Preview: Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Girls 18s Plate and Cup Finals
December 15, 2021 1:26 pm Site Editor
The Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Girls Cup and Plate finals day takes place at IT Carlow this Saturday, 18 December with a host of silverware up for grabs.
Here, we take a look at some of the teams competing on the day.
Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby 18s Girls Cup Final
Wicklow RFC v Port Dara – IT Carlow, Pitch 1 – Saturday, 18 December (KO 3pm)
There must be a sense of ‘deja vu’ about reaching the showpiece Leinster Rugby 18s Cup final for Wicklow and Port Dara in what is a repeat of the last completed competition in 2019.
Wicklow have come through a tough half of the draw, taking down Navan, Clontarf, Barnhall and Tullow with an attacking brand of rugby.
Centre Jennifer Madden and prop Leah Murphy were involved in last year’s Leinster U-18s, while out-half Robyn Johnston and lock Jessica Griffey have flirted with the provincial set-up too.
Despite this, no less than 15 of the squad will be eligible for this grade next year.
Hooker Isabelle Cooney, who can roam between hooker and No 8, prop Aoife Nixon and flanker Jess Reynolds set a physical standard in the pack.
Second row Griffey is strong over the ball and carries hard, while Aimee Smit’s transition from wing to flanker has proved to be a real success. Half-backs Maya Gaynor and Johnston are always looking to probe for openings for themselves or hard-running centre Ciara Short.
Once the softening up process has taken place, wing Faye O’Neill and full-back Roisin Stone are adept at turning possession into points.
PortDara is a joint venture between Portarlington and Cill Dara rugby clubs with the primary aim of providing safe and competitive rugby for girls of all ages in the North Midlands area. Perhaps, the motivation will be even greater given how Wicklow denied them in 2019.
PortDara fields U-12, U-14, U-16, and U-18 teams at the youths level and their ‘Falcons’ senior ladies team compete in Division 1 of the Leinster League.
The backbone of this talented crop is provided by four starters from the all-conquering Leinster U-18 interprovincial champions.
Prop Hannah Wilson and hooker Sarah Delaney are not for considering a backward step. Loose forward Eadaoin Murtagh is a pest without the ball and a problem with it.
Out the back, Alanna Fitzpatrick is a lethal force when it comes to finishing off good approach work from centres Clodagh Burke and Roisin Keogh, just outside half-backs Mairead Scully and Amy Rushton.
Paths to the final:
First round: Wicklow beat Navan; PortDara w/o from Longford
Second round: Wicklow beat Clontarf; Portdara beat Kilkenny
Quarter-final: Wicklow beat Barnhall; PortDara beat South-East Lions
Semi-final: Wicklow beat Tullow; Port-Dara w/o from Mullingar
Wicklow RFC 18s
Coaches – Ronan Griffey, Roelie Smit, Garrett Fitzpatrick, Ned Gaynor, Liam Newsome
Co-Captains – Jessica Griffey, Ciara Short
Squad – Aimee Smit, Aisling Ledesma, Alannah Dixon, Aoife Nixon, Ciara Short, Faye Larkin, Grace Wakeford, Hannah Traynor, Hollie Cassidy, Holly McSorley, Isabelle Cooney, Jennifer Madden, Jess Griffey, Jess Reynolds, Julie Phelan, Katie Flynn, Leah Murphy, Maya Gaynor, Molly Callery, Robyn Johnston, Roisin Stone, Sarah Allen, Sarah Fitzpatrick, Tara Kelly
Port Dara 18s
Coaches – Cormac Smith, Richard Cohen, Seamus Delaney
Captain – Eadaoin Murtagh; Vice-captain – Mia Whelan
Squad – Holly Bale, Shauna Bryan, Clodagh Burke, Alice Cross, Sarah Delaney, Evie Dickinson, Kate Eacrett, Megan Farrell, Alanna Fitzpatrick, Alanna Fraser, Roisin Keogh, Ava Kenny, Taragh Kirwin, Orla McDonald, Keila Moore, Amber Moran, Eadaoin Murtagh, Saoirse Murtagh, Amy Rushton, Mairead Scully, Blathnaid Smith, Aoife Thompson, Hannah Wilson, Ruth Whittle, Mia Whelan
Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby 18s Girls Plate Final
Dundalk RFC v Navan RFC – IT Carlow, Pitch 2 – Saturday, 18 December (KO 3pm)
Navan boasts a vibrant, fast-growing girls and minis section, competing at the U-14, U-16 and U-18 age grades with both the 16s and 18s qualifying for the Plate finals this season.
The 18s squad is tightly knit together, most playing together since they first started at U-10, a testament to the bond between the girls and the coaches.
The current squad won the inaugural Leinster Rugby U-14 Premier League in the 2017/18 season to signal the start of girls competitive rugby at that age grade.
This particular team has played in the Premier Division of the Leinster Leagues since. The depth of the quality is illustrated by the fact 12 girls have been selected for the current North-East representative squad.
Navan prefer to play to space with pace. In many ways, the key to linking forwards, led by captain Lauren Fitzpatrick, and backs comes at half-back where Leinster interpros Jade Gaffney and Abby Moyles are so influential
The form line is favourable as Navan only lost out to Wicklow in the first round of the cup due to a rule which saw the 22-all draw decided in favour of the club which scored the first try
Since then, Wicklow has marched to the cup final and Navan have nudged aside Ashbourne-Balbriggan and Edenderry to meet Dundalk in something of a local derby in the plate.
It has taken patience and perseverance for Dundalk to build on their knowledge of the game at U-14 and U-16, putting them in line to challenge for a trophy against Navan.
A small squad split evenly between girls born in 2004 and 2005 has provided five girls to the Leinster North-East elite squad, quite an achievement.
Led by captain Aoife Purcell at No 8, hooker Jennifer McElroy, out-half Sophia Murdock, wing forward Lila O’Molloy and wing Sophie Woulfe complete the quality quintet.
All, except O’Molloy, have come through the system from minis level at the club, Murdock and Purcell already giving back by being involved in coaching the minis.
Indeed, it will be a busy day for the Bermingham family as Aoife’s younger sister Ellen will play for Dundalk in the U-14 Plate final.
Paths to the Final:
Cup first round: Dundalk gave w/o to Ravens; Navan drew with Wicklow (lost out on tries)
Plate first round: Dundalk beat Naas; Navan received w/o from Panthers
Quarter-final: Dundalk beat Clontarf; Navan beat Ashbourne-Balbriggan
Semi-final: Dundalk received w/o from Tullamore; Navan beat Edenderry
Dundalk RFC 18s
Coaches – Pat Hughes, Ciaran O’Molloy and Graham Purcell
Captain – Aoife Purcell
Squad – Arinola Oguntoyinbo, Aimee Collins, Sophia Murdock, Brea Corrigan, Aoife Purcell, Sophie Woulfe, Aoife Bermingham, Nicola Campbell; Bronagh Hughes, Jennifer McElroy, Ciara Graham, Lila O’Molloy, Maire Daly, Elsie Cavaroli, Aela Orr
Navan RFC 18s
Coaches – Paddy Martin, Nour Khairy, Barry Searle and Dee Cullivan
Captain – Lauren Fitzpatrick
Squad – Roisin Watters, Ava Galvin, Sasha Guirey, Anna Hillard, Emma Looby, Isabelle Brereton, Sally Daly, Allie Cullivan, Rosie Searle, Abby Moyles, Lauren Fitzpatrick, Steffi Finegan; Cara Martin, Aisling Kelly, Allie Flynn, Niamh McManus, Caragh Wallace, Tara Quinn, Leah Morris, Emily O’Brien, Jade Gaffney, Ciara Rennie, Siobhan Beggy, Louise Crinion