Carrick completed their development season by winning the Ulster Development League play off against Ballymoney last weekend. Carrick’s Pauline McFerran tells us how!
Sunday 7th April saw the last battle of the ladies Qualifying League, with the two form teams facing each other to decide who would win the chance for promotion to AILD2N.
The teams had met twice previously during the season, with Ballymoney being responsible for Carrick’s exit from the Rejenerate Cup and their only league defeat of the season, so this was never going to be a relaxed meeting.
The sun made a rare appearance at Randalstown RFC, much to the delight of the sizeable crowd, as Ballymoney kicked off to begin what was certainly the fiercest match of the season.
An eventful 40 minutes ensued, with Carrick making a strong start, taking play straight to the ‘money 22. Several phases later a penalty gave Carrick their first points, courtesy of the boot of Arlene Devine.
Carrick continued to attack but were held back by a strong defence before another penalty put the seasiders 6 points in front, again from the boot of Devine.
Ballymoney went on the offence and play quickly moved to the Carrick 22 where a well drilled defensive line prevented a try, however a misplaced hand-off from Ballymoney number 8 Julie Newton saw her sin binned moments before the half time whistle. Carrick attempted to take advantage of the lesser opposite number, however the half ended at 6-0.
The second half began with another ferocious attack on the Carrick try line, however Ballymoney were unable to break through the defensive line. An Eric Cantona-style overhead kick by scrum half Laura Johnson forced a line out and gave Carrick time to regroup and recover.
Moments later an intercept from Carrick’s Aimee Ellis saw here hare off down the pitch supported by Hilary Cawood, a perfectly timed pass ensured Cawood touched down between the posts to make the score 11-0. Devine’s successful conversion put Carrick into a reasonably comfortable 13-0 lead with around 60 minutes gone.
Unsurprisingly, the Ballymoney side responded as they saw the league title slip from their grasp and the remainder of the match was played mainly in the Carrick half.
Ballymoney came extremely close to scoring, falling just short of the line. Play was stopped again for a short time following a collision of Ballymoney boot and Carrick head, but no serious injury was caused and play continued as intensely as before.
Attack after attack was unleashed on the Carrick line but their defence stood firm until the 80th minute when Ballymoney fought their way to the try line. The conversion was missed and the ball was dead, signifying the end of the match at 13-5.
There were cheers and tears from the Carrick team, coaches and supporters and even more so when Nathan Moore from NM Sports Performance stepped forward to present the trophy to captain Lydine Wilson.
This victory is especially significant to Carrick, having been relegated to the Qualifying League last season and fighting their way to the top, suffering defeat only at the hands of Ballymoney.
This season has been one of change for both the team and the coaches, it saw the arrival of several new players, some of whom had never previously set foot on a rugby pitch, yet played an instrumental role in the seasons victories. Previous player Nikki took up the role of head coach at the start of the season and has used her knowledge and experience to build a solid core team around the new and more experienced players. Newly qualified forwards coach Alan is also new to the set-up.
As the saying goes, there’s no rest for the wicked as this weekend the team took part in a cross community Peace III project, where they visited Cavan and trained in rugby and Gaelic football with Killygarry Ladies Gaelic Football Team. Both teams then spent the afternoon at Tanagh Outdoor centre where they took part in archery, wall climbing and a low ropes assault course. The weekend was a double celebration as vice captain Sabrina announced her engagement the previous weekend.
Carrick Ladies would like to say goodbye and wish retiring Ballymoney captain Gill Powell good luck for the future and thank the people who made this season possible, including their sponsor Bill Crymble from Forever Living Products and the players, coaches and volunteers who contributed to each team this season.