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Kilmihil native and Irish Rugby international Eimear Considine. Pic by John Kelly

Considine keen to see rugby continue to grow in Clare

Irish rugby star Eimear Considine believes that the game is in a healthy place within the Banner county.

Considine spoke to The Clare Champion after a recent open night for women’s rugby within the county, hosted by Ennis RFC.

New and current players from Ennis, Kilrush and Lisdoonvarna descended on Lees Road to meet Considine who was in attendance alongside Ennis RFC alumni Alana McInerney, Aoife Corey, Eilís Cahill, Chisom Ugwueru, Emily Murphy and Aoibhinn O’Loughlin.

Considine stated that for rugby to truly develop in the country, counties such as Clare need to do everything possible to encourage the next generation to take up the sport.

“It is fantastic to see the growth of rugby in Clare. Lisdoonvarna, Kilrush and Ennis all coming together and representing the county will lead to better standards. Players can learn off each other and create a better standard. It’s something I would have only dreamed about growing up.”

The Kilmihil native feels that if the sport can continue to develop, girls will be in a far more advantageous position than ever, with experience under their belt before they reached the adult grade.

“I never knew much about rugby growing up. I started playing when I was 23 years old up in Dublin. There were no real structures at the time, not what there is now. There wasn’t even an U14 grade when Aoife (Corey) and Alana (McInerney) were starting. It’s ideal to get girls playing when they are young because they can get so many hours under their belt.”

Head of Women’s and Girl’s Rugby at Ennis RFC Lorchan Hoyne believes that with the women’s game continuing to blossom within the club, having players come through the ranks present at the open night showed what can be achieved by the current generation.

“One of the reasons we invited the women to come in is to show that if you come from Clare you can represent Munster or Ireland. We asked Eimear to come down because she is a great ambassador for the game, and we had a bus load of girls go to see her play for Ireland at the RDS last year.

“They all set a great example. Chisom started at U15 while a few girls played U18s rugby in their first year. They are a tremendous example of what we do and how we try help people enjoy the game first and foremost. It’s great for the younger girls to have role models.”

With Ennis and Kilrush combining to field an adult team for the first time ever, steps are being taken to provide an outlet for players who want to test themselves on the rugby field.
Although Ennis RFC are trying to rebuild after COVID, Hoyne states that getting players to enjoy the game is their number one priority.

“You will achieve a lot more if people enjoy it and look forward to playing the game. There is a culture in rugby of camaraderie and touring. It is a physical game but there is a personal element from U14 up to the adult team. Fun is the basis of everything we do.”

With the adult side back in league action last weekend against Waterpark RFC, Hoyne was keen to emphasise that this team is for players across Clare and not just those from Ennis and Kilrush.

“When we met the Munster branch we wanted this to be a Clare set-up. We want to open this up and build up women’s rugby within the county. We feel the demand is there and women’s sport in Clare is continuing to grow. We are delighted to see the support for the women’s game all over Clare and we hope to see it continue.”

Considine emphasises the importance of perseverance when she spoke to the players present on the night.

“I was telling them how lucky they were, to listen to their coaches and stick with rugby. It’s not always easy. There are losses, injuries and sometimes you get dropped from squads. When I first started at 23, a coach told me that everything I did with my right hand, I needed to do 10 times with my left hand so there’s always room to practice and improve.

“Girls at ages 14, 15, 16 can pick a coach’s brain. They should never be afraid to ask a question because that’s how you get better. I hope to see them represent Clare at a high level and they need to try new things in order to get better.”

Ennis RFC were able to celebrate call ups to the Munster Inter Provincial squad for Alana McInerney, Aoife Corey and Eilís Cahill. Maeve Óg O’Leary, an alumnus of Ballina-Killaloe RFC is also part of the squad.

Hoyne stated that the continued success of these players in progressing through to Munster shows the pathway is there for the next generation.

“It has been an ongoing feature every year since we started that players are coming through. They have developed their skills with us and continued to keep developing after that. We are delighted to see them keep that going. It is a phenomenal achievement to play for the province.”

Considine believes that if Ireland are to compete with England and France then they need to find players in all corners of the country.

Herself and Edel McMahon have flown the Banner flag with the national side in recent times but the 31 year old believes that players need to be encouraged to play their rugby at home.

“I see the depth coming through. The Japan tour gave new players a chance. We don’t want to be relying on the same players so there is still more to be done. We need to keep players in Ireland and continue to make the AIL stronger and keep improving the club scene.

“The standard is so high in the UK that it’s hard to blame players for going abroad. We saw it against Japan, and I think we will get to see the young players coming through with the interpros.”

With the Women’s 15s High Performance Programme launched in November of last year, Considine hopes players from Clare will have the best pathway to progress to the national set-up.

“With the women’s programme the aim is to slot Sevens players in to the 15s and vice versa and create a system. It is a scheduling issue with the Sevens and 15s competitions sometimes clashing. We are one of the few nations that depends on Sevens players for our 15s side.”

“It goes back to deepening the player pool. With injuries and COVID we need more depth. There are going to be teething problems but hopefully we see the sport keep growing and we get players playing.”

Hoyne knows the importance of the upcoming year for women’s rugby within the club.

Teams across the county and further afield are continuing to rebuild after the pandemic with the Head of Women’s and Girls Rugby keen to continue strengthening the underage structures within the club.

“We want to keep everyone playing and having fun. We want to build on our numbers and build a women’s team that is self sustaining.

“Gareth O’Hanlon is doing a great job with the adult team so we want to keep strengthening. The support Ennis RFC have given us is great. They are right behind us so we are looking to keep boosting our numbers.”

Considine hopes women from within the county will try the sport as she hopes now players from Clare are representing Munster and Ireland, that the belief will be there for others coming through the ranks.

“We want to make it a real possibility for young girls to play and enjoy rugby. It is possible for a girl from Clare can play for Munster or Ireland. Myself and Edel McMahon didn’t have anyone to look towards but the young players now do.

“Girls can now have a professional career and we want to promote the sport in West Clare and Clare as a whole. Hopefully, we have a really strong senior team from Clare and develop girls. It’s just about raising the standards.”

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