Head coach Jonathan Garth backs Old Belvedere skipper Deirbhile Nic a Bháird’s tilt at Ireland return

Old Belvedere head coach Jonathan Garth believes Deirbhile Nic a Bháird’s strong start to the Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Division is pushing her claims for an Ireland return.

ic a Bhaird, who turned 27 on Thursday, has been central to Belvedere’s two wins so far. She has impressed in the number 8 role and as captain while finishing with three tries against her native Ballincollig.

“Derv has been fantastic for us this season. She is a real leader on the pitch in every aspect,” said Garth, whose side are sitting second in the table.

“She’s very strong, quick and is a natural footballer. I would be very surprised if she is not in the selectors’ thoughts for higher honors as her current form certainly warrants it.”

Belvedere host Suttonians this evening in the first Dublin derby of the 2022/23 campaign. 2013 Grand Slam winner Jenny Murphy is partnered in midfield by teenager Aoife Dalton, who made her Ireland debut in Japan last month.

It should be an intriguing battle in midfield where Sutts captain Catherine Martin and Australian recruit Annie Buntine will battle for supremacy. Stephen Costelloe’s charges put four second-half tries past Galwegians last week and want more of the same.

“For us, it’s about focusing on our game and controlling the ‘controllables’. We’re looking forward to another great contest,” admitted Costelloe.

“One hundred percent, it would give us a big boost to beat one of the ‘top four’ sides. I think that goes for anyone. We want to push on from last season and to do that you have to try and beat everyone, but these are the games you get extra excited for.”

Meanwhile, Ireland internationals Aoife Doyle and Claire Boles return to action with Railway Union as the defending champions host Ballincollig. Railway’s pre-match President’s Dinner at Park Avenue has IRFU President John Robinson as the guest of honour.

Wicklow have gone one better than the first round, with six sets of sisters included in their squad to take on UL Bohemians. 21-year-old full-back Ella Roberts captains them, while 18-year-old starlet Kate Flannery makes her AIL debut at out-half for Bohs.

Unbeaten Galwegians welcome back Mairéad Coyne and Laoise McGonagle, the league’s joint-top try scorer, for the visit of Cooke. Former Ireland dual international Ashleigh Orchard and vice-captain Hannah Downey lead the Cooke back-line.

Today’s Fixtures: Wicklow v UL Bohemians, Ashtown Lane; Galwegians v Cooke, Crowley Park; Old Belvedere v Suttonians, Ollie Campbell Park; Railway Union v Ballincollig, Park Avenue.

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