As 2012 draws to a close, Carrick Ladies can look back on an almost flawless end to the calendar year, suffering only one league defeat and scoring an impressive 119 league match points.
The season got off to a good start when a last-minute cancellation of the season’s first match against Ards saw a hastily assembled friendly match against Connacht development league side Carrick-on-Shannon take place in Enniskillen and allowed captain Lydine Wilson x 2, Hilary Cawood x 2 and Jemma Boyd to get their names on the score-sheet. Carrickfergus were losing going into the second half, but their determination saw them through and come the final whistle they were ahead by 7 points.
The second match of the season saw Carrick welcome last seasons Ulster Development Cup winners Letterkenny. However the visitors left disappointed following a 30-12 defeat. The first half ended 10-12 with tries from Pauline McFerran and Christi-ann Orr. There must have been something in the half time oranges, as Carrick came back to score another 4 tries courtesy of Laura Johnston, Sabrina Higgins, Jemma Boyd and Robyn Kelly, who was also voted player of the match. The final score of 30-12 could have been much higher, with captain Lydine Wilson having three tries disallowed due to a knock-on, being held up and an injury whistle as she crossed the line.
Having taken 61 points and 2 victories from the season’s first 2 matches, Carrick Ladies were feeling confident of a win over relatively new side Malone at Gibson Park. However the score of 48-0 to the visitors was the icing on the cake of a hat-trick of victories.
Both teams had difficulty due to the extremely wet and muddy conditions, but he more experienced Carrick side continued the attack and when the half time whistle was blown were leading 29-0, with tries from captain Lydine Wilson, Laura Johnson and conversions from Arlene Devine, who kicked 5 from 7 conversions overall.
The second half saw a reshuffle in both sides due to injury and substitutions, which resulted in scrums become uncontested due to inexperience from the Malone pack. The strength and impact of the Carrick pack became apparent when Malone made a break from the scrum but were closed down by the Carrick defence before they could succeed.
The following Sunday saw Carrick Ladies back at home taking on a strong Ballymoney side. Carrick started well, putting pressure on the visitors and getting close to the line on several occasions, however the pressure was returned with Ballymoney scoring and converting to bring the score to 0-7. The first half was very much a forwards affair, with impressive tackles, lineouts and scrums from both sides. An increased drive by previously undefeated Carrick was unsuccessful as Ballymoney went over the line again and kicked a successful conversion. The half time whistle was blown on an intensely tough and physical match with the score at 0-14.
Injuries dictated a Carrick reshuffle going into the second half and the match restarted with increased determination and drive from both sides, with the backs being much more involved then the previous half. Uncontested scrums were introduced by the referee due to injury, which disadvantaged the strong Carrick pack. A heroic run from Hilary Cawood and conversion from Arlene Devine brought the score to 7-14 not long after the restart. Another Carrick try attempt was broken down by a strong Ballymoney defence later in the half.
Despite some superb defending from Carrick, Ballymoney made a dash for the line and scored another 2 tries, with 1 conversion. The final whistle blew, making the final score 7-26 to a deserving Ballymoney side. This defeat brought to an end Carrick’s unbeaten run, however they remained top of the Division 3 league due to a previous Ballymoney defeat by Ballyshannon.
Fresh from defeat to Ballymoney, Carrick were determined to prove why they are top of the ladies 3rd division league in the penultimate league match at home to Newry.
An enthusiastic Newry side made an attempt for an early try, but Carrick made their mark quickly in the first half with a try in the fourth minute from Laura Johnson, converted by number 10 Arlene Devine.
After some to-ing and fro-ing over most of the pitch, Carrick pushed forward and Hilary Cawood went over the line, with another successful conversion from Arlene Devine to take the score to 14-0.
There was a brief scare for Carrick as Newry made an impressive attempt at the line, however a well practiced move between the Carrick backs resulted in a score for number 8 Jemma Boyd, successfully converted yet again by Arlene Devine. The half-time whistle was blown on a Carrick lead by 21-0.
The second half commenced with another spirited Newry approach to the line and a short period spent in the Carrick half, however the strong Carrick pack reacted and the final 10 minutes were spent near the Newry line. A ruck near the 5 metre line saw prop Ruth McMorrow pop a pass to fellow forward Sabrina Higgins, who scored to secure the final points of the match. A narrowly missed conversion from Devine ended the match at 31-0 to the home side.
Lakeside in Ballyshannon was the venue for the vital match which could secure Carrick’s place in the league play-off and the match was off to a promising start with the vast majority played deep within the Ballyshannon half. However the home side showed a strong defensive side and the first score of the match was a penalty kicked by number 10 Arlene Devine. Carrick made several attempts at the line but had four tries disallowed due to being held up. The half time whistle brought a intensely physical half to an end at 0-3.
The second half kicked off with an immediate try attempt by Ballyshannon, however the Carrick defence and counter-attack brought the ball back near the Ballyshannon line where the majority of the match continued to be played. Another two held-up tries from Lydine Wilson and Arlene Devine saw the final score kept to 0-3. A nervous week-long wait for results from Ards, Ballyshannon and Letterkenny to complete the league matches followed, however the results went Carrick’s way and they now face Ballymoney in the league play-off for promotion to their former position in Division 2. This gives the ladies a real psychological advantage going into the cup, with the first match only weeks away on 13th January.
The former AIL Division 2 side are confident of winning promotion back into their previous league, under the watchful eye of head coach Nikki and assistant and forwards coach Alan. The team also welcomes a number of ladies who are new to the game and already showing great potential, including forwards Jemma Boyd, Ruth McMorrow and Stacey Chesworth and winger Laura Lynch, giving the side an impressive mix of experience and promising new players. New players are always welcome, regardless of experience and fitness.
With the Christmas break well underway, Carrick Ladies are focusing their efforts on fundraising, and will be doing a bag packing session in Tesco on Friday 21st December, so feel free to come and say hello – donations not compulsory but very welcome.
Thanks to Pauline McFerran for sending in the Carrick reports and photos. Any other teams that would like to showcase their season to date please contact email@example.com. Thanks.