It’s been a bit of a season so far for the women’s game in Ireland but the senior club game has plodded along, one way or another, to complete the first nine weeks of the Women’s All Ireland League.
Given the extended break, the addition of two new clubs, and huge variances in the understanding of what is required of a club and it’s players to run a successful senior side, there have been some extraordinary, but not unexpected, results. To a lesser extent, I’ve witnessed the same across our men’s and our schools coverage as they returned to play but, while competition has started to even out in the men’s and schools categories, it still appears to have a long way to go in the women’s senior league before it becomes truly competitive.
There were 45 matches scheduled to be played over the nine rounds of the Women’s AIL. Forty one matches were completed.
Two matches were cancelled due to Covid and were recorded as a 0 – 0 draw with two match points awarded to each side and two matches were classified as walkovers due to teams unable to field with their opponents awarded five match points and a 28 – 0 win.
Despite having their scheduled matches against Malone and Ballincollig declared Covid cancellations Railway Union finished this part of the season undefeated at the top of the league by virtue of their colossal points scored difference. UL Bohemian were awarded walkovers against Malone and Wicklow and finished in second place, a loss to Railway the only blot on the Lean Mean Red Machine’s copybook.
In the remaining 41 games played, there were 2060 points scored, the points coming from 334 tries, 168 conversions (50% conversion rate) and 18 penalties. This works out at an average of 50 points a game compared to 39 points per game in the last full season, an increase of 28%.
There were some eye catching results as the top four sides Railway Union, UL Bohemian, Blackrock College and Old Belvedere largely dominated the other 6 sides; Galwegians, who beat Old Belvedere, were the only side outside the top four to record a win against a top four side.
The average winning margin across the 41 games played was just over 32 points however, there was quite a spread with over 35% of the games played largely uncompetitive. Two matches saw winning margins in excess of 80 points, a further six saw winning margins in excess of 60 points and another seven in excess of 40.
However, just under 50% of the matches could be regarded as competitive with the winning margin less than 20 points. The distribution of winning margins can be viewed below in the slider along with the average points scored per team in the games played.
It’s a phenomenal average of 63 points scored per game by Railway Union who have dominated the league this season scoring an average of, just under, 11 tries per game.
The results, and the adjustments, give a finished table, for this most irregular of the regular season, as below.
|Railway Union RFC||9||7||2||412||7||39|
|UL Bohemian RFC||9||8||0||228||7||39|
|Blackrock College RFC||9||7||0||317||6||34|
|Old Belvedere RFC||9||5||0||109||6||26|
With Railway Union scoring over 20 points per game more than the next highest scoring team, Blackrock College, you would expect to see Railway players dominating the individual scorers tables. However, with 26 different scorers in the seven matches played only two Park Avenue Princesses make it into the Top 10.
Belfast’s finest, Nikki Caughey leads the way with 82 points, from 2 tries, 33 conversions and 2 penalties, with Aoife Doyle on 35 points, from 7 tries, the only other Railway player in the Top 10.
UL Bohemian’s Nicole Cronin is in second place with 62 points from 3 tries, 21 conversions and 1 penalty with Blackrock College’s Hannah O’Connor in third place with 53 points from 3 tries, 16 conversions and 2 penalties.
Old Belvedere’s Clare Gorman comes into the Top 10 Leading Points Scorers Table on tries alone with 45 points from 9 tries and with Belvo’s Laura Carty weighing in with 6 tries its a good strike rate from the D4 Duchesses’ young wingers. Blackrock College’s Maggie Boylan is one try off Gorman’s tally with 40 points from 8 tries.
The rest of the leading try scorers can be viewed below and it’s here the spread of Railway’s scorers becomes evident with 8 players having scored 5 tries or more in the seven games played. UL Bohemian are next in line with four players scoring 5 or more in the seven matches they completed.
Cooke’s Helen McGhee and Galwegians Orla Dixon are the only players outside the top four teams to score 5 or more tries in the first half of the season.
All the points scorers over the first nine rounds can be viewed in the individual team lists below.
|Maeve Og O’Leary||3||15|
|Ilse van Staden||2||10|
|Victoria Dabanovich O’Mahoney||4||20|
|Molly Scuffil McCabe||5||25|
|Katie Grant Duggan||1||5|
|Lauren Farrell McCabe||1||5|
What Happens Next
In the current climate I’m sure the players are happy to get out playing games and we are certainly happy to get out covering them, beyond that, let’s just keep our fingers crossed that we get through the rest of the season without too many disruptions.
It’s cup fixtures for the women’s teams this weekend. The fixtures can be viewed in the web-story below.
As far as the All Ireland League is concerned, the top four sides will now split from the other six sides to form the Top 4 leaving the rest in a newly minted Conference.
The main driving force is the IRFU wanting everything tidied up by 26th March so we can all watch England and France battle it out for the Women’s Six Nations. With 3 cup weekends and 2 rest weekends in the mix, this means the league is to be wrapped up, over six weekends, between now and the end of February.
This works OK for the Conference who can play each other once in a 5 round Round Robin with a final week of play-offs based on rankings as 1st play 2nd, 3rd v 4th etc.
The Top 4 doesn’t work quite so well and probably would have been more sensible with the 4 teams playing each other home and away over the six weeks in a straight league format. Instead each teams will play two others twice, home and away, and one other once, home or away before a finals day where 1st play 2nd to decide the WAIL Champions.
Of course Old Belvedere and UL Bohemian will have a large say in this, but it looks to me that we’ll see Railway play Rock in successive weekends at the end of February, for the fourth and fifth time this season, with the fifth meeting deciding who goes into the record book as the 2021 – 22 WAIL Champions.