- Result: Galwegians Women 11 - Tralee 7
- Venue: Tralee RFC on Sun Mar 25th 2012
- Competition: AIL Womens Cup
Galwegians will contest the All-Ireland Womens Cup final in Dublin on Saturday after a plucky but error-ridden Sunday win 11-7 over division two breakaways Tralee.
Handling (or lack thereof) effectively denied the travelling 'Wegians any chance to trouble scorers, and but for two well-struck Clare Raftery penalties, would have gone to the break even-Stevens nil-all with the hosts.
Time and again, promising overlaps fell prey to woeful hands, and counter-attacking opportunities lapsed to scrums because balls couldn’t, or wouldn’t, be caught.
Very few were immune. Across the board, both forwards and backs put ball to ground in glorious, dry and relatively still conditions to send the unforced error count skyrocketing into double figures. Rarely, if ever, have the Galwegians players nullified themselves to such a degree this winter, and with a national final this weekend they'll be hoping it was a one-off aberration.
Defensively on the other hand, Wegians were brilliant. They conceded no backline breaches despite the strong running Christine Arthurs of Connacht interprovincial fame opposite them, and frequent cameos from Irish blindside Siobhan Fleming outside her in broken play.
That they were able to deny Tralee any score in the first 16 minutes despite being hemmed on their own goal-line through stoic ball retention and seemingly arbitrary refereeing, was a credit to them. It was good practice for the early stages of the second half too, where Galwegians spent 22 of 40minutes deep in their own quarter.
The hands had improved marginally in the second half, where at least fullback Becky McPhilbin embarrassed a few tacklers and kept a great many others honest, and hooker Tosh Haywood also plundered a few gaps for good yards.
Tralee, however, had done their homework and prevented ball-player Emer O’Dowd from creating anything constructive, and ball-carriers Nuala Ni Chadhain and Carol Staunton from making any real headway.
Opportunities galore could have availed centre Lisa McDonagh, prop Ruth O’Reilly and Staunton room to move but balls went from hand to ground in heartbreaking fashion.
At 74 minutes, having survived a concerted goal-line assault from the hosts, the Blue Belles forced their way downfield and Clare Raftery sought inside centre Nuala Ni Chadhain with numbers to burn out left. Instead, she found an eagle-eyed Fleming tearing in from the Tralee midfield, (whose hands did not fail her), and she carved off the 70m untouched to go under the bar.
At 7-6 down with five left on the clock, Tralee could afford to revert back to their opening retain-and-deny campaign policy.
Enter O’Dowd and Ni Chadhain. An uncharacteristic Tralee fumble gifted Wegians the scrumfeed and it was noses to the grindstone, O’Dowd rallying the troops, and former international Nuala Ni Chadhain barking distribution instructions.
The final passage comprised three phases, all of which involved solid attempts at the line, and at least 13 pairs of hands before Heather Cary latched on to the last pass and an overlap wide right.
The score pushed Wegians ahead once more with 90 seconds on the clock. Tralee got to the visitors’ 10m line before a timely steal gifted Sorcha Ni Chadhain the ball who hoofed it into touch.
Defensively immense throughout was blindside Maire Murray who, with Anne O’Callaghan, Ruth O’Reilly and skipper O’Dowd dropped forward ball-runners before they could get up a head of steam. Nuala Ni Chadhain and Heather Cary fronted at breakdown time, stealing three apiece from the opposition. McPhilbin and Haywood were the pick of the ball-carriers and Raftery was spot on with the tactical kicking.
Galwegians meet Cork heavyweights Highfield on St Mary's track in Dublin. The Saturday kick-off follows the plate final between Galbally and UL Bohemians.
Highfield beat Blackrock 22nil away from home, making this weekend's final a similar venture for them on the road.
Galwegians, no strangers to finals footy in Dublin having won the Paul Flood Leinster Cup at Blackrock last year, will look to continue their winning ways against Highfield, perennial runners-up to UL Bohemians in most major competitions in recent years.