#EnergiaAIL Women’s Division Final: What You Need To Know

Blackrock College take on Railway Union in tonight’s Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Division final. Here are some of the key things you need to know about the title decider.

Where?

Energia Park, Donnybrook.

When?

Friday, December 9, kick-off 7.45pm.

Tickets:

Student and OAP tickets cost €5, with adult tickets costing €10.

Tickets must be purchased online via the Leinster Rugby ticket portal. There will be no cash accepted at the turnstiles at Energia Park.

To purchase tickets go to: URL: https://bit.ly/AILWDFINAL

Broadcast

Live on TG4 and the TG4 Player.

Preview Content

#EnergiaAIL Final Preview: Blackrock College v Railway Union

Route To The Final: Blackrock College

Route To The Final: Railway Union

Captain’s Comments: Blackrock College

Captain’s Comments: Railway Union

Throwback To 2021/22 Final

Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Division Scoring Charts

Match Officials

Referee: Padraic Reidy (IRFU)
Assistant Referee 1: Colm Roche (IRFU); Assistant Referee 2: Katie Byrne (IRFU)
Television Match Official: Mark Patton (IRFU)

Report Lays Foundation For Participation Strategy – Greensmith

The IRFU Women in Rugby Report, which was published on Thursday, paves the way for a strategy to build opportunities at every level of participation for girls and women including a new look for the Women’s Division of the Energia All-Ireland League.

Independent Review Sets A Positive Pathway For Women’s Rugby In Ireland

Speaking at the launch of the report IRFU Women’s Development Manager Amanda Greensmith outlined some of the areas of focus for the future,  “We have made significant progress in a lot of areas, this Report also highlights the opportunity to grow the women’s game further in a sustainable fashion throughout the country which incorporates Mini, Age Grade and Adult rugby, with solid connections in Schools and Third Level.”

Download the Women In Rugby Report HERE

The report will form the basis for further consultation with rugby clubs about the proposed new structure of the Women’s Division of the All-Ireland League which the report makes clear is not meeting the needs of the club game.

Fiona Steed, Chair of the IRFU’s Women’s Sub-Committee, spoke about the plans, ‘This was an area that was explored in-depth and the biggest thing to come out of that is that the current Women’s All-Ireland League is not fit for purpose and the steering group agreed with that.

#EnergiaAIL Women’s Division Final Preview: Blackrock College v Railway Union

The final sprint for Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Division silverware brings together Blackrock College and defending champions Railway Union for the second year running.

ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE WOMEN’S DIVISION FINAL:

Friday, December 9 –

BLACKROCK COLLEGE (1st) v RAILWAY UNION (2nd), Energia Park, 7.45pm (live TG4/TG4 Player)

Click Here To Purchase Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Division Final Tickets

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Blackrock College: WWWWWWWWW; Railway Union: WWWWWWLWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Blackrock College: Points: Méabh Deely 76; Tries: Michelle Claffey 9; Railway Union: Points: Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe 50; Tries: Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe 10

Previous Energia All-Ireland League Titles – Blackrock College: 5 (1992/93, 1994/95, 1995/96, 1996/97, 2007/08); Railway Union: 2 (2018/19, 2021/22)

Preview: Ireland internationals Emma Hooban and Dorothy Wall are back to bolster the Blackrock College pack for tonight’s title showdown, a heavyweight December duel fittingly between the top top finishers in the table.

Hooban and Wall, who both impressed off the bench against UL Bohemians, will start at hooker and blindside flanker respectively, while a back-line reshuffle sees Ella Durkan join captain Michelle Claffey in midfield. Anna Doyle comes in on the left wing.

Railway, 24-18 winners over Blackrock in last season’s final, make just one change to the side for the TG4-televised decider. Versatile New Zealander Deirdre Roberts returns at number 8, meaning a switch to the second row for Keelin Brady.

Railway are bidding to become the first three in-a-row champions since Old Belvedere seven years ago. It is a last league final for their long-time director of rugby and head coach John Cronin, who is stepping down due to work commitments.

Railway suffered their only defeat of the campaign at home to Ben Martin’s Blackrock side last month, losing out 19-17. However, they boast the best records in both attack and defence.

Cronin’s charges have scored an average of 46 points per game and conceding an average of just eight. Limerick native Aoife Doyle and scrum coach Lindsay Peat have scored nine tries each.

Railway’s senior coach Larissa Muldoon, who will succeed Cronin as head coach next season, commented: “I think by losing to Blackrock by two points, we actually had so many lessons learned from that. So I nearly would have rather lost earlier in the season, in that way we’re really prepped and planned and ready to go for the final.

“if you’re looking at the weather conditions for the final, it is going to be a cold night and a late kick-off. I do think it will be a massive game for our forward pack.

“Blackrock’s pack has a wealth of experience with the likes of Laura Feely, numerous caps for Ireland, Emma Hooban, Irish hooker, their second row too. If you look at their back row, Hannah O’Connor, Irish capped, Dorothy (Wall) and Maeve Óg (O’Leary), like there is serious experience there.

“From our side of things it’s evenly matched with the likes of Katie O’Dwyer, Lindsay Peat and Aoife McDermott, and our number 8 who has probably had the season of her life in Deirdre Roberts. So, I think it’s going to be a massive match-up and I think set piece is going to be the winning or losing of the game potentially.”

Centre Niamh Byrne, who captained Railway to league glory in 2019 and last season, said: “I think it’s been a long season in a sense, although it’s only been three months, but really excited to play on Friday night in what should be a highly competitive game.

“There’s big rivalry between ‘Rock and ourselves. You get the fortunate chance to play with them in Leinster and various other things, but I think come Friday night it’s a big Dublin rivalry.

“Going for three in-a-row adds both pressure and opportunity. I think, you know, it would be nice to get a third one, but equally very aware of the game that we’re going into.”

Muldoon’s former Ireland team-mate Katie Fitzhenry is part of the Blackrock coaching team, which includes Ireland’s 2013 Grand Slam-winning supremo Philip Doyle who looks after their defence and scrum.

Fitzhenry is ‘Rock’s backs/attack coach and is anticipating a titanic tussle, as the table toppers, including top points scorer Méabh Deely (76 points), aim to make it 10 straight wins.

“We probably knew from last season that we didn’t perform as well as we wanted to (in the final), but it was the first time in a long time any of those girls had been anywhere near a final,” said the Wexford woman.

“For us, I suppose, it’s just been game by game, week by week, and ultimately (to) try and get the perfect performance which is always impossible, but ultimately that’s what you strive for.

“If we perform like I know we can, I don’t see how we can’t win, but I also know that Railway are a very good team and if they perform, it’ll be very tight. A real close game, high level competition, but I’m hoping that obviously we take it.”

Centre Claffey, who grabbed her ninth try of the season in the semi-final win over UL Bohemians, recently received an award from Blackrock as the longest serving captain within the club. She has skippered the team since 2016.

It is clear how much it would mean to the Offaly native if ‘Rock could make up for last season’s disappointing finish. “It would be an incredible feeling just to represent our club, represent everyone who has played for Blackrock since the last time they won it,” she said.

“It has been a long time, and this group of players have put in an awful lot of effort to get to where we are. If I get to do that (lift the trophy) on Friday, that would be just amazing. It would mean everything.”

BLACKROCK COLLEGE: Méabh Deely; Maeve Liston, Michelle Claffey (capt), Ella Durkan, Anna Doyle; Enya Breen, Tatum Bird; Aoife Moore, Emma Hooban, Laura Feely, Eimear Corri, Mairead Holohan, Dorothy Wall, Maeve Óg O’Leary, Hannah O’Connor.

Replacements: Beth Cregan, Christy Haney, Shannon Heapes, Niamh Tester, Ali Coleman, Lisa Mullen, Jackie Shiels, Ciara Scanlan.

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, Keelin Brady, Aoife McDermott, Carmen Rodera, Molly Boyne, Deirdre Roberts.

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

Referee: Padraic Reidy (IRFU)

Pre-Match Links –

#EnergiaAIL Final Captain’s Comments: Blackrock ‘All Business’ For Friday Night

#EnergiaAIL Final Captain’s Comments: Railway Union Hoping To Stand On The Steps Once More

‘We Learned So Many Lessons From Blackrock Defeat’ – Muldoon

Fitzhenry: It’s Been Game By Game, Week By Week To Get Back Here

Route To #EnergiaAIL Final: Blackrock College

Route To #EnergiaAIL Final: Railway Union

Friday’s #EnergiaAIL Final A Throw Back To 2021/22 Decider

Deely Overhauls O’Brien Ahead Of Friday Night Finale

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 26, 2022: Final – Blackrock College 18 Railway Union 24, Energia Park; Saturday, November 12, 2022: Railway Union 17 Blackrock College 19, Park Avenue

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Blackrock College to win

‘We Learned So Many Lessons From Blackrock Defeat’ – Muldoon

Railway Union have been the standout team in Irish Women’s club rugby for a number of seasons now. They are aiming to make it a three in-a-row tonight by retaining the Energia All-Ireland League title when they face Blackrock College.

Click Here To Purchase Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Division Final Tickets

It is Larissa Muldoon’s first league final since being appointed Railway’s senior coach back in July. The former Ireland scrum half is looking forward to what should be a memorable occasion at Energia Park.

“I’m just very grateful that we are in the situation that we are and the girls are playing the best possible rugby that they can,” said Muldoon, eager to build on a second place finish in the table and last week’s 34-19 semi-final win over Old Belvedere.

Railway’s only defeat of the season so far came just under a month ago against Blackrock when they were narrowly beaten 19-17 at Park Avenue, with the visitors scoring three first half tries.

Muldoon says the Sandymount side are relishing the opportunity to play Blackrock again and that these are the type of games you want to be involved in, both as a player and a coach.

“I think by losing to Blackrock by two points, we had so many lessons learned from that,” the Ballybofey native told IrishRugby.ie, ahead of the crunch TG4-televised showdown in Donnybrook.

“So, I would have preferred to have lost earlier in the season, in that way we’re really prepped and planned and ready to go for the final.”

The general consensus heading into the final is that these teams are very evenly matched, making it a very hard game to call. Last February’s decider saw Railway lead 14-8 at half-time and maintain that advantage, finishing as 24-18 winners.

Muldoon reckons the weather could prove influential on the night, noting: “If you look at the weather conditions for Friday, it is going to be a cold night and a late kick-off. I do think it will be a massive game for our forward pack.”

She rates the Blackrock team highly, particularly up front where they have brought in Emma Hooban and Dorothy Wall for the final, along with the addition of fellow Ireland international Christy Haney to the replacements bench.

Influential New Zealander Deirdre Roberts returns at number 8 in Railway’s only change, her inclusion seeing Keelin Brady move to the second row. Muldoon has a lot of faith in the firepower of her own forwards.

“From our side of things, it’s evenly matched with the likes of Katie O’Dwyer, Lindsay Peat and Aoife McDermott, and our number 8 who has probably had the season of her life in Deirdre Roberts.

“I think it’s going to be a massive match-up and I think set piece is going to be the winning or losing of the game potentially.”

The 31-year-old, a two-time Six Nations winner who appeared at two Rugby World Cups, was playing with Railway Union before making the decision to move into coaching last year due to a tough spell of injuries.

She led the Dublin University Women’s team to promotion to Division 1 of the Leinster League in her first season at the club. Previously, she had coached some of the Leinster area squads, DCU and the King’s Hospital Girls.

Speaking about her time with Trinity and how it reignited her love for rugby, she explained: “It was a great experience and I suppose it was nice way for me, to be honest, to still be part of the game after doing my ACL. I was in two minds whether to stick at it or step away.

“So, Trinity kind of gave me back that grá for the game, but from a completely different perspective.”

The 2013 Grand Slam winner works day-to-day for the IRFU in operations at their High Performance Centre. She summarised it as being ‘the eyes and the ears’ of the centre, making sure everybody makes the most of their time on site.

She works closely at the IRFU HPC with Katie Fitzhenry, who is Blackrock’s attack/backs coach. She is full of praise for her friend’s own development as a coach, and quipped that no matter what the result is, they will still chat afterwards.

“I’ve known Katie for years, I don’t know how many caps we played together for Ireland. I’m delighted that somebody I’ve grown up playing with is doing well and enjoying it,” added the ex-Ulster and Leinster player.

“Win or lose we’ll have a drink and a laugh afterwards and we’ve actually both said, ‘win or lose, we just won’t talk about it until the dust settles!”.

Muldoon concluded: “Obviously we want to win, but I think it’s going to be really tight. As I said, I think the weather will play a massive role, but I’m backing ourselves by I’d say five points.”

Fitzhenry: It’s Been Game By Game, Week By Week To Get Back Here

When Katie Fitzhenry retired from playing international rugby at the end of the 2020/21 season, coaching was not something that she envisaged for herself.

Click Here To Purchase Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Division Final Tickets

Fast forward 19 months and the former Ireland centre is heading into tonight’s Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Division final as backs/attack coach with Blackrock College as they face Railway Union for the ultimate prize.

Fitzhenry represented her country in both 15s and Sevens between 2014 and 2020. A Six Nations winner with Ireland in 2015, she is now hoping for trophy success in her transition from player to coach.

Fitzhenry played at inside centre in Blackrock’s heart-breaking 24-18 final defeat to Railway last February. She believes that loss has been the driving force behind their table-topping form and current nine-match winning streak.

“The girls have put in a lot of work in the last few months and thankfully we’re at the top table with a really competitive side. I’m just excited to see them play and hopefully we can get a performance out of it,” she said.

“We probably knew from last season that we didn’t perform as well as we wanted to (in the final), but it was the first time in a long time any of those girls had been anywhere near a final.

“For us, I suppose, it’s just been game by game, week by week, and ultimately (to) try and get the perfect performance which is always impossible, but ultimately that’s what you strive for.”

The Wexford native is making the most out of her move into the coaching set-up at Stradbrook. She spoke about how much she is enjoying working alongside ‘Rock head coach Ben Martin and defence/scrum coach Philip Doyle.

Of course, having lined out with a lot of the current ‘Rock team, she admits that striking that balance between maintaining friendships with players and being their coach at the same time can be challenging.

“That will always be a challenge in the next little while for me. Thankfully, the girls are great and once we step onto the field there is a separation I suppose, and I’m just treated like any other coach,” she acknowledged.

“We are quite light-hearted within our coaching and we do have a lot of craic and banter with the girls, so in that sense it hasn’t changed that much, but it’s probably been the biggest challenge for me.”

Fitzhenry is one of a growing number of Ireland internationals who are developing their coaching skills and making notable progress at different levels. The likes of Larissa Muldoon, who is Railway’s senior coach, is on that list.

So too are UL Bohemians head coach Niamh Briggs, who assists Greg McWilliams in the national set-up and coaches Munster, Ballincollig boss Fiona Hayes, and Old Belvedere attack coach Tania Rosser, who is in charge of Leinster. These are all coaches that Fitzhenry admires.

“I suppose I probably never even thought about becoming a coach but when you look at what they’re doing, it’s probably in the back of your head. They are being trailblazers for the game and hopefully there will be many more to come after them.”

The 33-year-old works with the IRFU as the Women’s National WNTS and Talent ID Manager. The job entails finding and looking after the young and upcoming female talent within Irish Rugby, which has included coaching the Ireland Under-18 Women’s 15s and Sevens teams this year.

The position gives her the opportunity to have an impact on the future of Irish Women’s rugby, chiefly through the Women’s National Talent Squad programme which operates out of the IRFU High Performance Centre. She lives a life immersed in rugby and it is something she thoroughly enjoys.

“Rugby has given a lot to me in my life and I’ve always wanted to remain in rugby if I could, so to be able to do something like this I’m extremely lucky.

“I love doing the day-to-day stuff with the girls, and I suppose making sure that they have a brighter future within the sport.”

Fitzhenry works closely at the HPC with Muldoon, who she gets on very well with. For those 80 minutes tonight their close friendship will be put to one side as Blackrock and Railway battle it out for league honours.

She is backing her Blackrock team to do the business, adding: “If we perform like I know we can, I don’t see how we can’t win, but I also know that Railway are a very good team.

“If they perform, it’ll be very tight and a real close game, high level competition. But I’m hoping that obviously we take it.”

#EnergiaAIL Final Captain’s Comments: Railway Union Hoping To Stand On The Steps Once More

The captains of Blackrock College and Railway Union spoke to media this week about their thoughts on Friday’s Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Division Final.

Railway Union’s Niamh Byrne admits they know what’s at stake on Friday. 

Click Here To Purchase Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Division Final Tickets

URL: https://bit.ly/AILWDFINAL

“It’s always in the back of your mind,” she told Irish Rugby TV. “We’ve been fortunate to be successful in previous years. We look to perform at a high level so it is always there.” 

“You know what you want. You know what it’s like to stand on the steps and lift the cup and you’d like to relive that again.” 

 

Danny Care backs Borthwick and talks up England World Cup chances

  • Scrum-half says Steve Borthwick can be ‘very successful’
  • Care cites example of Harlequins’ 2021 Premiership title

Danny Care believes England can use their current turmoil to their advantage and spring a surprise at next year’s World Cup, insisting that Steve Borthwick would be “very successful” as Eddie Jones’s replacement.

With just five competitive matches before England begin their World Cup campaign, Borthwick would be up against it to turn a side who won five of their 12 matches in 2022 into contenders. Care, who was left out by Jones this autumn after earning a recall over the summer, said Ireland and France are among the nations out in front.

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