Galwegians 12 – Cooke 10

Beautiful December weather set the tone for what would prove to be the most important game in Galwegians women’s league campaign thus far. Belfast’s Cooke RFC provided the opposition; they were proving to be immensely hard to beat this season and who were resting one spot ahead of Galwegians’ in third place in the AIL with a commanding points difference. Galwegians’ women took to Crowley Park’s training pitch with vociferous, and much appreciated, sideline support to keep their dreams of a league semi-final place alive.

Both teams started with immense determination, which continued unabated throughout the eighty match minutes. Cooke rattled the somewhat un-alert home side by taking advantage of ill-discipline close to the 22; an early penalty saw them 0-3 ahead but Galwegians’ gradually began to take the game to their opposition thereafter. Great ball-carrying soon saw the home side camped off the Cooke try-line; centres Eugenie Fritsch and Sorcha Ni Chadhain, ably supplied by scrum-half Anne O’Callaghan, were unlucky their efforts did not result in scores. Forwards Edel Durkin, Katherine McDonagh and debutante Tina Fitzgerald continued the onslaught on the Cooke defence with their fine ball carrying and Galwegians’ were finally rewarded when flanker Carol Staunton crossed over to secure their first points. The try was superbly converted by Angela Flaherty whose throwing prowess in the line-outs also added strength to the Galwegians’ game.

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Galwegians were immense on the wings thanks to both Marie Foley, playing her first full league game for the team, and Heather Cary who made the transition to the back-line from the second-row. Both proved dominant in their respective positions, making ground and harassing any Cooke onslaught that came their way. Cary capitalised on some exemplary kicking by out-half Clare Raftery, who herself had another fine performance. Within the first minute of the second half, Cary chased an excellent, and evidently planned, Raftery kick towards the opposition 22 and, thanks in small part to an uncharacteristic error by Cooke full-back Eliza Downey, gathered the ball over the white-wash and propelled Galwegians to a 12-3 lead.

A fortuitous Cooke try, subsequently converted, later in the second half, a result of arguably the only lapse in the Galwegians’ defence in the entire game, closed the home side’s advantage to just two points. What followed was an epic twenty minutes of rugby which, though not resulting in any further scores, demonstrated how much the Galwegians’ defence had developed since the defeat to UL Bohemians the month previous. Back rowers Maire Murray and player of the match Emer O’Dowd were exemplary in defence, and indeed in the attack which constituted much of Galwegians’ second-half play, contributing to the sublime fifteen-man effort to halt any Cooke advance.

Captain Ruth O’Reilly once again led by example. Her ferocious hitting was evident but ultimately superseded by a storming run in the first half which left the Cooke defence in tatters, gaining much ground for the home side. Full-back Sarah Healy dealt admirably with many high balls from Cooke’s kickers, and proved a fantastic support runner for her wingers throughout the match. Veteran Wendy Hickey replaced Flaherty towards the end of the game and proved yet again that her talent and experience do not warrant retirement. In any case, this fantastic team effort ensures that Galwegians’ retain fourth place in the league and end 2009 on a winning note. They now face Highfield away on the 10th January and hope to land a victory that will ensure a league semi-final berth next year.

Galwegians: Angela Flaherty; Edel Durkin; Ruth O’Reilly (C); Katherine McDonagh; Tina Fitzgerald; Maire Murray; Carol Staunton; Emer O’Dowd; Anne O’Callaghan; Clare Raftery (VC); Marie Foley; Sorcha Ni Chadhain; Eugenie Fritsch; Heather Cary; Sarah Healy. Subs: Shona Craig; Wendy Hickey; Tina Matvei; Grace Kelly; Melanie Roger; Alma Lacken; Dearbhla O’Reilly.

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