There are a raft of Women’s All Ireland competitions this weekend as the Cup, Shield and Trophy reach the semi final stages.  Well, I say this weekend, but the Railway Union v Old Belvedere Cup match has been pushed back to 9th March.

In the Cup, it’s the top four of the All Ireland League going head to head yet again. As Railway v Belvo isn’t for a couple of weeks we’ll just ignore that one for now which gives me more time to concentrate on Bohs v Cooke.  😎

Boh’s continue to be the model of consistency and they would be strong favourites to complete a League and Cup Double again this season. They humped Cooke in the final quarter of last Sunday’s league game and it’s unlikely that Cooke are going to find anything significantly different in the intervening week,.

However, the Belfast outfit are a talented side, they have done comparatively well this season, but they are not going to break into the top three until they sort out their basics. Quite simply the core skills of passing and tackling are not at the required level and when pressure is applied it all becomes messy. Of course, Cooke have a chance, but it needs for everything to go right for them, especially those basics.

The Plate Semi Finals features the teams that lost in the Cup Quarter Finals and it pitches Shannon against Blackrock and Highfield against St Mary’s with all four sides having something to prove.

Last season’s Cup finalists Blackrock will be looking to put an indifferent season behind them and they are probably the favourites to lift the silverware come April being the highest placed club left in this part of the competition. Last weeks win against Galwegians has pulled them significantly clear of the relegation battle and they will view this competition as a realistic challenge.

Shannon were highly rated at the start of the knock out competition and they certainly produced the goods with a first round win against Galwegians. However, the Limerick side’s season seems to have gone a bit array since. A large defeat by Old Belvedere in the quarter finals was followed by a considerable defeat at Ballinacollig, in their domestic league, but they did recover somewhat with a draw against Thurles last time out. I think it will be a close one but Blackrock should do enough to progress.

I said all four sides have something to prove but Highfield, going into their match against St Mary’s, may feel otherwise. Their big match was last week, when they all but secured their AIL participation for next season with that all important win against Tullamore. How much they will fancy another battle ahead of an afternoon of festivities at the Ireland v Wales Women’s Six Nations match is debatable. However, this should be a comparatively relaxing game for them and with their key objective for the season all but secured they may fancy cutting loose.

Either way it won’t be easy against St Mary’s, who would be my tip to return to the AIL next season. The Dublin side will be more than happy to put one over any AIL side and adding some silverware to their promotion challenge would be a welcome bonus. Being the best of the rest is probably more important to them than Highfield and, with home advantage, I think the St Mary’s will edge this one despite slipping up to Edenderry last week in the league.

The Women’s All Ireland Shield Final looks to be shaping up to be a replay of last season’s final with Tullamore and Rathdrum favourites to progress against Ballincollig and Ballynahinch respectively.

Tullamore, with relegation now looming, will be keen to end a difficult season on a high. In truth it has been a difficult, but not disappointing, season for our favourite Offaly women. Those two workings over by the league’s top two sides in their first two games were a tough start and they have done well to recover and become competitive. If they hadn’t given away a penalty in the last two minutes away to Blackrock they would be sitting clear of the relegation zone. They owe it to themselves to do well here.

Of course, Ballincollig will have something to say. They are sitting 10 from 10 in their domestic league and they  have the wonderful Geraldine Rea, a feisty pack and a bit of pace out wide, there is no doubt they will be competitive. However, the hard lessons learned this year should be enough to see Tullamore through in what will be a close game.

Ballynahinch will also be keen to put it up to Rathdrum in the other Shield Semi Final but they have only managed to fit in two games since the start of the New Year, a win against Cavan and a sizeable defeat to Malone. More worryingly they have progressed to this stage of the competition without playing a game , their first game conceded after a weather postponement and the quarter final was a bye.

Rathdrum have been considerably busier and they recorded a  win against Railway Union 2nds* in their provincial League at the weekend. Both sides sit in second place in their respective leagues and on paper this should be a close one but with those extra matches under their belt the Leinster outfit should be just too sharp for their Ulster counterparts.

The full list of semi final fixtures are shown below.

* edited to correct Rathdrum and Ballynahinch opponents.

Women’s All Ireland Cup Semi Finals
Sat 24th Feb 18 17:00 SF U.L. Bohemian v Cooke University of Limerick
Fri 9th Mar 18 20:00 SF Railway Union RFC v Old Belvedere Park Avenue
Women’s All Ireland Plate Semi Finals
Sat 24th Feb 18 13:00 SF Blackrock v Shannon Stradbrook
Sun 25th Feb 18 12:30 SF St. Mary’s v Highfield Templeville Road
Women’s All Ireland Shield Semi Finals
Fri 23rd Feb 18 19:30 SF Tullamore v Ballincollig RFC Spollenstown
Sat 24th Feb 18 13:00 SF Ballynahinch v Rathdrum RFC Ballymacarn Park