Cooke Women entertained Old Belvedere at Shaws Bridge on Saturday afternoon in the opening round of the Women’s All Ireland League.

The Belfast side got off to the best of starts with a try bonus win against the Dublin aristocrats as Isle van Staden and Eliza Downey each scored a brace of tries. Scrum half Jemma Jackson added three conversions and three penalties.

Cooke stated the game brightly with Lauren Maginnes very much to the fore. Gemma McCutcheon and Peita  “Macarena” McAlister were like two Duracell Bunnies on speed as they kept Belvedere pinned in their own half.

Jemma Jackson, playing at scrum half, and out half Vicky Irwin looked sharp as they called he shots, though they did enjoy something of an armchair ride behind Cooke’s dominant pack.

Irish Women’s World Cup player Ilse van Staden looked hungry for the ball throughout and it came as no surprise when the explosive prop battled her way through a succession of defenders for the game’s opening try. Jackson converted and the Cooke scrum half added a penalty minutes later to give Cooke a 10 – 0 lead.

A second penalty from Jackson pushed Cooke’s lead to 13 points just before the break but it still felt like scant reward for their dominance as half time loomed.

However, the formidable van Staden crossed for her second try as the clock ticked past 40 minutes and, though the conversion was missed, the home side looked good value for their 18 point lead.

Jackson added her third penalty early in the second half before Eliza Downey, veteran of Ireland Women’s 2010 World Cup campaign, cut loose. Still arguably the best centre in Ireland the talented Downey crossed for two quick tries mid-way through the second half to secure the bonus point for the home side, the “old girl”, showing a lot of vim and vigour in her try celebrations!

To their credit, Belvedere tried to rally in the final quarter but Cooke were able to call on a strong bench with Sorcha Mac Laimhin, Aishling O’Connell and Rebecca Smith all making an impact to keep the home side’s line intact.

Final score: Cooke 35 Old Belvedere 0

We caught up with Cooke captain Beth Cregan after the game.

With a surprisingly big win for Railway Union against Galwegians, Cooke’s win sees them in second place after Week 1 of the All Ireland League, the other results as follows:

Cooke 35 0 Old Blevedere
Galwegians 5 76 Railway Union
Highfield 22 40 Blackrock
Tullamore 17 47 UL Bohemians


We’ve combined the pictures John McMurtry and Bob Given of Bob Given Photography to give you an all round view of the game.