The Energia All-Ireland Women’s Junior Cup has reached the semi-final stage, as Tuam/Oughterard’s young Colts continue to break new ground, and Tullamore have a shot at avenging last season’s final defeat to MU Barnhall.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND WOMEN’S JUNIOR CUP SEMI-FINALS:
TUAM/OUGHTERARD v UL BOHEMIANS 2nds, Garraun Park, Saturday, 2pm
Tuam/Oughterard are the first ever Connacht team to grace the Junior Cup semi-finals, and it is a real sign of the progress being made by coaches Owen Lydon and Norman Tierney and their young players, a dozen of whom started together eight years ago at Under-13 level.
The ambitious young Galway side, who swept Skibbereen aside in a 45-7 first round win, include the likes of Karly Tierney, last season’s Connacht Women’s Club Player of the Year, and Beibhinn Gleeson who both played for Connacht in the recent Women’s Interpros.
Éabha Nic Dhonnacha (pictured below) is another familiar name having come through the Ireland Under-18 pathway, while captain Sarah Jane Fox is determined to make sure the Colts put their best foot forward against UL Bohemians’ development team.
“This is only our second season as a senior club, and to come this far with a young squad is testament to the girls and to our coaching and backroom staff,” said Fox, who led Tuam/Oughterard to the Connacht Women’s League title last March.
“It’s a huge day for us as players and for the club. We are extremely proud of where we’ve got to so far, and are hoping to showcase exactly what rugby out west looks like this Saturday.”
Guided by head coach Tyrone Elliott, UL Bohs’ 2nds dispatched Westport, winning 42-7 in the opening round. Their squad is a mix of youth and experience, including former Ireland Women’s international Louise Costello at out-half.
Aoife O’Sullivan leads the Red Robins from the second row, and as manager Carol O’Sullivan mentions, the momentum of their table-topping senior team and the development squad is beginning to filter down through the club, where they now have an Under-18.5 team for the first time.
MU BARNHALL v TULLAMORE, Parsonstown, Sunday, 12.30pm
This is a repeat of last April’s inaugural Junior Cup final which MU Barnhall won 38-12 in decisive fashion. Since then Ruth Campbell has come to the fore as an Ireland prospect at lock, with Koren Dunne also making good early strides in the senior ranks with Old Belvedere.
MU Barnhall, who are currently second in Division 1 of the Leinster Women’s League, still have some key players from last season’s title-winning run, including captain Niamh Quinn and vice-captain Ciara Faulkner.
Their flanker Prudence Isaac was a development player with Leinster this year and is one to watch, while steady out-half Órfhlaith Murray has All-Ireland League experience with Suttonians.
These Leinster rivals met in the provincial league in early October, with Tullamore prevailing 20-15 at Parsonstown. Barnhall reacted by winning their next five games, but the Offaly outfit, coached by Dermot Tierney, will feel they are very capable of repeating that result.
Tullamore’s delayed Junior Cup opener against Queen’s University was only played last Saturday. Tries from impressive young prop Eve Tarpey, sister of Ireland international Leah, Sinead Rigney and Clare Leonard saw them through on a tight 15-10 scoreline.
It was an important result for the Tulliers on a day that they celebrated 10 years of Women’s rugby in the club. Connacht scrum half Olivia Haverty can really make the midlanders’ back-line tick, and the Ireland-capped Shannon Touhey is a huge asset if she comes back in at centre or out-half.