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#EnergiaAIL Women’s Division Final Preview: UL Bohemian v Railway Union

#EnergiaAIL Women’s Division Final Preview: UL Bohemian v Railway Union

Captains Niamh Byrne (Railway Union) and Chloe Pearse (UL Bohemian) will lead their teams out for the historic Energia All-Ireland League Women's Division final at the Aviva Stadium ©INPHO/Ben Brady

The blue riband event of the season fittingly brings together the two most consistent teams in the Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Division, as UL Bohemian and Railway Union meet in a repeat of January’s All-Ireland Cup final.


Sunday, April 28 –

UL BOHEMIAN (1st) v RAILWAY UNION (2nd), Aviva Stadium, 1.45pm (live TG4/TG4 Player)

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

#EnergiaAIL Finals – Match Day Information

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UL Bohemian: WWWWWWWWWWWWWWLW; Railway Union: WWWWLLWWWWWWWWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UL Bohemian: Points: Kate Flannery 90, Chisom Ugwueru 70; Tries: Chisom Ugwueru 14, Ciara O’Dwyer 6; Railway Union: Points: Nikki Caughey 114, Maddy Aberg 95; Tries: Maddy Aberg 19, Faith Oviawe 13, Lindsay Peat 9

Previous Energia All-Ireland League Titles – UL Bohemian: 13 (2001/02, 2002/03, 2003/04, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2006/07, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2016/17, 2017/18); Railway Union: 2 (2018/19, 2021/22)

Preview: The excitement generated by Ireland’s third place finish in the Six Nations and qualification for the Rugby World Cup will most definitely feed into this historic climax to the domestic season.

For the first time the Energia All-Ireland League finals are paired together in a double header, and UL Bohemian, back in their first AIL decider since 2019, will battle it out with the 2019 and 2022 champions, Railway Union.

Returning to the club as head coach this season, Fiona Hayes guided UL Bohs to a very impressive 15 wins out of 16 league matches and a first All-Ireland Women’s Cup success in five years, overcoming Railway 34-12 in clinical fashion.

When Bohs beat last year’s league winners Blackrock College, Railway, and Old Belvedere before Christmas, it was clear that they were mounting a big challenge for a record 14th title and their first since 2018. A late Kate Flannery penalty saw them win a titanic tussle with Railway, 10-7, at Annacotty.

The 20-year-old Flannery has shone with added responsibility at out-half, racking up 90 points and gaining more experience in the Celtic Challenge and as an Ireland training panellist. Stephanie Nunan has also stood out in a youthful Bohs back-line, stepping up as captain on occasion.

Up front, skipper Chloe Pearse, a big ball-carrying threat for the table toppers from number 8, Fiona Reidy, and Hayes, who was captain back then, all started UL’s 2018 final victory over Old Belvedere.

Nunan, Clodagh O’Halloran and Rachel Allen were involved too back then, while former Ireland Sevens international Claire Keohane is now part of the Railway squad.

Hayes has not been afraid to give youth its fling, and her players have rewarded her consistent selection, especially Ennis flyer Chisom Ugwueru, who scored 13 tries across the first half of the season, and prodigious 18-year-old Munster hooker Beth Buttimer.

Pearse, Ugwueru, Aoife O’Shaughnessy, and Muirne Wall are the four personnel changes to the Bohs team that lost 43-22 at Railway three weeks ago. That was their only defeat of the league campaign, but neither coach will be reading too much into it.

The same is true for the Cup decider back in January when second half tries from Laoise McGonagle, Allen (2), and Clara Barrett gave Hayes’ charges a runaway 34-12 triumph. However, both sides were missing frontliners that day, particularly the Dubliners.

Notably, Aimee Clarke, Kayla Waldron, Ava Ryder, Nikki Caughey, Ailsa Hughes, Megan Collis, Keelin Brady, Faith Oviawe, and Molly Boyne all return to Railway’s starting XV today, as they look to end Stephen Costelloe’s first season in charge on a high.

This is Railway’s fourth successive AIL final appearance, either side of the Covid-19-cancelled seasons, and Costelloe, who steered Suttonians to the inaugural Women’s Division Conference crown two years ago, had a tough act to follow at Park Avenue in John Cronin.

It is a measure of the coaching camaraderie, and the high esteem that Cronin is held in, that he was invited to present the jerseys to the Railway players ahead of today’s game.

Two three-point defeats to Belvedere and Bohs, both in November, were the only blots on Railway’s copybook this term. Indeed, since losing at Annacotty, they put together ten straight wins to finish second in the standings.

The Sandymount outfit have been in prolific scoring form, averaging an incredible 48.875 points per game and pocketing 13 try-scoring bonus points. Canadian centre Maddy Aberg, who moves to the right wing this afternoon, has starred with 19 tries as the division’s top try scorer.

Ireland-capped out-half Caughey, a regular starter for the Celtic Challenge-winning Wolfhounds, has amassed 114 points as the only player to break the century mark during the regular season.

In the forwards, young Connacht lock/flanker Faith Oviawe (21) often has some explosive moments with ball in hand, having bagged 13 tries already. Former Ireland prop Lindsay Peat, still leading by example but from number 8, is unsurprisingly Railway’s third top try scorer with nine.

Peat has spoken movingly in the build-up about what it means to her to be able to play at the Aviva Stadium for the first time. While echoing those thoughts, her captain Niamh Byrne is hoping they can put last season’s final defeat behind them and regain the trophy she lifted in 2019 and 2022.

“We weren’t as successful last year, but we’re very much all eyes on Sunday. Very excited to be here and we’ll do all we can to get there (and finish the season as league champions),” said Byrne, the Ireland-capped centre.

“Sunday will be the biggest contest of the year. Bohs are always in great form. I think it’s the first fixture we always look out for when they come out every year.

“I think it’s going to be a good challenge, hopefully a great game, and I think regardless of who you’re cheering for, it’ll be a good game to see on Sunday.”

Pearse, her Bohs counterpart, commented: “Railway have probably been the most consistent team the last six years. I think they’ve been in every final since 2019, which is a testament to the work they’ve done.

“They’re the standard bearers and they’re a team that have really pushed us to get where we are, I suppose, and to bring our standards up to try and match them. We know what to expect from them, they beat us a few weeks ago but we’ve beaten them as well.

“We’ve seen both sides of it. We know the threat they pose, but on the flip side of it, we know how good we are when we click so we’ll just be hoping to find some continuity in our play, score some tries and have some fun.”

UL BOHEMIAN: Aoife Corey; Chisom Ugwueru, Stephanie Nunan, Alana McInerney, Aoife O’Shaughnessy; Kate Flannery, Muirne Wall; Ciara O’Dwyer, Beth Buttimer, Fiona Reidy, Clodagh O’Halloran, Claire Bennett, Jane Clohessy, Brianna Heylmann, Chloe Pearse (capt).

Replacements: Lily Brady, Ciara McLoughlin, Nicola Sweeney, Eva McCormack, Sarah Garrett, Abbie Salter-Townshend, Éabha Nic Dhonnacha, Rachel Allen.

RAILWAY UNION: Aimee Clarke; Maddy Aberg, Niamh Byrne (capt), Kayla Waldron, Ava Ryder; Nikki Caughey, Ailsa Hughes; Grainne O’Loughlin, Meabh Keegan, Megan Collis, Keelin Brady, Faith Oviawe, Katie O’Dwyer, Molly Boyne, Lindsay Peat.

Replacements: Emily Gavin, Kirstie Stevenson, Sophie Barrett, Salome Trauth, Patricia Doyle, Claire Keohane, Dani Franada, Leah Tarpey.

Referee: Stuart Douglas (IRFU)

Pre-Match Links –

#EnergiaAIL Finals – Match Day Information

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

‘To Win It At The Aviva Would Be Magic’ – Railway’s Byrne

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 18, 2023: UL Bohemian 10 Railway Union 7, Annacotty; Saturday, April 6, 2024: Railway Union 43 UL Bohemian 22, Park Avenue

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Railway Union to win