The expanded Celtic Challenge tournament kicks off at Musgrave Park this afternoon – live on RugbyPass TV. With the national coaches paying close attention, we take a look at some of the players to watch out for in the Clovers squad over the coming weeks.
Michelle O’Driscoll (Ballincollig RFC/Munster)
Rewarded for her impressive form with Ballincollig, O’Driscoll is a tricky centre who has an eye for the try-line. Like many before her, she took up rugby when studying at the University of Limerick, rekindling a love of sport that began with soccer and Gaelic football.
The Leap woman (25) starred in the junior ranks with Skibbereen, winning a series of titles and becoming their Player of the Year. She came under the wing of Fiona Hayes at Ballincollig in 2022, and pushed on to make Munster’s Interprovincial Championship squad this year.
Has scored five tries for ‘Collig in the Energia All-Ireland so far this season. The UCC Medicinal Chemistry PhD student combines in midfield today with Connacht’s Kayla Waldron, coming up against the Ireland pairing of Aoife Dalton and Leah Tarpey.
Faith Oviawe (Railway Union RFC/Connacht)
Operating in the second row or back row, Oviawe is a young forward with bags of potential. She made her first Interprovincial start for Connacht against Munster in August, and her move from Galwegians to Railway Union has seen her shine in the Energia All-Ireland League.
The Westmeath native’s power and pace have helped her to rack up eight tries so far for Railway, including a recent hat-trick against Suttonians and braces against both Cooke and Wicklow.
Oviawe (21), a Children’s Studies student at NUIG, has formed a strong second row partnership at Railway with Keelin Brady, who is in opposition today in Cork. The Clovers coaches will want solid set-piece work and impact in the loose from the former Buccaneers starlet.
Beth Buttimer (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster)
Despite only turning 18 last August, Buttimer has already packed a lot of rugby into 2023. The promising Tipperary-born hooker won her first three Interprovincial caps with Munster this year, and earned her first start for the province against the Barbarians at Thomond Park.
Surrounded by rugby from an early age, she started playing in first year at Rockwell College and also lined out for local club Fethard & District. She moved from the back-line to the pack where she played two Under-18 Six Nations Festivals for Ireland.
Beth’s older brother, Henry, played for the Ireland Under-19s last year. A nifty ball carrier with offloading skills, she had also stepped up to the senior ranks at club level, playing for Energia All-Ireland League leaders UL Bohs this season.
Eva McCormack (UL Bohemian RFC/Connacht)
Connacht youngster McCormack (22) is one of six UL Bohemians players on the Clovers bench for this first round derby. She made three starts during Connacht’s Interprovincial campaign earlier this season, striking up an impactful second row partnership with Sonia McDermott.
Hailing from Westport in Mayo, she was part of the Connacht Under-18 team that won their first ever Interprovincial title in 2018, with the likes of her Clovers team-mates, Méabh Deely and Lily Brady, as well as Béibhinn Parsons, Aoibheann Reilly and Ava Ryder all involved.
As well as covering lock, McCormack has shown her versatility for Bohs by playing at number 8 and blindside flanker. The recent UL Business and French graduate is pursuing a Masters degree in Human Resource Management.