-half and captain Nicole Fowley has been a leading light throughout their campaign, particularly when they went unbeaten through the first three rounds of the league.
Fowley led by example against Sutts, grabbing a late match-winning score in a tight game in Glenina. Eoghan Maher’s charges are certainly battle-hardened after ending a run of five successive defeats.
‘Wegians are preparing for a Wicklow team that boasts ‘a strong scrum and a speedy back-line, with the use of a strong boot’. Team manager Katherine Mahon says this season they have focused on the theme of ‘attitude is everything’.
Fowley, who is central to that ‘positive and focused attitude’, said: “Our second year in the Conference final and we’re looking to take the cup home this time. We’ll need to be at our best to ensure we come out on top.
“Wicklow are a very good side and have showed that with their form this season. We’ll be looking to right the wrongs from our last clash with them and execute our opportunities when they come. Looking forward to another tough battle.”
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 15, 2022: Wicklow 3 Galwegians 36, Ashtown Lane; Saturday, November 5, 2022: Wicklow 16 Galwegians 14, Ashtown Lane
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Wicklow to win