Cooke Women edged the first meeting, at this level, in four seasons between two Ulster women’s club sides, with a 12 – 7 win against newly promoted Malone Women in their Energia AIL fixture at Shawsbridge.
This will hopefully become a classic rivalry in years to come, but the first meeting at this level was more a determined arm wrestle, in the middle of the park, with neither side wanting to cough up bragging rights without a fight.
Skills and thrills made way for grit and determination and it was past the half hour mark before the scoreboard was needed, Lesley Megarity hitting the line at pace to burst through a few tackles on her way to score. Amanda Morton’s attempted conversion came back off the uprights leaving Cooke with a 5 – 0 advantage as the teams changed ends.
Cooke’s pack led by Ilse van Staden was their main threat and the abrasive international prop doubled the home side’s advantage early in the second half with Vicky Irwin adding the extras.
With Cooke leading 12 – 0 there was an expectation that they would push on but Malone’s player/coach Grace Davitt rallied her troops and freshened up her attack with replacements Fern Wilson and Naomi McCord featuring strongly.
The visitors enjoyed a strong final quarter and quick thinking at a penalty saw Sarah Murphy barge over with the Cooke defence still in retreat. Davitt added the extras to make it a one score game at 12 – 7 with just over 10 minutes to go.
Malone looked to push on to record a surprise win but Cooke wound up their big pack once again and saw out the remainder of the game reasonably comfortably.
COOKE: 1. Ilse Van Staden, 2. Lesley Megarity, 3. Aisling O’Connell, 4. Naomi McCullagh, 5. Helen McGhee, 6. Laura Cairns, 7. Katie Hetherington, 8. Beth Cregan, 9. Hannah Kilgore, 10. Amanda Morton, 11. Dolores Hughes, 12. Vicky Irwin, 13. Kelly McCormill, 14. Eliza Downey, 15. Teah Maguire. Replacements: 16. Shannon Heapes, 17. Hanna Harris, 18. Breana Kais Te 19. Emma Kearney, 20. Natasha Moore.
MALONE: 1. Sarah Murphy, 2. Ashleigh Currie, 3. Karla Dunne, 4. Rebecca Lawlor, 5. Chloe McIlwaine, 6. Brogain NiChiarrain, 7. Neve Jones, 8. Gemma McCamley, 9. Jenna Stewart, 10. Grace Davitt, 11. Jasmine Ward, 12. Olivia Andrews, 13. Ella Durkan, 14. Jill Stephens, 15. Holly Brannigan. Replacements: 16. Nicole Hutchinson, 17.Eimear Hagan, 18. Aoife Cahill, 19. Naomi McCord, 20. Sara Houston, 21. Fern Wilson.
We caught up with the Cooke’s head coach Joe McTaggart and Malone’s player/coach Davitt after the game to get their views on what we hope is going to become a regular fixture.