The Final Four

Here's the pairings for the Women's All Ireland League playoffs

The final round of regular season games took place today.

Women’s All-Ireland League Round Round 14

A general view of the game Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Blackrock 5 – 29 Old Belvedere

Galwegians 49 – 36 St Mary’s 

(Crowley Park)
Highfield 5 – 26 UL Bohemians

(Woodleigh Park)

Railway Union 46 – 20 Cooke

(Willow Lodge)

THEN THERE WERE four. The identities of the four teams set to contest the All Ireland League playoffs were revealed after Sunday’s final round of regular season games.

UL Bohemians who finished top of the eight team league will face fourth-placed Galwegians while the other semi-final is a Dublin derby as Old Belvedere travel to Railway Union, who ended the season in second position.

At the other end of the table, a scintillating game against Galwegians couldn’t prevent St Mary’s dropping into the Leinster League.

It was an especially poignant occasion at Crowley Park as St Mary’s captain and former Galwegians’ and Ireland star Carol Staunton played her last game for the club.

Despite 14 tries, six conversions and a thrilling game of rugby, Galwegians and St Mary’s still had enough breath left to serenade the departing flanker with Total Eclipse of the Heart.

Galwegians shaded it 49 – 36 on the scoreboard but St Mary’s were forced to play 60 minutes with just 14 players. Hooker Leah Hayden suffered a hand injury and with no specialist replacement on the bench, she could not be replaced and scrums were uncontested.

Eily Coghlan confirmed after that match Hayden would have a scan on her injured hand.

The home side got the game off to a flying start, opening the scoring with a try on four minutes but St Mary’s hit back quickly through Christy Haney four minutes later. A penalty edged Galwegians three points ahead before Ireland international Orla Fitzimons scored a try in a perfect riposte.

Grainne Egan Tommy Dickson / INPHO Grainne Egan in action at the Women's Interprovincial last year. Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

A burst of three tries from Galwegians went unanswered as St Mary’s adjusted to life without Hayden and their numerical disadvantage but Grainne Egan pulled one back for the visitors just before half-time and Elizabeth Brophy, who only recently joined St Mary’s landed the conversion.

Galwegians opened the second half with a brace of early tries, their 15 players affording them width that St Mary’s struggled to cope with. However on 62 minutes New Zealander Shayne Richardson powered through four tackles from five metres out and forced herself over the line to reduce the deficit to 39 – 29.

Paula Fitzpatrick, who lead Ireland to second in the Six Nations, then brought her club to within three points of Galwegians, scooping the ball up at a ruck, jumping over the players and touching the ball down for a try.

Galwegians emptied their bench and a two further tries before the final whistle cut St Mary’s bonus point to one but cruelly condemned them to relegation.

Speaking afterwards Coghlan said: “I would like to pay tribute to Carol, she is a fantastic captain and leader and we are all sad to see her leave. I was very proud of the girls today and the spirit and dedication they showed. Our focus now is on rebuilding for next year, working on our skillset and getting promoted to the All Ireland league straight away.”

Galwegians’ immediate priority is next Sunday’s semi-final in Annacotty against UL Bohemians whose defeat of Munster rivals Highfield ended the Cork team’s own play-off hopes.

Aoife O’Sullivan opened the scoring for the Limerick side on three minutes and their blistering start was emphasised by Mairead Kelly’s burst through the centre to touch down on 12 minutes. Kerry goalkeeper Edel Murphy landed the conversion.

Newly-wed Rachel Allen Connelly scored UL Bohemians’ third try on 22 minutes which was again converted by Murphy.

Niamh Kavanagh was stopped short of the line after a daring solo run from inside her own half met the fierce resistance of the Highfield defence and the teams went into the dressing room with UL Bohemians’ holding a 19 – 0 lead.

Highfield dominated the play early in the second half but it took until the 73rd minute for them to finally get a try, Nicola Scully crossing the line wide out in the corner.

Eimear Considine scores a try Cathal Noonan / INPHO Eimear Considine. Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

Eimear Considine wrapped up the bonus point victory in the final minute of the game as the new recruit and Ireland international raced out of defence and this time, Highfield couldn’t prevent her from scoring and the game finished 26-5 to the table toppers.

“We have enjoyed a very good season so far,” said John Keane of UL Bohemians. “There has been just the one defeat all year and we are very happy with how we performed today. We take it one game at a time and we are now focused on the semi-final against Galwegians next weekend.”

A bonus point victory over fierce local rivals Blackrock cemented Old Belvedere’s place in the league play-offs.

Again a fast, attacking start allowed them to leave a telling blow as Jackie Shiels claimed the first of her three tries after an intense period of possession.

Second-row Rebecca Schwartz, making her first start for Old Belvedere, had an impact in the scrum, where Old Belvedere dominated their Dublin rivals, and in other areas of the field. A penalty underneath the posts on 15 minutes gave Shiels the opportunity to extend the lead to eight points and she duly did so.

Blackrock grew into the game and their expansive attacking game, which caused Old Belvedere problems in the Cup semi-final earlier this month began to crank into gear.

Shiels replied to the Blackrock threat with her second try, which she converted to make it 15-0 to the visitors.

Bostonian Millie Croman was sharp to the possibility of turning defence into attack for Old Belvedere and after scrambled defence repelled wave after wave of Blackrock attacks the winger grabbed the ball after a knock on and galloped three-quarters of the field for her try, which Shiels converted for a half-time lead of 22-0.

All this happened while Old Belvedere were reduced to 14 players after Roisin O’Donnell’s yellow card for a high tackle.

A strong start to the second half from Blackrock was rewarded with a try from Emer Corri but right at the death Shiels scored her third, and Old Belvedere’s fourth try of the afternoon for a bonus point 29-5 success.

Ruth McElroy and Heather O'Brien James Crombie / INPHO Old Belvedere's Ruth McElroy. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“Franziska Klappoth was awarded our player of the match,” said Old Belvedere forward Ruth McElroy. “She and Maria Kenny had to do a lot of rucking and clearing out because the forwards weren’t quick enough to cover the Blackrock wide attacks at times and she created the fourth try.”

For Mairead Holohan of Blackrock there was disappointment, “The scoreline doesn’t reflect the game very well. We created lots of chances but we didn’t score whereas Old Belvedere took their chances. Eimear Corri got our only score of the game but we have a few weeks now to prepare for the Cup final.”

Facing Old Belvedere next week is Railway Union who also claimed a bonus point victory of their own, 46-20 the final score at home to Cooke.

Claire Ryan, Juliet Short, Lucy O’Sullivan and Katie Heffernan ensured that bonus point was secured by half time and Ryan went on to score two more tries in the second half as part of a fantastic overall display by the Railway Union fullback.

A second try from Katie Heffernan and a final penalty try gave Railway Union a convincing success.

The game was notable for the first start of 18-year-old Megan O’Brien, an Irish schoolgirl and u18 sevens international. She was the 46th different player to take to the pitch for Railway Union during this league campaign.

“It is a phenomenal amount of players to use in 13 games and it is a testament to our squad who have got us to the league semi-final and the Cup semi-final too,” said John Cronin, Railway Union’s director of rugby.

“We have four big weekends of rugby ahead of us hopefully with the seconds also getting to a Cup semi-final so we will need all of those 46 players. It was another good performance today and, yet again, Claire Ryan was outstanding.

“She has been out standout player this season and is a leader and huge influence on the team. Not only has she been fantastic in attack but rock solid in defence and in a number of games her do-or-die tackles have saved us at the end.”

The42 is on Instagram! Tap the button below on your phone to follow us!

No more special treatment for Scottish and Italians in Champions Cup race, says Lam

Treviso did Irish rugby a favour last night by stunning the Ospreys

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.