Ireland youngster stars as Blackrock College make victorious Top Four start

The Energia Women’s All-Ireland League battle has intensified.

Maeve Óg O'Leary of Blackrock College getting away from Old Belvedere's Katie Layde during yesterday's game at Stradbrook.
Maeve Óg O'Leary of Blackrock College getting away from Old Belvedere's Katie Layde during yesterday's game at Stradbrook.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

MAEVE ÓG O’LEARY was central to Blackrock College’s strong start to the Top Four series as they shut out Old Belvedere 16-0 at Stradbrook.

The battle for the Energia Women’s All-Ireland League title has intensified with the country’s leading four clubs going head-to-head over five rounds, ahead of the 26 February final.

Blackrock kicked off with a Dublin derby and Hannah O’Connor’s well-struck sixth-minute penalty, following a strong scrum, edged them ahead.

Sene Naoupu’s slick hands released Elise O’Byrne-White through a gap, but Old Belvedere were unable to take advantage of a promising attack.

Rock were clinical on the half hour mark, quick hands, including some deft work by lock Mairead Holohan, getting the ball wide for full-back Natasja Behan to touch down.

21-year-old flanker O’Leary took centre stage barely two minutes into the second half. She shrugged off Fiona Tuite’s tackle and showed her pace and power to score in the left corner.

The recent Ireland cap turned in an all-action display, and despite some impressive defending from Belvo, Ciara O’Dwyer’s yellow card for offside was punished with a clinching three-pointer from O’Connor.

UL Bohemians led twice at Railway Union, inspired by centre Rachel Allen’s try, but converted efforts from Lindsay Peat, a late call-up at number eight, and captain Niamh Byrne saw the reigning champions prevail 14-10.

Bohs laid down a marker with a brilliantly-crafted opening try, the ball worked back infield from a Railway clearance kick and Nicole Cronin did well to release the strong-running Enya Breen from halfway.

Breen broke up to the 22 and linked neatly with the supporting Allen who managed to step inside the covering Ailsa Hughes and score under the posts. Out-half Cronin converted for a 7-0 lead.

Railway squared things up for half-time, though, as Amanda McQuade fed Peat off a lineout maul and the 41-year-old broke a tackle and charged over to the left of the posts. Nikki Caughey added the levelling kick.

Cronin put the Red Robins back in front from the kicking tee, but Railway produced the stronger finish with Peat having a crucial role in the decisive try.

The home forwards bashed away in the 22, earning a penalty which Peat took quickly. She carried up close to the line and before Bohs could get numbers wide, Molly Scuffil-McCabe and Caughey flashed passes out for captain Byrne to score near the right corner.

Number 10 Caughey showed her place-kicking class with a brilliant conversion to make it a four-point game. The near left-hand post denied her a penalty goal with the final kick of a thoroughly entertaining game.

Galwegians lead the Conference table after a 36-3 bonus point success away to Wicklow. Ireland-capped out-half Nicole Fowley crossed the whitewash and kicked three conversions, with busy flanker Lisa-Marie Murphy bagging a brace of tries.

Captain Mairead Coyne put Fowley over for the opening try in the right corner, and despite some good covering by Ella Roberts in the back-field, Wicklow were unable to avoid conceding a second early five-pointer.

Murphy reacted quickest to tap a penalty and storm over from the edge of the hosts’ 22. Wicklow had some decent possession and territory but emerged scoreless after turning down a kickable penalty.

Wegians absorbed the pressure and added a late breakaway effort, taking a 17-0 half-time lead after Coyne darted down the left touchline and her well-timed offload released Rhiann Heery for the line.

Despite losing blindside Katelyn Bourke to the sin bin and leaking three points to Wicklow’s Beth Roberts, the Blue Belles kicked on in the second half with three more tries.

With Wicklow lock Caitlin Griffey yellow carded, Jarrad Butler’s charges took advantage when centre Ursula Sammon wormed her way over. In response, Wicklow prop Lauren Barry was held up as their forwards battered away.

Wegians managed a late flourish, the elusive Orla Dixon cutting inside Ella Roberts’ tackle for a 30-metre run-in. Fowley converted before Murphy raided over to complete a sweeping move involving both backs and forwards.

Meanwhile, a well-taken Emily McKeown double helped Suttonians run out convincing 37-13 winners at Cooke, while Ballincollig won on the road for the first time this season, pipping Malone 17-15 in a gripping encounter at Gibson Park.

It was three tries apiece in the end, Holly Brannigan and Heather Kennedy both touching down twice but experienced Ballincollig forward Denise Redmond managed to convert her own try to split the teams.

In overcast and wet conditions, pacy Ballincollig winger Kennedy broke the deadlock in the 11th minute, slicing in between to defenders to score wide on the right.

Ballincollig defended stoutly to avoid a quick-fire reply, but they failed to deal with a dangerous kick through from Ella Durkan, the end result being a try in the right corner from Malone full-back Brannigan.

However, just before half-time, Collig half-backs Gemma Lane and Kelly Griffin worked hard to get the ball wide again and Kennedy ran in an almost carbon-copy of her first try.

Malone seized control on the resumption, building pressure with Brannigan just foiled by a great cover tackle by Griffin before Alexa Grudgings lost the ball forward in the act of scoring, with Kennedy and Lane getting the defensive plaudits.

Malone kept pressing and were rewarded when good hands across the back-line released replacement Jill Stephens to score and make it 10-all.

Back came the Cork outfit, scrum half Lane’s clever kick dangled through for Kennedy to gather. The forwards carried up closer before Redmond barged over from a few metres out.

The second row showed her prowess with the boot, adding the conversion from the right, and it was a vital kick in the end as Brannigan brilliantly raided over just a couple of minutes later, only to miss the conversion.

Ballincollig went on to dominate the closing stages, pinning Malone back in their own half and a final choke tackle sealed a gritty victory for the recently-promoted club.

Ballincollig head coach Fiona Hayes was delighted with the result, saying: “It’s a great win on the road against an exciting Malone side. A great start to the New Year for us.

“We are constantly building and looking forward to next week’s game already (away to Wicklow).”

Energia Women’s All-Ireland League results

Top Four: Round one

Scorers: Blackrock College: Tries: Natasja Behan, Maeve Óg O’Leary; Pens: Hannah O’Connor, Lisa Mullen

BLACKROCK COLLEGE: Natasja Behan; Maggie Boylan, Michelle Claffey (capt), Katie Fitzhenry, Katie Cullen; Jackie Shiels, Lisa Mullen; Laura Feely, Emma Hooban, Christy Haney, Mairead Holohan, Eimear Corri, Meadbh Scally, Maeve Óg O’Leary, Hannah O’Connor.

Replacements: Niamh Tester, Casey O’Brien, Caoimhe Molloy, Anna Potterton, Ali Coleman, Niamh Griffin, Valerie Power.

OLD BELVEDERE: Laura Carty; Clare Gorman, Elise O’Byrne-White, Sene Naoupu, Fiona Tuite; Jemma Farrell, Kathryn Dane; Alice O’Dowd, Rachel Murphy, Katie Layde, Clodagh Dunne, Elaine Anthony, Jennie Finlay, Lesley Ring, Jenny Murphy (capt).

Replacements: Melissa Hayden, Vic Dabanovich O’Mahony, Ciara O’Dwyer, Rachel Winters, Ivanna Dempsey, Aine Donnelly, Katie Whelan.

Scorers: Railway Union: Tries: Lindsay Peat, Niamh Byrne; Cons: Nikki Caughey 2
UL Bohemians: Try: Rachel Allen; Con: Nicole Cronin; Pen: Nicole Cronin

RAILWAY UNION: Molly Scuffil-McCabe; Emer O’Mahony, Aoife Doyle, Niamh Byrne (capt), Tess Feury; Nikki Caughey, Ailsa Hughes; Amanda McQuade, Chloe Blackmore, Katie O’Dwyer, Aoife McDermott, Siobhan McCarthy, Emma Murphy, Katie McCarthy, Lindsay Peat.

Replacements: Megan Collis, Aimee Clarke, Keelin Brady, Sonia McDermott, Molly Boyne, Erin Coll, Ava Ryder, Lisa Callan.

UL BOHEMIANS: Aoife Corey; Alana McInerney, Rachel Allen, Enya Breen, Abbie Salter-Townshend; Nicole Cronin, Louise Costello; Chloe Pearse (capt), Kate Sheehan, Fiona Reidy, Claire Bennett, Ciara O’Halloran, Sarah Garrett, Lily Brady, Sarah Quin.

Replacements: Rebecca O’Shea, Geena Behan, Eilis Cahill, Clodagh O’Halloran, Caoimhe O’Neill, Muirne Wall, Aoibhinn O’Loughlin.

Conference: Round One

Scorers: Malone: Tries: Holly Brannigan 2, Jill Stephens
Ballincollig: Heather Kennedy 2, Denise Redmond; Con: Denise Redmond

MALONE: Holly Brannigan; Donna McGovern, Emma Jordan, Ella Durkan, Sophie Armstrong; Alexa Grudgings, Shirelle Wilson; Sarah Murphy, Ashleigh Currie, Chrissie McKee, Hannah Beattie, Jasmine Ward, Joe McMorris-Cloughley, Peita McAlister (capt), Lauren Maginnes.

Replacements: Aoife Cahill, Anna Smith, Erin Jones, Cara O’Neill, Rachael McIlroy, Jill Stephens, Jana McQuillan.

BALLINCOLLIG: Lauren Fahey; Heather Kennedy, Jayne Pennefather, Mona Fehily, Alison Kelly; Kelly Griffin, Gemma Lane; Alix Cunneen, Clodagh Walsh (capt), Roisin Ormond, Sarah O’Donovan, Denise Redmond, Katelyn Fleming, Niamh O’Regan, Kira Fitzgerald.

Replacements: Aoife Flynn, Niamh Gorman, Roisin Long, Gillian Coombes, Aine Dunniece.

Scorers: Wicklow: Pen: Beth Roberts
Galwegians: Tries: Nicole Fowley, Lisa-Marie Murphy 2, Rhiann Heery, Ursula Sammon, Orla Dixon; Cons: Nicole Fowley 3

WICKLOW: Ella Roberts; Sue Brady, Tammy Breen, Sarah Gleeson, Meagan Parkinson; Beth Roberts, Erin McConnell (capt); Kathy Byrne, Robyn Mullen, Lauren Barry, Shauna Soady, Caitlin Griffey, Emma Curran, Jessica Schmidt, Niamh Ni Dhroma.

Replacements: Eimear Douglas, Laura Newsome, Nicola Schmidt, Emily Ryan, Vicky Elmes Kinlan, Saoirse O’Reilly, Aoife Dunne.

GALWEGIANS: Mairéad Coyne (capt); Saskia Morrissey, Ursula Sammon, Orla Dixon, Rhiann Heery; Nicole Fowley, Darwyn O’Halloran; Ellen Connolly, Nolwenn Dubois, Jessica Loftus, Niamh O’Grady, Fiona Scally, Katelyn Bourke, Lisa-Marie Murphy, Dearbhla Canty.

Replacements: Kiara Irwin, Hannah Coen, Celia Killilea, Ann Marie Herward, Casie O’Connell, Ina Butler, Emma Clery.

COOKE 13 SUTTONIANS 37, Shaw’s Bridge
Scorers: Cooke: Tries: Aishling O’Connell 2; Pen: Amanda Morton
Suttonians: Tries: Molly Fitzgerald, Mary Healy, Carrie O’Keeffe, Lauren Farrell McCabe, Catherine Martin, Emily McKeown 2; Con: Nicole Carroll

COOKE: Dolores Hughes; Georgia Boyce, Lucy Thompson, Coral Lapsley, Tamzin Boyce; Amanda Morton, Teah Maguire; Ilse van Staden, Beth Cregan (capt), Sorcha Mac Laimhin, Caolinn McCormack, Naomi McCord, Megan Simpson, Katie Hetherington, Helen McGhee.

Replacements: Aishling O’Connell, Fiona McCaughan, India Daley, Eimear McQuillan, Claire Johnston, Katie Kerr.

SUTTONIANS: Emily McKeown; Molly Fitzgerald, Catherine Martin, Shannon Touhey, Jools Aungier; Nicole Carroll, Lauren Farrell McCabe (capt); Katie Grant Duggan, Aoife Brennan, Mary Healy, Brenda Barr, Nicola Bolger, Ciara Farrell, Carrie O’Keeffe, Aifric O’Brien.

Replacements: Megan Cullen, Katie Reel, Grainne Tummon, Aislinn Layde, Meabh Donohoe, Lena Kibler, Soneva Scott.

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