Something will have to give on Sunday evening as the two top sides in the women’s All Ireland go head to head on Sunday. It’s the defending champions, table toppers and last season’s treble winners UL Bohemians versus second placed Railway Union at Park Avenue, Dublin at 1pm on Sunday.
Both sides are unbeaten with Bohs sitting on 35 pints, just one ahead of their closest rivals. Railway will be missing ten players who were selected for the Irish sevens trip to Dubai while Bohs will be without Louise Galvin and Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird.
Speaking to Sporting Limerick, UL Bohemian and Irish international Fiona Hayes says Sunday’s game will be a big challenge:
“It’s probably our biggest test so far. We’re really looking forward to it. We played them three times last year and I think it was a draw a win for us and a win for them but obviously eventually we came out to win the league and the cup so that was a big positive for us and we were delighted with it.
“I think basically the way it’s going to go is going to be up front. I think both packs are strong and big ball carriers so we’re going to see a lot of forward work on Sunday.”
The Limerick side won a treble last year and only suffered one competitive loss in the whole campaign. That single solitary loss came against Sunday’s opponents. The appointment of a new head coach during the offseason – as super successful Mike Storey stepped aside – has not derailed their progress as Bohs have recorded seven league wins on the bounce racking up some big scores along the way.
Hayes says that the squad has added a lot more talent and depth to their panel which has allowed them to remain consistent over the last few years.
“It’s just the players that we have there. We’ve a good bunch and there’s such depth at the minute which we were lacking maybe in the 3 or 4 seasons beforehand. We were kind of falling short when it came to semi final time because as you know with rugby there’s obviously a lot of injuries that happen but I think the same bunch of players have kind of carried over into this year and that’s down to the training and enjoying playing rugby and it seems to be there’s a good buzz.
“Obviously when you’re winning there’s always a good vibe around the place but I think we push ourselves to not take the foot of the gas every game we play even if you’re a couple of tries ahead we just try and play good.”
“We’ve had games this year where we’ve won by a bonus point but being disappointed with our performance so we definitely look at ourselves after each game and we don’t go on how many tries we scored, we look at our handling skills and how we performed so I think we’re quite tough on each other”
Railway Union have also had a strong first half of the season matching Bohs albeit one match point short. Hayes is expecting a big forward battle and hope Bohs can build their attacking game off their set piece while she is expecting the Dublin side to try and threaten the wide channels.
“In Bohs we spend a lot of time on our set piece. We’ve one of the best hooker’s in Ireland, throws and everything is perfect so we really kind of pride ourselves on our set piece.
“I think they’re free scoring, they like to score tries out wide, they move the ball quick, you can see they’ve a very big seven’s influence there so they do like to move the ball quick.
“As a team we would be looking to maybe counteract that and I know they’ve big ball carriers, in the front row they’ve a couple of Irish starters so its going to be a battle up front but for them the style of play they like to play, they do like to get the ball wide.”
Deconstructing performances and being self analytical is seen as just a normal part of the winning culture that has been fostered within the club. It is a culture that Hayes says the club deserve credit for and believes that it should be adopted as template to improve
“The club that backed us and that’s 100\% why we are where we are today. I remember going to awards nights and there’d be presidents speaking how come the men’s aren’t as good as the women’s and giving them a bit of stick over it.
“They were just very proud of us and anything we ever asked for, be it pitches, training if we’d to change days, just so accommodating and I think they’re really proud of us and everybody who got a cap for Ireland their names are up on the wall immediately inside in the bar at Thomond park, that’s why it’s so successful.”
“I go up to Bohs because I love the team and I love the club. It seems to be lacking in the women’s game, in some clubs not in all, I mean I went up to Tullamore and they were so proud of their women’s team at the start of the season and they’re backing them 100\%, As you’ve seen they’ve won their last two games.
“I think from the club and literally we’d have the men’s team watching us play if they’re not playing them selves and vice versa we’d go out and watch them and I think that connection builds a club up and makes that bond really good”
Sunday promises to be the biggest game in the women’s club competition thus far but both sides will have to get straight back into recovery mode once the game finishes with the Interpro series on the horizon.
With 17 Bohs players selected on Laura Guest’s Munster panel, Hayes says she is looking forward to a busy pre Christmas period.
“17 Bohs players is absolutely outstanding for the club as I’ve said they’ve nurtured the girls and it shows because we’re all there and we’re all competing for places but there’s going to be no easy place in that Munster squad playing a Connacht team.
“Obviously every interpro is the highlight of any players career. Players obviously aim to play with Ireland but I know personally at the start it was never on my mind, it was Munster all the way, I bleed red, love Munster so its such a privilege to be able to put on that jersey.”
Listen to the interview in full on the link below.