CITY OF DERRY Ladies can create history this weekend when they go in search of their first Rosie Stewart Ulster Senior Cup success against Carrick Ladies at Ballymena RFC (Sunday, k.o. 2.30pm).
MICHAEL WILSON reports
The Judges Road girls go into the game as favourites having accounted for holders and pre-tournament favourites Cooke as well as Belfast Harlequins en route to the prestigious final but coach James Doherty is taking nothing for granted.
“Sunday is going to be another very tough game for us but bringing the Ulster Cup ‘home’ was one of the goals I set at the start of the season,” explained Doherty.
“There is a great team spirit and atmosphere among the squad, with a mix of experienced and new players. The final hurdle is this weekend and should we be successful, there will be no one prouder than me.”
The Derry Ladies set-up has come quite a distance since it was first formed only four years ago and with the club currently in the process of establishing more girls underage teams at the club, things are looking very bright for the future of the sport at Judges Road.
It seems fitting that the Rosie Stewart Ulster Cup is named after local girl and Irish International, Rosie Stewart who, despite never playing for Derry (the team hadn’t been formed) had a great affinity for the local club. Rosie played her club rugby with Cooke, the only team to have their name on the trophy such has been their recent dominance of the Ulster Ladies game. Rosie’s mother, Kathleen Gallagher, will present the trophy after the final.
‘Unfortunately I wasn’t lucky enough to see Rosie play but have spoken to her team mates at Cooke and Ireland and I know just how good a player she was and the esteem in which she was held by both her team mates and opponents. You don’t get capped for Ireland without being extremely talented,” added the Derry coach.
Derry have twice lost out to Cooke in previous finals but can point to successive AIL Division Two title victories in 2009 and 2011 as a mark of their own pedigree. The local side currently lead the Division again this season and will be hoping for better luck if they reach the AIL League play-off final again having lost out to Division One Dublin teams, St. Mary’s and Old Belvedere in the past.
The Derry side on Sunday will be captained by former Irish International Diane Nixon and despite losing the services of eight Ulster players from last season’s line-up, there is more than enough experience.
The locals will once again look to the superb Stacey Lea Kennedy who is currently a member of the Irish Six Nations panel while South African duo Mandisa Williams and Fundi Plaatjie have already proven invaluable on the march to the final.