Cill Dara RFC recently hosted the second North Midlands Cup, held in memory of Ann Fitzpatrick, founder of Portarlington Ladies Rugby team
The inaugural competition was won by Cill Dara in 2011 but this year they were not in the running. Portlaoise and Portarlington battled it out in weather that was kinder to players than spectators. A biting wind blew through the unprotected Cill Dara ground.
According to form, Portlaoise should have had a relatively easy victory over their Laois rivals and the early first half seemed to confirm this. Tinala Kehoe opened the scoring in the first few minutes with a well worked try resulting from strong forward play. Claire O’Connell scored a masterful conversion from an acute angle.
Portarlington however were not happy to work to the script and a period of tenacious forward play ensued. Portlaoise gradually began to dominate but a confident defensive display by Portarlington withstood the pressure until a penalty was conceded within kicking distance. Claire again stepped up to the mark and slotted a sure-footed punt between the posts. Portlaoise continued with a spell of resourceful play involving forwards and backs leading to a tremendous try by Regina Curran and a conversion by Claire.
Then on came Miller, but not the Alison we know, rather Grace her younger sister. This was her first competitive game after only two training sessions. When Grace received a well placed pass she showed no hesitation whatsoever and set off like a gazelle. She side-stepped three opponents, outran the opposition and scored a try to mark the minor Miller’s debut in rugby. Claire confidently kicked the conversion from 5 metres inside the touch line to end the half with a commanding 24-0 lead for Portlaoise.
Portarlington came out in the second half with a renewed vigour and controlled the game for the most part. Portlaoise had to play the game in their half. The Portlaoise defence was however well organised and deprived the Portarlington backs of any ball or running opportunities. On the one occasion when Portlaoise set up a possible running movement, Martina Dunne brilliantly intercepted and scored a runaway try for Portarlington. Much as they tried, Portarlington could not improve their position but it is a testament to their tenacity that Portlaoise did not score in the second half.
This is the second cup won by Portlaoise this season and coupled with the fact that four players have been selected for Leinster U-18 and three for the international sevens it may indicate a shift towards including Laois clubs in Leinster in the future.
Portlaoise: Judith Smullen, Stephanie Gleeson, Jean Moore, Thresa Whelan, Johanna (Charlie) Tosak, Alison Holmes, Tanala Kehoe (try), Claire O’Connell (1 pen,3 con), Niamh Griffin, Yvonne Delaney, Zara Healy, Marion O’Grady, Regina Curran (try), Karen Plunkett, Carrie Connell, Diane Lawlor, Grace Miller (try), Catriona Cassidy, Niamh Bergin, Cassie Dunne.
Portarlington: Kim Dempsey, Ger Dunne, Leanne Caulfield, Linsley Graham, Laura Oakley, Olive Guest, Martina Dunne (try), Lesley Cobbe, Kate Tynan, Catherine Bennett, Evelyn Brown, Andrea Broughan, Caoilin Cullenton, Sarah Johnson, Martina Russell.