In boxing parlance, Railway Union and Loreto are facing a potential title eliminator as the Leinster women’s division one makes an early return to action with two critical ties taking place over the weekend.
Saturday sees Railway face the Beaufort side with both sides five-points off the Christmas pace set by Hermes and needing victory to stay in the hunt.For both, it will be the last they see of their international players for a couple of weeks with Darren Smith’s Irish senior panel heading off to Spain for the next two weekends – January 10 and 17.
Railway won the return fixture in late November 2-1 – the last league tie they have won after a run of two draws and a loss – and they will need to be wary of Nicci Daly who is back in Dublin for the remainder of the season from Holcombe to be with the Irish squad more frequently.
Lizzie Colvin, meanwhile, continues her return to form following a season out with cruciate damage and will be pushing for possible national inclusion in the coming months for a key year. Ali Meeke is another Irish player who will be missed following this tie.
The hosts, for their part, have Emma Smyth and Kate Dillon involved but are likely to miss a trip to Old Alex and a home tie with North Kildare.
On Sunday, high-flying Hermes host UCD in the battle of the two top scorers to date this term with their last meeting ending in an incredible 4-4 draw. The St Andrew’s side have made great use of Aisling Naughton’s ebullient talents, yielding 16 goals already – tied with Anna O’Flanagan – with 13 coming in 10 league games.
With a well-heeled side packed with former UCD players like Christine Quinlan, Caitriona McGilp, Megan Tennant-Humphreys, Kerry McComish and Rosie Carrigan around, they have good experience around to cope with a tricky January though Aine Connery and Emma Gray will be missed.
UCD, with players drawn from different corners of the country, have been unable to organise collective training together since their double-weekend on December 13 and 14. As such, coach Jonathan Harte is unsure how well his side has wintered but will have a light training session on Sunday morning prior to their game with the table-toppers.
After that tie, several of his players will be bound for Spain with the Irish women’s team while Orla Patton is bound for the US to take up an Erasmus option. With Gillian Pinder also nursing an injury and Rachel Gray facing a knee operation, January could be a trickier than expected for trips to North Kildare and a colours game with Trinity.
Due to rugby commitments, Jeamie Deacon has also been a fleeting presence this season but could be a welcome option should she become more available. Nonetheless, these are two cracking games in prospect with the outcome of the league likely to be swung out of at least one side’s hands by Sunday evening.
Women’s Leinster Division One
Saturday: Railway Union v Loreto, 3pm, Park Avenue
Sunday: Hermes v UCD, 2pm, St Andrew’s