ENNIS Girls rugby season took another big step forward at the weekend when the U16s ran out 48-0 winners over Ballincollig in the Munster semi-final played at the Cork club.
The Ennis girls have had a great season to date and their successful run in the league led to this semi final against the well-fancied Cork outfit.
Straight from the kick-off and for the first ten minutes of the game both teams ran at each other’s defences to identify any points of weakness, but hard tackling from both sides restricted any attacking moves. The dry weather and hard pitch allowed for a fast pace and good handling was evident with few errors from either team.
Ennis broke the deadlock at the 10-minute mark when centre Aine Long picked up an offload after a great run by winger Ellis Flaherty and touched down under the posts. The try was converted by scrumhalf Emma Keane.
The Ennis forwards begin to gain a foothold in the Ballincollig half. Sally Kelly and Rhea Foudy in the second row started to dominate the forward exchanges. The Ennis front row of Ciara Reidy, Ciara O’Neill and Alannah Foudy helped Ennis to dominate the set pieces.
Maggie Murphy, Emily Kelly and Annie Lynch in the backrow tackled like demons and dominated the breakdown, providing excellent continuity for the Ennis backs to attack on the break.
On 14 minutes, after a great forward drive up the centre, the ball was put wide to Victoria Burns, the flying Ennis winger, who went outside the opposition defence to score in the corner. The touchline conversion was just outside Keane’s range and the score remained at 0-12.
By now the Clare team’s confidence had grown and the backline upped the tempo and demonstrated some great handling skills.
At 20 minutes, Annie Lynch made a break from a ruck on the halfway line and linked up with outhalf Lyndsey Clarke. Clarke passed to Long who linked up again with Clarke on the loop who ran in for a try, converted again by Keane.
The Ennis pack continued to put in a hard shift and after winning a scrum on the Ballincollig 10-metre line, Clarke and Long took the ball down the blindside and released Flaherty to score in the corner and leave the score at 0-24 at the break.
Ennis continued to dominate after the restart, with the pack offering quick ball at the breakdown.
Solid platforms from the set piece released the dynamic Ennis back line. Blaithnaid Benson and Long in the centre continuously probed the Ballincollig defence.
Eileen Keane at fullback took every ball that came her way and returned it with interest, coming into the line and constantly testing the opposition defence.
Ballincollig had a few purple patches in the second period, but the Ennis defence held up and ferocious tackling snuffed out any threats from the Cork side.
With legs getting tired as the game went on, Ennis were able to bring on some dynamic subs to keep the tempo up and maintain pressure on the Ballincollig side.
Amy Butler, Ciara Frawley and Sarah Scahill came into the backline, with Katie Curtin, Niamh McManus, Adelina Garabajiu, Aoibhinn McGrath boosting the forward pack.
Ennis were able to keep Ballincollig on the back foot and the second period saw them run in four more tries, two from Clarke and one each from Flaherty and Long, with two conversions from Keane.
The Ennis girls are up against a strong Killarney side in the final next Saturday. The Kerry team will have no fear of Ennis, after beating a strong Bruff outfit in their semi-final.
Ennis coach Dave Hanrahan knows they face a tough game and will use the week to bring his team back to earth after their emphatic win.
“We have won nothing yet, and we’ll take nothing for granted,” he said.
Hanrahan and his fellow coaches Gerry Clarke, John Kelly, and Cathal O’Neill, know their girls have the ability and maturity to become champions.