City of Derry Ladies were crowned Ulster Senior Shield winners as the Rosie Stewart Cup Final came to Judges Road for the first time on Sunday.
Fittingly though, on its first appearance in Rosie’s hometown, the ‘Rosie Stewart Memorable Bowl’ was claimed by the late Ulster and Ireland star’s former club, Cooke, who enjoyed a comprehensive 76-15 victory over Queen’s in the main final with Cavan defeating Carrick 33-0 in the Plate final.
Most eyes at Judges Road though were on the Shield final and the sizeable home crowd wasn’t disappointed as the Derry Ladies prodiced a performance full of grit and heart to claim a memorable 24-10 win over league champions Enniskillen.
It was a confident Derry side that took to the field with winger Ruagin Doherty opening the scoring early on with a try that was quickly converted out-half Ciara Moore.
Tries quickly followed from fellow winger Christine Curry and Michelle McLaughlin, however two missed conversions ensured Derry could not become complacent.
Captain Kelly Gormley set a high standard for her team to follow with a storming performance and she claimed Derry’s final try. With a successful kick from Ciara Moore Derry went into the break with a healthy 24-0 lead.
A previously complacent Enniskillen came out fighting in the second half and captain Noreen Nethercott was quick to take advantage with an early try. A failed conversion left the score at 24-5 until the dying minutes when Nethercott broke through once more for a second unconverted try just seconds before the whistle.
The Derry victory extends their season by a possible two games. As winners of the Ulster Shield, the local ladies will now have a home game against Munster side, Thurles Woman’s RFC on Saturday, March 19th at 1pm, rather than the traditional Sunday. The reason for the change is to avoid a clash with Ireland’s Ladies team who have a Six Nations game on March 20th.
This change and players already unavailable is unfortunate as on Sunday past highlighted that with everyone available, Derry can defeat anyone in their league. However, Derry will be at home and in All-Ireland amateur sport, home advantage is a massive advantage.
The All-Ireland Bowl Final is scheduled for Saturday, April 2nd in Dublin, something Derry Ladies will now be targeting given their recent improvement.
The day itself proved a marvellous success and a terrific advert for woman’s rugby in Ulster.
The skills on display were only matched by the commitment of the players, coaches, supporters and all the fabulous backroom staff who made the first City of Derry RFC Rosie Stewart Cup Finals a very memorable event for all taking part.
The club would also like to play tribute to Rosie’s mum and dad, Kathleen, who sat it out to the end enjoying the singing of Michael Friel, Betty Hargan, Colm Cregan and Hannah Surman from Rosie’s old school, Thornhill College, all of which added to a wonderful Mother’s Day to remember for City of Derry Ladies.