UL Bohemians are the new Women’s All-Ireland League champions ending Old Belvedere’s three year rein as champions with a hard fought 10-3 win at Donnybrook last evening.
The victory is UL Bohs 12 league crown and their first since 2013 and a richly deserved triumph for Mike Storey and his squad who topped the table by a clear 16 points this season with a regular season record of 13 wins and 1 defeat. Their only loss being to Railway Union in the penultimate league game.
Old Belvedere – who were going for a four in a row – finished third in the standings and edged Railway Union in the semi final last weekend while Bohs got past the challenge of Galwegians.
Storey and his charges had a point to prove following last year’s heart breaking 19-17 loss to their Dublin counterparts.
In a scrappy first half, the Bohs forwards, led by captain Fiona Hayes were dominant up front and that paved the way for their 15th victory of their 16-match march to league success.
It was a tense and error-strewn encounter at times and as with any final, both teams were conscious that one mistake could make the difference in such a tight affair.
UL opening the scoring with a 16th-minute try from number 8 Chloe Pearse off the back of a rolling maul when scrum half Clarie Keohane broke off the back and fed Pearce on the short side to crash over for the try which was not converted.
Belvedere laboured to create scoring opportunities while for UL Bohs it was the problem of taking the chances that they actually created with mistakes stopping them from adding further to their lead.
Internationals Niamh Kavanagh and Fiona Hayes were immense throughout while Gill Bourke and Fiona Reidy as well as wingers Eimear Considine and Liz Burke who both looked dangerous with ball in hand.
With the clock ticking past 60 minutes, quick ball off the back of a solid Bohs scrum was fed through the backline to Eimear Considine who had the gas to finish in the corner and give the Limerick side a 10-0 lead. Quick hands and pace had finally had finally given Bohs a bit of breathing space and pushed the lead out to two scores.
Belvedere needed a response and Jackie Shiels slotted a 68th minute penalty to cut the deficit to seven points.
With Bohs down to 14 players following a yellow card and four minutes left on the clock, ‘Belvo blew a lineout opportunity when Nora Stapleton’s attempted kick to the corner missed touch. UL thumped it back downfield and seven points proved to be the winning margin for battle-hardened Bohs.
Well done to Mike, the players and everyone involved.
OLD BELVEDERE: Maria Kenny; Franziska Klappoth, Aine Donnelly, Jackie Shiels, Lesley Ring; Nora Stapleton, Kathryn Dane; Ruth McElroy, Aurelie Lemouzy, Fiona O’Brien, Sheena Moore, Marie Louise Reilly, Linda Djougang, Oonagh Hynes, Sharon Lynch.
Replacements: Stephanie Barman, Sharon Barrett, Rachel Healy, Ailbhe Dowling, Grace McCormack, Millicent Croman, Aisling McCaffrey.
UL BOHEMIANS: Aine Staunton; Liz Burke, Syphonia Pua, Niamh Kavanagh, Eimear Considine; Rachel Allen-Connolly, Claire Keohane; Fiona Hayes (capt), Gill Bourke, Fiona Reidy, Aoife O’Sullivan, Sara Hartigan, Ciara Griffin, Anna Caplice, Chloe Pearse.
Replacements: Lisa Anglim, Valerie Mitchell, Cassandra Iannucci, Edel Murphy, Michelle Ring, Rachael O’Brien, Claire McDermott.
Referee: Helen O’Reilly (IRFU)