As we pass the halfway mark of the Women’s All Ireland League campaign, it’s probably worthwhile to have another look at the League standings after the last round.

To me the league has split into three distinct groups.

Champions elect. 

With a game in hand and six points clear of of the chasing pack, it looks like top spot at the end of the regular season will go to either  “Them boring old Bohs, always winning”, or “Ulster feeder club” Railway Union.  😆  😈

Boh’s 100% record, played 6, won 6, bonus points 6, is truly remarkable, and is somewhat appropriate as they do beast out the wins, their formidable pack doing the damage and their backs adding the finesse.

Railway, on the other hand, rely more on pace and execution, keeping the ball in play as often as possible and counter attacking from any part of the pitch. When it clicks they are unstoppable but, it is a riskier game.

Somewhat simplistic, but it is an interesting clash of styles and their head to heads, when they eventually are played, should be fantastic games. I’m not avoiding the issue here but I genuinely have no idea who is going to come out on top in this two horse race.

Team Pl W D L F A Diff TB LB Pts
U.L. Bohemian 6 6 0 0 219 62 157 6 0 30
Railway Union RFC 6 6 0 0 331 33 298 5 0 29
Cooke 7 5 0 2 144 92 52 3 0 23
Old Belvedere 7 4 0 3 217 82 135 4 1 21
Blackrock 7 2 0 5 127 250 -123 3 0 11
Galwegians 7 1 1 5 100 253 -153 3 1 10
Highfield 7 1 1 5 72 211 -139 2 1 9
Tullamore 7 1 0 6 83 310 -227 2 1 7

 

The outsiders.

Cooke and Belvo still have an outside chance, at the very least both teams will have a major say in who wins the League, but they don’t have the same strength in depth as the top two.

Keeping key players on the paddock for AIL Cup glory is probably starting to become their priority!

The dogfight. 

With only five wins between them, Blackrock, Galwegians, Highfield and Tullamore are already in a dogfight to stay in the league.

Rock and Wegians could click and sprint clear of the bottom two, but we’ve sort of been expecting that since the start of the season and they have yet to produce the goods.

Highfield and Tully will keep fighting to the end and they will probably keep their heads better if the pressure continues to build on the two teams above them. I can see this dogfight continuing to the final rounds.

This weekend’s fixtures.

There are a couple of games this weekend that could give us some pointers a to how the league will progress in the New Year.

At the top of the table Railway Union’s trip to Cooke will clarify the latter side’s season. Having already lost to Boh’s at Shawsbridge and, of course, Railway last week at Park Avenue, the Cookies really need to get something out of this match. A successive loss could see the Cookies at least 10 points adrift of the action at the top of the table.

Both teams have looked to youth for this rematch with Cooke bringing teenager Leah McGlodrick into the backline to join fellow Ulster U18 Grand Slam Champions, Brittany Hogan and Vicky Irwin. Hannah Beattie complete’s Cooke’s draw from that vintage as the talented youngster continues in second row.

Railway have reached out to a similar vintage by bringing in two faces we’ll recognise from the U18 Interprovincials. Teenager Daisy Earle will make her first AIL start at No.8, in an otherwise experienced pack, and, fellow teen, Aimee Clarke is named in the backline. Speaking on Clarke’s inclusion Railway DoR John Cronin told The FRU:

“Aimee was disappointed to only make the Leinster bench for the Under 18s interpros in September. We sat down after that, outlined her development points and she’s worked hard on her game since. She never misses training, does her work-ons and is a very coachable athlete.

We’re delighted her hard work has paid off and she’s now the only player from this years Under 18s team who’s been called up the Leinster Senior squad for the interpros. She’s not the finished article yet by any stretch but she’s definitely heading in the right direction,”

Cooke didn’t do a lot wrong last week, and their biggest fault of missed touches is easy to correct. The Ulster girls will have taken a lot of confidence from their overall performance. If they trust in their lineout and scrum, and I think they should, then I can see them nicking this one, but only just.
The other switcheroo could come at Spollanstown, where Tullamore entertain Galwegians. The Tully girls will be glad to have finally got the monkey off their back last week and they may find it difficult to lift themselves again this week. Add in a Galwegians side that will be smarting from that defeat and this one could go the other way.
However, I haven’t seen the sides for this one, if Tullamore keep their halfback pairing of Jill Draper and Pauline Keating they should have enough guile to guide them towards their second win.
Blackrock showed a big improvement in their high scoring loss to UL Bohemian last week, but they would need to move it up another click if they are to trouble the defending champions at home. Boh’s players had a busy weekend last weekend, with many players playing in the Munster v Barbarians Women’s game on the Friday night, but they should be fully refreshed this week and I expect them to maintain their 100% record.
Everything points towards Old Belvedere continuing their resurgence this season with a comfortable win against Highfield. However Highfield were also distracted last week by the Barbarians match which probably hit their reduced playing resource even harder than it hit Boh’s. If Cork’s finest can get into dogfight mode early on in this one they may upset the Dublin aristo’s but I still expect this one to go with the visitors.
Sun 19th Nov 17 13:00 Highfield   v Old Belvedere Woodleigh Park
Sun 19th Nov 17 13:00 Tullamore   v Galwegians Spollanstown
Sun 19th Nov 17 13:00 U.L. Bohemian   v Blackrock Annacotty
Sun 19th Nov 17 14:30 Cooke   v Railway Union RFC Shawsbridge

#SUFTUM