They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and for rugby club Galwegians, the opportunity for their Women’s team to lift their first All-Ireland trophy on Saturday for the first time since 2017 has presented itself to them. Although their opposition are Suttonians, who are unbeaten in the Energia All-Ireland Conference League, manager Lisa Anglim insists that this week is no different in terms of Galwegians’ preparation for the match.
“It’s actually been a pretty hectic week. It’s been a good couple of years now, since this group has been in an All-Ireland final, so it’s a different beast altogether than a normal league weekend,” said Anglim.
“But for the most part, we haven’t changed our preparation, it’s pretty much been the exact same. Do our review, do our two nights training, do our skills, do our units, just try and keep it as normal as possible to try and keep the girls on track.”
Galwegians confirmed their place in Saturday’s final with a comprehensive 50-5 win over league newcomers Ballincollig. As Mairead Coyne and Megan Walsh ran amok, scoring three tries each, Anglim paid compliment to the artificial surface at Creggs RFC, as the game was moved there at the last minute due to inclement weather.
“Unfortunately, the weather was so bad that we ended up having to go to Creggs, which wasn’t ideal for everyone travelling away, but it just meant that we got the game played as there wasn’t going to be a refixed weekend if we couldn’t play it,” explained Anglim.
“Creggs is 4G as well, and the surface definitely suited our backs, and we were able to convert a lot of our chances and we ended up running in a good few tries. The scoreline probably did flatter us a bit in that it was a really tough game as well.
“We were a bit apprehensive about how our game would transfer on to the 4G, and I think that we just have such a talented back line that it just released them. We have big playmakers in Mairead Coyne and Nicole Fowley especially, and they just set up an awful lot of what was going on, off the good work of the pack as well, so it did suit us.”
While the prospect of winning a trophy is tantalising, promotion to a higher division usually goes hand in hand with winning a national league final. However, this year, that is not the case.
“Normally what happens is, the provincial leagues, the junior leagues in the provinces play off, and then they go into a round robin and then play off against whoever would be in tenth position in the AIL, say. But they ringfenced it this year because there were two new teams that joined, Wicklow and Ballincollig, and then with covid that just got pushed out another year,” said Anglim.
“We’re hoping to get back to the normal league format, and you need that edge with the promotion and relegation as well. It pushes people on, so we’re hoping to get back to that maybe next year or the year after.”
While much has been made of the state of the Women’s game in recent months, particularly on the international stage, Anglim feels that relations between the IRFU and the clubs is slowly improving.
“We have girls playing for us that are vying for positions on a national team, which is unique, in comparison with the men’s AIL which is that kind of step in between. Whereas we literally go from the club, you could be seen playing for your club, and then play for your national team. So, it’s really important that there is consultation between the IRFU and the clubs, and I think that that’s something that definitely needed to be worked on in the last couple of years, because it is so different and so unique,” said Anglim.
“I think the communication has improved a lot in the last two or three years, but there’s still a lot of ways to go. The clubs have been assured that there will be club consultation, and that there will be consultation with the provinces, and consultation with all the AIL clubs and stuff like that, so all we can do now is take that at face value, and engage with that when we can, and trust that the review will throw up what needs to be worked on, and just go from there.”
Although Suttonians will prove a tough test on Saturday, it’s safe to say that Anglim fancies Galwegians’ chances of success.
“We lost to them in the regular league season there about a month ago, and that was our only loss in the league after Christmas. We analysed that game a lot obviously because it was our only loss, and we were looking at where we fell down,” said Anglim.
“We know that they’re very dangerous, and a very good side, they have really good backs as well so it’s always a really good match between us. Even from that loss that month, I think we’ve really kicked on and that we’ve even perfected our combinations in our pack and our backline and stuff like that. I just think that we can do it on Saturday, hopefully anyways!”
Suttonians versus Galwegians kicks off in Energia Park, Donnybrook, on Saturday, February 26th, with live coverage available on TG4.
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