The Galwegians Women kicked off a winning weekend for the Glenina Gang on Saturday, 13-7 victors over Highfield in Dublin in the All-Ireland Cup.WGNg10

Wegians’ Juniors followed suit at the Sportsground on Sunday winning 23-11 over a brave Loughrea, but the women stole the show, their All-Ireland achievement coming by way of victories over long-time champions UL Bohemians, last year’s beaten finalists Cooke (Belfast), and perennial bridesmaids Highfield.

Having beaten UL Bohemians in round one with a furious opening onslaught, there was no confusion as to how Galwegians had to start Saturday’s final. All did not go according to plan and Highfield opted for expansion from the get-go.

Galwegians was reduced to playing a defensive game for much of the first half-hour and when outhalf Clare Raftery was locked in trying to clear from her own deadball, Highfield rammed home the upper hand. Donna Hughes for the Cork crowd dotted down, just reward for an honest effort in the pack and in the right place at the right time amid a rampant rolling maul.

WGNg8Raftery struck back soon after with a penalty to close the half-time gap to four, 7-3 down, but it was one of very few forays the Blue Belles made into Highfield territory in the first 40. On their only other venture Galwegians won a penalty but failed to convert pressure into points, Raftery sending it wide by a metre and a half from 33m out.

With the luxury of a lead, Highfield could afford to play up-the-jumper rugby in the closing stages and a Galwegians score before the second half’s midway mark would throw the balance of power back in the blue camp.WGNg6

The midway mark came and went, although neither camp looked in any way able to breach the other’s integrity and much of the second spell played out between the 22m lines.

Galwegians, down by four and with 14 left on the clock, won a penalty for a high tackle, former midfield international Geraldine Rea the culprit. With 10 minutes on the sideline to mull it over, Rea watched as blue skipper Emer O’Dowd opted not for the easy points which could have put them one point in arrears, but for a scrum instead.

While Galwegians failed to post a try from the plucky decision, they remained encamped deep in Highfield territory and forced an emergency clearance.

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Galwegians strung together three phases from the ensuing line-out and, across the face of the posts with a card-induced numerical advantage, hooker Tosh Haywood plunged through two tacklers to score the five-pointer 15m in from the right-hand touch.

Clare Raftery atoned for her earlier error and sent her third attempt straight through. Rea returned to the fray with four minutes to play and immediately got involved. Galwegians Nuala Ni Chadhain and Raftery ensured any impact she made thereafter was shortlived and with time up on the clock both put in a bonejarring combined effort to stop her in her tracks.WGNg4

While she made no further progress, the tackle sent the ball spilling out and the ever-present Lisa McDonagh scooped it up, fed it to a retiring Nuala Ni Chadhain who broke one tackle, evaded another and hoofed it downfield.

The chase was good, Margaret Fitzgibbon and Sorcha Ni Chadhain clinical in shutting down the counter-attack.

Despite the 12 on her back, Nuala Ni Chadhain played a flanker’s role at the breakdown and referee Ger English pinged Highfield for not releasing.

With time up, Clare Raftery boosted her five-point tally to eight and with it closed out the game in front of a 450-strong crowd. It was Galwegians first womens cup title, just reward for some of its senior stateswomen and ample incentive for more recent arrivals to kick on next winter.

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