- Result: Galwegians Women 17 - UL Bohemians 12
- Venue: Annacotty on Sun Mar 4th 2012
- Competition: AIL Womens Cup
Drawn against 10-time League champions UL Bohemians in the first round of the All-Ireland Cup, Galwegians’ trip to Annacotty was one laced with trepidation.
Any concerns had disappeared come kick-off time, however, and continued through to full-time Galwegians victorious three tries to two, 17-12 ahead.
The first nine minutes belonged to the visitors, entirely. Three passages of up to a dozen phases played out, punctuated only by UL transgressions and corresponding whistle-blows.
UL may well have expected an opening onslaught based on the AIL semi-final last year, but this was a different story altogether.
When UL got their hands on the ball 10 minutes in they showed a willingness to go wide, but at a pace far more pedestrian than that shown by ‘Wegians.
For the most part though, the first half was a forward battle. Sorcha Ni Chadhain at nine was immense. Confidence in her own abilities was undeniable, confidence in her backline to outplay their opposites showed early, but Ni Chadhain’s foremost contribution to this game was in rallying a forward pack plagued with injury and without adequate cover.
Ably-assisted by capped international Ruth O’Reilly, Ni Chadhain orchestrated a simple but rock-solid forward campaign to secure and keep ball – essential if the backs were to have any chance of swinging the result their way.
By her own admission, stalwart frontrower Wendy Hickey was past her prime. She looked anything but on Sunday, slamming into rucks at nearly every breakdown and disrupting UL’s distributive flow. Hickey may not have featured when the ball was moving, but she stood head-and-shoulders above all others at the breakdown.
Carol Staunton at seven, and Katie Daly (second-row) were defensive dynamos, Staunton a formidable barrier to backline channels, Daly minding the fringe.
In the backs the oh-so-safe defensive pairing of Clare Raftery (10) and former international Nuala Ni Chadhain (12) were typically impenetrable, and tested often. Ni Chadhain stealing occasional possession against unwary opposites.
On attack, Lisa MacDonagh at outside centre threatened often. Skipping through twice in a game which afforded outside backs little space, MacDonagh managed to make 30m on two occasions, an invaluable asset into the stiff second-half breeze.
Winger Becky McPhilbin was starved of go-forward ball from her team-mates, unfortunate given the wealth of ball fired Margaret Fitzgibbon’s way on the other wing, but countered superbly well beating at least two defenders on every occasion. McPhilbin’s versatility (having played 10, 12, 13 and fullback this year) is her greatest asset and employs virtues pertinent to each position in every appearance.
Hooker Tosh Haywood latched on to a well-weighted pass to crash over outside the 15m line on the 15minute mark, and seven minutes later MacDonagh’s presence of mind had her clutch at a UL pass converting the intercept into a slick seven-pointer.
Stalwart skipper Emer O’Dowd’s experience and patience shot to the fore for the third and final try crashing over from a pick-and-go three metres from the UL chalk on the stroke of halftime.
Down 17nil after halftime, UL welcomed the wind at their backs but found few gaps in the blue frontline. Battling valiantly (but losing) any scrum engagement, UL toiled well in broken play relying heavily on Fiona Hayes and halfback Lou Beamish to shorten the gap between the red camp and the blue goal.
Mairead Kelly (12) for the hosts played a forward’s game to good effect be it as a carrier or support option, and after 12minutes managed to punch through a fractured goal-line defence.
UL struck back straight away to go under the bar for their second (12-17) but fear outweighed frustration and Galwegians reverted back to basics with 24 minutes remaining and shut out wave after wave of UL runners, winning timely penalties to relieve pressure.
It was the fourth or fifth such penalty in front of their own posts which gifted Lisa MacDonagh the ball. MacDonagh employed her long right leg to send the ball into the Annacotty carpark, the final whistle drowned out by shrieks of celebration and the realisation of Galwegians’ only victory over UL since the AIL competition began.
Galwegians advance to the AIL quarter finals now against Cooke at Crowley Park this weekend coming.