Blackrock and Railway Union through to All-Ireland Final

Blackrock and Railway Union through to All-Ireland Final
Grace Fisher
Grace Fisher
Blackrock College and defending champions Railway Union, the top two finishers in the table, will contest next Friday's Energia All-Ireland League Women's Division final.

Fittingly, it was Blackrock's inspirational captain Michelle Claffey who crashed over in the 64th minute to set up a repeat of last season's decider in Donnybrook.

UL Bohemians, whose only try saw Nicole Cronin jink over following a maul, really put it up to Blackrock in tricky, wet conditions at Stradbrook, but Ben Martin's table toppers triumphed 13-8.

The young Bohs team blew an early maul opportunity, on the back of a dominant scrum. Jackie Shiels also lifted the pressure on the Blackrock defence with a turnover penalty in her own 22.

The Red Robins meant business, their skipper Chloe Pearse bulldozing Tatum Bird out of the way with Kate Sheehan and Eva McCormack also prominent. Ella Durkan gained consistent yards for Blackrock from deep, but neither try-line was threatened.


Indeed, the first half finished scoreless despite Brianna Heylmann growing in influence for Niamh Briggs' side as a midfield carrier. Vice-captain Cronin threatened with a chip and collect, but Blackrock did well in scrambling back.

'Rock began to get to grips with proceedings, amid a heavy rain show approaching half-time. Emma Hooban and the returning Dorothy Wall brought impact off the bench, and Shiels forced another turnover penalty early on the restart. Méabh Deely stepped up to open the scoring.

Cronin quickly responded to make it three points apiece, only for 'Rock to exert more territorial dominance. Aoife Moore ripped possession back in a tackle and Mairead Holohan stole a lineout to keep Martin's charges playing in the right areas of the pitch.

They created numbers on the left in the 53rd minute, well-timed passes from Shiels and the hard-running Maeve Liston releasing full-back Deely to go over in the left corner for the game's opening try. It went unconverted.


Bohs needed no second invitation after successive penalties landed them back into the Blackrock 22. Fiona Reidy did well to flick back maul possession, and Cronin ducked inside Hooban and evaded Holohan's clutches to make it eight-all from a few metres out.

After the out-half's difficult conversion from the left fell short, Blackrock swiftly retook the lead. Hannah O'Connor's counter ruck led to a penalty, and Bohs leaked another one before Claffey burrowed over with Maeve Óg O'Leary on the latch.

Deely's conversion came back off the left hand post, leaving just five points in it. Blackrock showed their experience to clinch the result, particularly at the breakdown where Shiels and Laura Feely both won penalties to pin Bohs back in their own half.

Meanwhile, Railway Union pulled clear in the second half to defeat Old Belvedere 34-19 at Park Avenue. It leaves John Cronin's side just 80 minutes away from a famous All-Ireland League three in-a-row.

Railway signalled their intent with a barnstorming run up the left from Aimee Clarke, the home pack having an early crack at a try but Katie O'Dwyer was held up and Belvedere starlet Dannah O'Brien soon cleared back towards halfway with a cracking kick.

The Tullow youngster followed up with a fine touchfinder from a penalty, and Rachel Murphy's short lineout throw sent prop Alice O'Dowd over for a try in the right corner.

O'Brien, the division's leading points scorer, increased her influence with an excellent conversion, 10 minutes in. It was her inviting pass that released Elise O'Byrne-White from halfway for 'Belvo's second try.

Clarke had too much space to cover, with the 'Belvo centre breezing past on the inside and she then shrugged off Lindsay Peat and Molly Scuffil-McCabe to finish off a superb solo score, making it 12-0.

Emma Tilly and Belvedere captain Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird both pilfered possession, the latter at a lineout, but Railway cut the gap to seven points when Scuffil-McCabe dummied to score out wide from Nikki Caughey's cross-field kick.

Caughey missed the conversion and O'Brien also sent a penalty wide, before 'Belvo built through the phases. Nic a Bhaird punched a hole in the defence and scrum half Katie Whelan expertly sniped from the ruck, dummying and then fending off Ailsa Hughes to raid in beside the posts.

Railway were under plenty of pressure now at 19-5 down, the straightforward conversion added by O'Brien. Crucially, they made inroads before half-time to whittle the visitors' lead down to just two points.

Successive penalties led to a well-worked maul try from Peat, which Caughey converted, and on the stroke of half-time, Sonia McDermott wrestled her way over following a great charge by her sister Aoife off a lineout.

Strong running from Peat and Hughes sent Belvedere back towards their own try-line, early in the second half. With Caughey moving the ball wide, nice footwork from Aoife Doyle took her over the whitewash to put the hosts in front.

Caughey nailed the tough conversion as well to open up a 24-19 advantage, but she was soon turned over by Niamh O'Dowd for the concession of a penalty. Railway skipper Niamh Byrne made sure to return the favour, as the breakdown became even more competitive.

Swedish international Minonna Nunstedt gave 'Belvo momentum with a slashing run deep into the Railway 22, only for the home defence to hold firm. Clarke also tidied up a dangerous cross-field kick from O'Brien.

Nic a Bhaird lifted her team-mates with a tremendous run off the back of a scrum, yet creating scoring chances was proving more difficult. Into the closing stages, the Ireland-capped Caughey floated over a penalty to keep the scoreboard moving in the right direction.

It was a run of 29 unanswered points in the end, Railway's aggressive defending paying off during the dying seconds when Peat, having just been part of a big scrum shove, was well supported as she drove in low to complete her brace.

After showing huge improvements of late, Wicklow will have a shot at silverware when they host Galwegians, last season's runners-up, in next Saturday's Conference final.

Second row Rachel Griffey scored two of Wicklow's eight tries in a 46-12 semi-final dismissal of Ballincollig. A late try from captain Nicole Fowley gave 'Wegians a 15-10 verdict at home to Suttonians.


Scorers: Blackrock College: Tries: Méabh Deely, Michelle Claffey; Pen: Méabh Deely
UL Bohemians: Try: Nicole Cronin; Pen: Nicole Cronin
HT: Blackrock College 0 UL Bohemians 0

BLACKROCK COLLEGE: Méabh Deely; Maeve Liston, Michelle Claffey (capt), Jackie Shiels, Ella Durkan; Enya Breen, Tatum Bird; Aoife Moore, Beth Cregan, Laura Feely, Eimear Corri, Mairead Holohan, Ali Coleman, Maeve Óg O’Leary, Hannah O’Connor.

Replacements: Emma Hooban, Shannon Heapes, Niamh Tester, Ava Fannin, Dorothy Wall, Lisa Mullen, Ciara Scanlan, Anna Doyle.

UL BOHEMIANS: Clara Barrett; Alana McInerney, Brianna Heylmann, Kate Flannery, Laura O’Mahony; Nicole Cronin, Muirne Wall; Fiona Reidy, Kate Sheehan, Eilís Cahill, Claire Bennett, Eva McCormack, Ciara Farrell, Clodagh O’Halloran, Chloe Pearse (capt).

Replacements: Ciara O’Dwyer, Geena Behan, Nicola Sweeney, Sarah Garrett, Lily Brady, Abbie Salter-Townshend, Rachel Allen, Aoibhe O’Flynn.

Scorers: Railway Union: Tries: Molly Scuffil-McCabe, Lindsay Peat 2, Sonia McDermott, Aoife Doyle; Cons: Nikki Caughey 3; Pen: Nikki Caughey
Old Belvedere: Tries: Alice O’Dowd, Elise O’Byrne-White, Katie Whelan; Cons: Dannah O’Brien 2
HT: Railway Union 17 Old Belvedere 19

RAILWAY UNION: Molly Scuffil-McCabe; Aoife Doyle, Niamh Byrne (capt), Aoife O’Shaughnessy, Aimee Clarke; Nikki Caughey, Ailsa Hughes; Lindsay Peat, Chloe Blackmore, Katie O’Dwyer, Sonia McDermott, Aoife McDermott, Carmen Rodera, Keelin Brady, Molly Boyne.

Replacements: Lisa Callan, Megan Collis, Grainne O’Loughlin, Emerson Allen, Emma Fabby, Christine Coffey, Leah Tarpey, Stephanie Carroll.

OLD BELVEDERE: Jemma Farrell; Emma Tilly, Elise O’Byrne-White, Minonna Nunstedt, Clare Gorman; Dannah O’Brien, Katie Whelan; Alice O’Dowd, Rachel Murphy, Vic Dabanovich O’Mahony, Elaine Anthony, Clodagh Dunne, Niamh O’Dowd, Fiona Tuite, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird (capt).

Replacements: Jennie Finlay, Katie Layde, Caoimhe Guinan, Rachel Winters, Lesley Ring, Aine Donnelly, Éadaoin Murtagh, Emma Kelly.


BLACKROCK COLLEGE v RAILWAY UNION, Energia Park, 7.45pm (live on TG4)


Scorers: Galwegians: Tries: Orla Dixon, Nicole Fowley; Con: Nicole Fowley; Pen: Nicole Fowley
Suttonians: Tries: Sophie Gibney, Janita Kareta
HT: Galwegians 10 Suttonians 5

GALWEGIANS: Mairéad Coyne; Sarah O’Connell, Orla Dixon, Ursula Sammon, Laoise McGonagle; Nicole Fowley (capt), Mary Healy; Roisin O’Driscoll, Emily Gavin, Ellen Connolly, Grace Browne Moran, Dearbhla Canty, Elizabeth Mc Nicholas, Nolwenn Dubois, Lisa-Marie Murphy.

Replacements: Ruby Lynch, Hannah Coen, Faith Oviawe, Kayla Waldron, Maelle Jouve, Olivia Haverty, Sinead O’Brien, Tanya Farrell.

SUTTONIANS: Sophie Gibney; Lena Kibler, Shannon Touhey, Catherine Martin (capt), Annie Buntine; Órfhlaith Murray, Amber Redmond; Janita Kareta, Julia O’Connor, Mary Healy, Brenda Barr, Grainne Tummon, Nicola Bolger, Casey White, Carrie O’Keeffe.

Replacements: Ciara Spencer, Louise Catinot, Clara Sexton, Jools Aungier, Meabh O’Brien, Moya Kernan.

Scorers: Wicklow: Tries: Ella Roberts, Rachel Griffey 2, Naoise O’Reilly, Meagan Parkinson, Loretta Gilbert, Jessica Schmidt, Erin McConnell; Cons: Beth Roberts 3
Ballincollig: Tries: Denise Redmond, Sarah O’Donovan; Con: Denise Redmond
HT: Wicklow 27 Ballincollig 0

WICKLOW: Ella Roberts; Naoise O’Reilly, Aoibhin Stone, Sarah Gleeson, Meagan Parkinson; Beth Roberts, Erin McConnell (capt); Caoimhe Molloy, Eimear Douglas, Lauren Barry, Rachel Griffey, Jessica Schmidt, Loretta Gilbert, Nicola Schmidt, Niamh Ni Dhroma.

Replacements: Noelle Ward, Becky Condren, Saoirse O’Reilly, Leah Murphy, Roisin Stone, Suzanne Tyrrell, Jocelyn Jones.

BALLINCOLLIG: Kelly Griffin; Sinéad O’Reilly, Michelle O’Driscoll, Alison Kelly, Ellen O’Keeffe; Jayne Pennefather, Mona Fehily; Roisin Ormond, Clodagh Walsh (capt), Clare Coombes, Sarah O’Donovan, Denise Redmond, Katelyn Fleming, Kira Fitzgerald, Tiare Siguenza.

Replacements: Nicola Akande, Orla Rea, Caolainn Healy, Michelle Stafford, Sarah Coakley, Ella McCarthy, Sarah Cronin.


WICKLOW v GALWEGIANS, Ashtown Lane, 5pm

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