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‘It’s A Very Exciting Weekend For The Club’ – UL Bohs’ Pearse

‘It’s A Very Exciting Weekend For The Club’ – UL Bohs’ Pearse

UL Bohemian captain Chloe Pearse is hoping to lead the Red Robins to their first Energia All-Ireland League Women's Division title since 2018 ©INPHO/Ben Brady

UL Bohemian are hoping to bridge a six-year gap since they were last crowned Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Division champions. They travel to the capital this weekend to play Railway Union in their first league final since 2019.

Tickets for the #EnergiaAIL finals double header are on sale from Ticketmaster.ie – buy now.

Captain Chloe Pearse, Fiona Reidy, Clodagh O’Halloran, Stephanie Nunan, and Rachel Allen are the only survivors from UL Bohs’ 15-0 final victory over Old Belvedere in 2018. They are the most decorated club in Irish Women’s domestic rugby, with 13 AIL crowns to their name.

However, the last five years have about Dublin dominance. Railway Union enjoyed a breakthrough triumph in 2019, and followed up to win again in 2022, while Blackrock College came up trumps in last season’s decider.

The UL Bohs supporters have had to wait patiently before the Red Robins reached another league final. Number 8 Pearse believes they are finally back where they belong.

Speaking ahead of Sunday’s final at the Aviva Stadium (kick-off 1.45pm – live on TG4), Pearse said: “It’s a long time coming. We had a couple of tough seasons where, unfortunately, we were just beaten by better teams.

“We haven’t been in an AIL final since 2019. In that moment, you don’t think it’s going to take five years to get there again, but it did. We’re buzzing to get going on Sunday, delighted to be back to where we like to be anyway.”

UL Bohs have found renewed energy this season under returning club legend Fiona Hayes. She previously led the team to AIL glory as a player and captain before becoming head coach. She was the Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Coach of the Year in 2020.

When Hayes was last in charge of Bohs in 2019/20, they were top of the table and on course for a potential 14th AIL title, until the Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the season. They finished third in 2022, and were beaten semi-finalists last year.

“The Covid year, was a big one,” explained the Ireland-capped Pearse. “We were unbeaten then as well, top of the league, and then two games before the season finishes, the whole thing goes up in flames.

“It’s felt like a long five years when you look at it like that, but I suppose it has only been three years really. We’d have preferred to be challenging for AILs but we weren’t.

“Thankfully we are back doing that now, and hopefully we’ll be putting in a good shift on Sunday to try and get it back.”

Some of their young guns have really impressed this season. 18-year-old hooker Beth Buttimer is a real star in the making. She has been a consistent performer in the UL pack, maintaining a high work-rate and picking up three tries.

The Limerick side’s back-line also contains plenty of attacking threats, including out-half and playmaker Kate Flannery, who has led the scoring with 90 points, and Ennis flyer Chisom Ugwueru, who ran in 13 tries across the first half of the season.

Sunday’s opponents Railway Union are familiar foes. The Dubliners ended UL’s unbeaten run in the league the start of this month, winning 43-22 in the penultimate round at Park Avenue.

However, UL Bohs won the teams’ previous two encounters at Annacotty in the league, prevailing 10-7 thanks to a crucial penalty from Flannery, and at Coolmine RFC in January when they won the Energia All-Ireland Women’s Cup final (34-12).

Hayes’ charges know exactly what Railway bring to the table. Reflecting on their previous meetings this season, Pearse commented: “I think from the Cup final game it’s just about being resilient. We definitely lived on the edge a little bit.

“They definitely had our number in the first half, but we were probably happy to go in only seven points down, and then in the second half, we definitely turned up in that middle quarter of the game.

“We showed some really good stuff, obviously got an intercept try (from Laoise McGonagle), but after that, we just kicked on (with further tries from Rachel Allen (2), and Clara Barrett).

“Hopefully we can do something similar at the weekend, but obviously a few weeks ago they beat us, and they beat us really well, and in fairness to them, they were the better team (on the day).

“It just showed us what we can’t afford to let that happen at the weekend, especially if we let them play the game they like to play, where they offload to big ball carriers, a very clever nine that will score and punish you if you move off that pillar.

“We just have to be really clinical in our defensive systems because otherwise they will punish us and they will score tries. They have really good players to do so.

“But, on the flip side of it, we lost (that last game) and we still scored four really good tries ourselves, so we showed what we can do as well. I think it’s going to be an 80-minute game, and we can’t afford to switch off at any point.”

It will be a busy weekend for both of UL Bohemian RFC’s senior squads. Their Men’s side host Galway Corinthians in a crunch Division 2A promotion/relegation final on Saturday, before the Women takes to the Aviva Stadium pitch for a historic clash the following day.

The atmosphere is certainly building around the club, with Pearse acknowledging: “It’s been great, to be honest. Two weeks ago, we were down with all the Minis, just trying to create that buzz and encourage people to come, meeting all the younger players, you know, boys and girls.

“Since then, we’ve got buses going (to the final in Dublin). Signs around Limerick, local businesses getting involved, sponsoring us as well.

“The club are all fully behind us. The Men’s team are coming and our President, Dave (Culligan), has done a stellar job in the background promoting it.

“It’s a very exciting weekend for the club. I know our men have a relegation battle game they have to win on Saturday first, but I’m sure they’ll come out of that and we’ll look to Sunday.”