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Two hugely contrasting semi-finals set up repeat of 2017 Women's AIL decider

Old Belvedere and UL Bohemians go head-to-head in the showpiece next weekend.

Old Belvedere celebrate at the final whistle.
Old Belvedere celebrate at the final whistle.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Women’s All-Ireland League semi-finals review

TWO HUGELY DIFFERENT Women’s AIL semi-finals propelled Old Belvedere and UL Bohemians into next Saturday’s decider.

Belvedere were three-point winners of a thrilling encounter with Railway Union, while UL continued their quest to retain the title with a runaway 50-point win over courageous Cooke.

Railway Union 7 Old Belvedere 10, Park Avenue

One of the best club matches of the year at any level was played out at Park Avenue on Saturday as Old Belvedere edged out second-placed Railway Union 10-7 to set up a league final tilt next weekend.

This was a game of immense skill, entertainment and thrills. It was a platform for some of the most talented players in the country to showcase their undoubted abilities and they did not disappoint. The ultra competitive edge was a joy to behold, and the result was in doubt all the way to the final whistle as ‘Belvo clung onto a 10-7 lead.

The Railway scores came from a Larissa Muldoon try, converted by Nikki Caughey, but this was balanced by a 60-yard intercept try from Belvedere winger Ailbhe Dowling, converted by Nora Stepleton.

50-cap Ireland international Stapleton had a huge influence on proceedings, kicking the winning penalty in the 60th minute while also guiding her side around the pitch and ensuring they were in the front foot in both defence and attack.

Sena Naoupu and Niamh Byrne Sene Naoupu on the run. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

The ‘Belvo defensive line was almost impenetrable as they showed great speed off the mark with vice-captain Elise O’Byrne White and Sene Naoupu making some bone-crunching tackles. The fact that ‘Belvo prop and captain Fiona O’Brien showed immense hunger for the ball from the first whistle to last said a lot about her leadership qualities.

The winners celebrated joyously at the final whistle, having set up a repeat of last season’s final which they lost 10-3 to UL Bohemians. Regaining the trophy they lifted three times between 2014 and 2016 would be the ideal way to end head coach Josh Brown’s first year at the helm.

UL Bohemian 58 Cooke RFC 8, University of Limerick 4G pitch

Title holders and table-toppers UL Bohemians surged back into the final with a comprehensive 58-8 semi-final victory over a battling Cooke side on the University of Limerick’s 4G pitch.

Cooke travelled south with a squad of limited numbers but they opened the scoring with a 10th-minute penalty from Vicky Irwin. That only served to bring out the best in the Bohs attack and they cut loose to run in a succession of tries. They led 41-3 at the interval after tries from Laura Sheehan, Nicole Cronin (2), Aine Staunton, Clodagh O’Halloran, Niamh Briggs and current Ireland captain Ciara Griffin.

There was little hope for Cooke at that stage but they never stopped trying and restricted Bohs to three tries after the resumption with Griffin, Laura O’Mahony and Laura Sheehan crossing the visitors’ whitewash.

Niamh Briggs lines up a conversion Niamh Briggs (file pic). Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Cooke got the try that their brave efforts deserved when they grabbed the last score of the day, which was claimed by the newly-capped Megan Simpson. This was a great way for Cooke to finish their season as Simpson has only started playing senior rugby this year and is still at school, so she looks to have a very promising future ahead.

Bohs will face much stiffer opposition next weekend when they face familiar foes Old Belvedere in a heavyweight showdown, looking to retain their crown and extend the Limerick club’s stunning list of league title successes to thirteen since 2001/02. UL and ‘Belvo have contested the last two league finals, with ‘Belvo triumphing 19-17 in 2016 and UL gaining revenge last April thanks to Eimear Considine’s lone try.

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About the author:

Michael Gallagher

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