Connacht’s women open their interprovincial account on Sunday against Leinster here at the Sportsground,kick off 2:00, and do so boasting one of the strongest squads in recent years.

Throughout this millennium’s opening decade Connacht clocked up several notable performances on the domestic circuit. While they did much in 2010 and ’11 to squeeze deficits against perennial heavyweights Munster and Leinster, Connacht’s perennial grudge match was always against northern foe Ulster to avoid wooden spoon ignominy.

Despite a none-from-three competition ledger last year, Connacht had Munster beaten with 12 minutes left on the clock, starved Leinster of all but 10 points in the second fixture (Leinster won 10-nil), and trailed Ulster by a single score at the full-time whistle.

Coach Dave O’Brien minds the tiller this year in his first campaign at the helm and stalwart Galwegian AIL cup-winning captain Emer O’Dowd joins him on the bridge. Together, they have assembled a squad which plucks from Connacht’s ever-expanding inhouse ranks including names from Sligo, Tuam,
Buccaneers, Galwegians and NUIG, and three or four long-serving soldiers from beyond the provincial club catchment.

“We’ve a few surprises, a few good surprises,” O’Dowd said midweek. “If it all comes together on Sunday it’ll be some spectacle, and so far it’s shaping up well.”

Titleholders Leinster join Connacht tomorrow to kick-off the 2012/13 competition desperate to restore some east coast pride after Connacht’s homeground demolition of the star-studded mens senior team earlier this winter. Equally, Connacht’s Clare Raftery (10), Carol Staunton (8) and Napoleonic mastermind Sorcha Ni Chadhain (9) will seek to emulate those giant-killing efforts of the RaboDirect squad.

The Leinster women have pre-match bragging rights however, tipping up a Connacht selection more than a month ago on Athlone’s Dubarry Park. That said, the new-look December Connacht is a far cry from the crew which contested that match.

Ably-backed by The Clayton Hotel, Kingsvalley Bodkins and The Dail Bar, Connacht’s fairer contingent seek as much of your support too in volume for tomorrow’s round one fixture (2.00pm, main pitch).

Those lucky (and – in these temperatures – plucky) enough to witness success on Sunday may chase that up on Saturday, December 15, with a second home fixture when Ulster lands out *wesht* once again.

Connacht Women to face Leinster:

Alison Miller (C)


Ruth O’Reilly (VC)


Beth Mallard


Carol Staunton


Christine Arthurs


Ciara O’Connor


Clare Raftery


Cliodhna Hughes

Old Belvedere

Emma Cleary


Grainne Egan


Heather Cary


Jacqui Mulligan


Jean Moore


Lisa McDonagh


Marion Sheridan


Mary Rose Flanagan 

UL Bohs

Michelle Barry


Niamh Dempsey


Niamh Ni Dhroma


Sorcha NiChadhain


Tanala Kehoe


Yvonne Delaney


Head Coach: Dave O’ Brien, Forwards Coach: Emer O’ Dowd.

Manager: Jean Wynne & Wendy Hickey

Physio: Gabrielle Madden



The Jes reach last four with last minute winner