NUIG salvaged pride rather than silverware on Sunday beating a staunch and hardy Tuam outfit firmly focused on a league final berth 5-nil at Dangan. With Castlebar having booked its spot in the Connacht Womens League title decider several weeks back and NUIG relegated to this winter’s competition margins, Tuam needed a win on Sunday to leapfrog Carrick for the remaining final spot. A solitary Kate Kerrane try which went unconverted proved the distinction, although the game belonged for the overwhelming majority to the College hosts.
At half-time with the try already on the board, the territory stats weighed heavily in NUIG’s favour up near 95 percent. Possession wasn’t far behind at about 80, but through to the final whistle Tuam continued to prove they were far from beaten sparking several promising forays in the closing stages. That NUIG had such a wealth of possession and could not convert pressure into tangible results stood as much to Tuam’s fortitude and defensive resolution as anything. Ably-led by scrumhalf Edel Durkin, number-eight Marian Sheridan and out-half Pamela Devaney, Tuam’s tackling and collective refusal to allow any more than six-inch gains against them spoke volumes for physicality and pride. Conversely, NUIG’s ability to maintain possession despite obvious frustration suggested that even in dry, warm and firm conditions these two teams were (or would have been) evenly-matched.
College nine Hannah Smith, fullback Eliza Kelly, and loose-forward complement Lou Fitzgerald, Edel McMahon, Rita Breen (and later Lou Kelly and Brid Reddington) were instrumental in mounting concerted assaults against the N17ers, Grainne Donnellan, Kerrane and front row stalwart Elaine Johnson tireless throughout in the tackle count. The 5-nil victory shored up a disappointing league season which, after last winter had promised so much, and the students now turn attention to the CUSAI College League and Easter Tournament. NUIG’s ability to withstand serious pressure on defence and starve opposition of frontfoot ball will stand them in good stead for the CUSAI league campaign but the maroons must string together more enterprising and expansive phase play if they are to outscore opposition in the feature tournament in a couple of months time. While conditions rarely encourage slick handling and width on the run, at full strength NUIG boasts athletic stock and if presented with ball in open space the Orla Dixons, Rhona Julians, Kerrane, McMahon and Claire Masterson will not struggle to carve up opposition. Whether those conditions re-appear as the winter sets in and training attendance allows for combinations to cement remains to be seen.