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Blackrock look to go top after Railway Union see match cancelled

Dave Mervyn looks ahead to this weekend’s action in the women’s All-Ireland League.

Blackrock's Michelle Claffey.
Blackrock's Michelle Claffey.
Image: Ryan Bailey/INPHO

ENERGIA WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE

Kick-off Saturday 5pm unless stated

COOKE v GALWEGIANS, Shaw’s Bridge, 2.30pm

Cooke welcome back captain Aishling O’Connell and top try scorer Naomi McCord from injury, although the unavailability of some other players means a notable positional switch for Beth Cregan.

The Ulster skipper moves from the back row to scrum half, the position she first began playing rugby in. Cooke are bidding to bounce back from a disappointing 66-0 defeat to Blackrock College.

“The final result was really disappointing,” admitted Cregan. “Blackrock were just too clinical on our errors. We were really competitive for the first half and created opportunities which we should have finished.

“So that’s the focus this week to ensure that we keep that pressure on for the full 80 minutes and take the chances that are on offer.”

Sorcha Mac Laimhin reverts to the second row, while Coral Lapsley makes her full AIL debut at outside centre. Tamzin Boyce reclaims the right wing spot and Helen McGhee is redeployed to number 8.

Cregan continued: “‘Wegians always bring that physical battle up front but also have incredible experience in their backs, so it will be a really good challenge for us.

“We’re aiming to continually develop in these next few games, wins will come when the performance is there. Home wins are always vital in any competition and ensuring you score tries when the opportunity comes.”

Meanwhile, Connacht youngster Faith Oviawe is set to make her AIL bow off the bench for Galwegians. The Blue Belles have an extra pep in their step after last week’s 17-12 victory at home to Suttonians.

Captain Mary Healy slots back in at scrum half, and ‘Wegians’ will have to rejig their back row with their Ireland call-up, Grace Browne Moran, away at national camp this weekend.

Team manager Lisa Anglim commented: “We were delighted to get the win last weekend but our sights turn to what is always a difficult fixture away to Cooke. They always play well at home and we will have to improve on our performance last week if we are to get a result.

“Some notable performances from the Suttonians game were Fiona Scally, Orla Dixon and Mairead Coyne who had a great day with the boot.

“Two of our tries came from well-judged kicks from Mairead, which were gathered by Megan Walsh and Maria Gorham respectively.”

BALLINCOLLIG v RAILWAY UNION, Tanner Park, 3pm

Match Cancelled – Due to Covid-19 concerns, the match between Ballincollig and Railway Union has been cancelled.

As per the IRFU Rugby Committee decision on Covid-19 affected games, the match will not be replayed and each team is awarded two league points with a 0-0 score being applied.

SUTTONIANS v OLD BELVEDERE, JJ McDowell Memorial Grounds, 4pm

On the back of a strong recent Interprovincial campaign with Connacht, back rower Ciara Farrell has been brought into the Suttonians squad by head coach Stephen Costelloe.

Speaking ahead of this afternoon’s Dublin derby, he said: “We welcome Ciara into the squad. She was very good for Connacht during the Interpros and has been in great form for her parent club Tullamore.

“We have lost (hooker) Julia O’Connor to a broken hand unfortunately. Sophie Gibney returns at full-back. To keep fighting last week and get within a score of Galwegians at the end was fantastic.

“Carrie O’Keeffe was everywhere on the park and put in a Trojan amount of work, Mary Healy made a fantastic impact when she came on and really got us going forward. Great talker on the pitch too.

“(Our captain) Lauren Farrell McCabe too was driving players around the park, she always wants to be on the front foot. We have threats all over the park and we want to use them effectively.”

Key areas for improvement for the Tribe outfit are making sure they make their first-up tackles, especially with Belvedere’s attack looking particularly sharp of late, and winning the collisions.

Costelloe continued: “I think we can put a performance in against anyone, we have a quality group of players. The next two games are against two of the best in the country (Old Belvedere and Railway Union).

“It’s going to be tough but these are the games, as players and coaches, that you relish. I said before we are in a transitional phase. In a win, draw or defeat we achieve and learn.”

Meanwhile, Old Belvedere head coach Johnny Garth has made four personnel changes to the team that ran out emphatic 75-point winners at home to Ballincollig in round four.

Former St. Mary’s player Hannah Heskin comes into midfield, replacing hamstring injury victim Elise O’Byrne-White, and there are starts up front for Rachel Murphy, Jan Carroll and Ivanna Dempsey.

International duo Sene Naoupu and Kathryn Dane are absent this week after providing some second-half star dust against Ballincollig. However, former Ireland out-half Hannah Tyrrell is pencilled in for a possible return off the bench.

BLACKROCK COLLEGE v MALONE, Stradbrook

Blackrock College are chasing their fourth straight victory, and top spot following the cancellation of Railway Union’s game. Heading into the international window, ‘Rock captain Michelle Claffey says it is a case of opportunity knocks for the wider squad.

“We have a lot of changes due to the 15s and Sevens commitments this week,” she explained. “We’re very excited to welcome Malone to Stradbrook, we’re expecting a very strong performance from them.

“We have four forwards in the Ireland squad for November, it’s a loss but it allows others to step up and get the responsibility of managing the game. We have plenty of experience in the pack and interpro players like Aoife Moore, Christy Haney, Mairead Holohan and Meadbh Scally.”

Another experienced head is former Ireland back Jackie Shiels. The 36-year-old Meath woman has moved between inside centre and out-half, with Claffey acknowledging that she is a key figure in making sure standards do not drop in the absence of the internationals.

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“The goal for the next few rounds is to show that we have a solid squad that we can select from, there is no drop in standards. Jackie has brought experience to the team in driving standards and executing our roles.”

Claffey and Shiels are joined in the back-line this week by Natasja Behan, Caoimhe O’Callaghan, Munster’s Ciara Scanlan and Cork-born scrum half Laura ‘Nugget’ Delaney.

The versatile Niamh Griffin makes the switch to openside flanker, with former Boyne hooker Niamh Tester, Anna Potterton and Hannah Hodges also brought into the pack by head coach Ben Martin.

Malone shipped two sizeable defeats to Blackrock during the 2019/20 campaign, including a 33-12 reversal at Stradbrook. It was seven points apiece at half-time before ‘Rock pulled clear.

Losing away to promoted club Wicklow last week was a setback for Peita McAlister and her team-mates, and they will no doubt be smarting from that result. Jamie McMullan will be expecting a big reaction from his charges.

UL BOHEMIANS v WICKLOW, UL Arena

Wicklow will be wary of a UL Bohemians side that is sure to want to right the wrongs of last week’s frustrating 37-10 loss to title rivals Railway Union. Munster captain Sarah Quin notched Bohs’ only try.

The league newcomers have been basking in the glow of that historic first win in the competition – a hard-fought 12-7 success at home to Malone – and received a further boost with young full-back Ella Roberts’ call-up to the Ireland squad.

Before heading into national camp, Roberts told Irish Rugby TV: “Just having homegrown talent is super important for growing the game, especially in a club like this. We’re not a Dublin club, we rely on players around the local scene.

“I think getting the win against Malone was just what we needed. We had the fire in our bellies. We had a tough start, playing the top three teams which was hard, but I think we definitely grew from it and learned.

“I think against Malone, fair play to them, it was a hard game but we toughed through it at the end. I’ve been lucky enough to be called into the Irish set-up, so I’m super excited for that and just raring to go.”

UL head coach Niamh Briggs has promoted five players from the bench, including Lily Brady, Laura Delaney and Michelle Ring in the tight five. Ireland international Fiona Reidy shifts across to the loosehead side of the scrum.

There are also positional switches in the back row, Kerry woman Edel Murphy packing down at number 8 and Clodagh O’Halloran and Sarah Garrett fill the flanker roles this week.

The Red Robins will field a rejigged back-line, still led by Nicole Cronin, the league’s joint-top points scorer currently with 35 points. Skibbereen youngster Abbie Salter-Townshend gets an opportunity to impress at scrum half.

Helen McDermott makes the move to full-back, Aoife Corey will don the number 13 jersey, and there are starts in the back-three for Rebecca O’Shea, fresh from scoring two tries for UL’s seconds against Waterpark, and Louise Costello.

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella, and Gavan Casey assess the provinces’ first URC blocks and look ahead to November for the Ireland men’s and women’s teams on The42 Rugby Weekly:


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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