NUIG Women's Rugby is celebrating unprecedented success, having stocked its sports cabinet with four trophies this season.
NUIG struck early, winning the IURU Kay Bowen Trophy, which was hosted pre-season in Terenure and is contested by Ireland's oldest universities. Coached by Simon Lawless, NUIG beat UCD by 48-5 to bag their third trophy in succession at this tournament. They also completed it with an amazing defensive record, having conceded just three tries in the three tournaments.
A fresh squad following hefty postgrad departures opened the local Connacht League with a win against Tuam, and continued in a similar vein beating Sligo and Portumna. By virtue of two default walkover wins against Carrick and Galwegians and bonus point losses to Castlebar and Buccaneers, NUIG booked a grand final berth against hotly-favoured Castlebar. Captain Liz McKeever, Rach Buckley, Clodagh Carroll and Faye Drohan's experience stood the college girls in good stead, all ably backed by standout rookie arrivals Karen Douglas, Shannen Lane and Tara Buggie.
The college women faced a tough month to complete the college league fixtures, run concurrently with the provincial league. Seven games in three weeks tested the team's ability to front up, but NUIG dropped just the one, to UCD away. However NUIG went on to win the semi-final against UL by 10-0 and crushed UCC in the final by 45-5. Lane, Connacht flanker Edel McMahon and Galway County footballer Orla Dixon were outstanding against Cork, while Buckley and Drohan were crucial at kick-off and line-out time in the air.
The intervarsities Easter Tournament proved NUIG's most recent highlight, beating UL2 in game one 19-0, but succumbing within minutes 12-10 to UL's 1st XV 10-12 in the second. However a convincing victory over Carlow IT ensured progression to the final where they once again faced UL1. Tied nil-all at full time, NUIG posted two unanswered tries in extra time to win 12-0, with Buckley putting the result beyond doubt with the second try late in the game.
McKeever says it has been an unprecedented season for the women.
"Success this year was a pleasant surprise. We've been there or thereabouts for so long, but always miss out on the cups," she said in her fourth year with NUIG rugby.
"Belief is huge and Simon [Lawless] always said it, but this season, we started winning and kept winning, and if you believe winning is not only possible but the likelihood when you start a match, and you believe in your friends either side of you, then it becomes a lot easier to get things right. We trust each other. It's simple."