Ladies Claim Elusive AIL Title

November 7, 2018

Last Saturday, (28th April 2012), the undefeated AIL Division 2 South winning Tralee Ladies team travelled to Nenagh to play Garda RFC in the AIL Division 2 League Final. The Tralee side has won the AIL Division 2 South Title 3 years running and has done so without losing a league match but the AIL Division 2 Championship has eluded them in the past 2 seasons. The Tralee squad set off for Nenagh on Saturday morning with cautious optimism that this would finally be their year.

From the kick-off it was clear that Tralee were up for this game and that nothing was going to stand between them and promotion to AIL Division 1. The Garda team started the game with a kick off deep into Tralee’s half but Tralee quickly brought play back into the Garda half through a mix of strong running from the forwards and excellent interchanges in the back line. The travelling supporters from Tralee would not have to wait long for a reason to cheer, as Leanne McCarthy touched down inside the opening 3 minutes and through Ciara O’Connor’s conversion, Tralee had a very early 7 point lead. From the re-start it was evident that Tralee were not going to relent and continued to mount pressure on the Garda side. With a strong wind, both teams relied on their kicking ability and lineout were frequent. This would prove to be Tralee’s greatest advantage as the Garda team could not find a way to compete against Tralee in the lineout with Trish Fitzpatrick winning ball easily on both team’s throw-ins. With the Garda team struggling to keep pace with Tralee, it was only a matter of time before Tralee increased their lead and on 17 minutes, after great link play between backs and forwards, Trish Fitzpatrick broke through the Garda defensive line to run Tralee’s second try of the game. With a 12 point advantage, Tralee dug even deeper and continued to pressure the Garda Team. With Tralee’s ability to attack from anywhere on the pitch, the Garda try line was always under threat and on 23 minutes Tralee extended their lead to 19 points with a try from Riona Kennedy and O’Connor’s conversion. The remainder of the half would see Tralee continue to control the tempo of the game but they were unable to extend their lead further and at the end of the half, they were pleased but not ecstatic with the 19 point margin.

As the second half began, the Garda team had changed their approach and began to keep the ball in hand a lot more. Their kicking game was proving unsuccessful due to Tralee’s dominance in the lineout and their confidence under the high ball. But with the ball in hand, the Garda team were proving a more difficult opponent and for the opening 10 minutes of the second half, it was Tralee who were forced to defend their line. Tralee’s defence was very strong but on 52 minutes, the Garda team managed to build enough momentum to drive over the Tralee line and record their opening score of the game. However, this would prove to be the wake up call the Tralee side needed and from the re-start, Tralee began to control the game again in much same manner as they had done for the opening 40 minutes. Tralee would go on to extend their lead on 57 minutes through a moment of individual brilliance from Irish international Siobhan Fleming when she took a quick tap penalty and ran through the Garda defense to score from inside the Tralee half. O’Connor converted to give Tralee a 21 point lead. Immediately from the kick-off Tralee continued the pressure on the Garda line and on 61 minutes following several strong runs, Trish Fitzpatrick touched down, with the aid of Elaine Drumm, for her second try of the game. O’Connor’s conversion extended the margin to 28 points and essentially ended the game as contest. With such a commanding lead, Tralee allowed the Garda team more possession. Following several questionable penalties against Tralee, the Garda team were within striking distance of the Tralee line again and would make the most of their opportunity to score the second and final try of the game. This try would re-ignite the Tralee fire as they went looking for their sixth try and when Christine Arthurs touched down on 75 minutes and O’Connor converted to make the scoreline 40-10 the Tralee faithful were in full voice. At the final whistle, Tralee players and management were overcome with emotion and joy and when Siobhan Fleming lifted the AIL Division 2 Cup, the ovation was deafening.

After the game, coach Paul McMahon emotionally stated ‘it has been an absolute pleasure working with this group of players. I could not be happier for them. Their attitude, commitment and heart is incredible and they deserved every success they have achieved’

Tralee Team : Clare Dwyer, Emer O’Mahony, Eimear Foley-Reen, Christine Arthurs, Riona Kennedy, Ciara O’Connor, Catherine Doolan, Lisa Marie Murphy, Siobhan Fleming, Trish Fitzpatrick-McMahon, Niamh Dempsey, Shauna Lynch, Elaine Drumm, Leanne McCarthy, Noreen Cleary

Tralee Subs : Leigh Ann O’Driscoll, Maire Mann, Eirn Lyons, Cilla Beer, Sarah Hayes, Ruth Murphy, Siobhan Barrett