Aoife Corey, Alana McInerney, Chisom Ugweru and Eilish Cahill all received call ups to the Senior Munster Women’s Rugby squad for the interprovincial series which starts at the end of August, writes Ivan Smyth.
Eilish Langan manages the senior women’s rugby team with Paddy Langan, Mick Flynn and John Colleran all working as coaches.
Colleran says the club is “hugely proud” of the four women who will don the red of Munster in less than a month’s time.
“We are all hugely proud of what they have achieved. They’ve put the effort in and got their reward. The fact they haven’t been playing for too long speaks volumes about their work rate.
“Chisom is a very well rounded athlete while the other girls are all very good GAA players. They had a good foundation in ball sports and they just seemed to enjoy rugby and they kept working at it.”
After this news broke, the club discovered that Aoibheann Hahessy received a call up to the Munster Rugby U-18 Women’s squad with their interprovincial games also starting on the weekend of August 28th.
Lorchan Hoyne, who helped establish women’s rugby in Ennis RFC, stated: “Aoibheann has done very well for herself. It’s a very competitive set up and it’s very difficult to get in to the squad. We are very proud of Aoibheann’s achievement. We have no doubt that her game will develop even more from being in that set up and we are glad she is representing our club on a big stage.”
With Ennis RFC starting women’s rugby within the club in 2017, the call ups have come about due to the hard work within the underage structures.
Colleran says the demand for women’s rugby saw the club initially create U-16 and U-18 and a half teams before establishing an U-14 side also. Ennis RFC has continued to develop as they saw a surge in interest from the public before the pandemic.
“There was huge interest for us to establish women’s rugby within the club. They wanted a facility to play. For some people they would have to go to Limerick city to play. I have to give credit to Lorcan Hoyne and Alan Harvey who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to help create what we have today. They had the foresight to see there was a gap there.”
The club were set to field a senior team for the first time last year. However, the pandemic struck with the club still waiting for their senior women to play their first competitive league game.
“It was a shame to see the game not take place and then we’ve had the long wait. We didn’t have any adult rugby so we are fighting now to get the momentum back that we had before COVID. We have had to take a few steps back and adjust our plans during the lockdowns.”
“When we created the women’s senior team, we had a lot of GAA girls trying out the sport and they were enjoying it. There was a lot of talk about the team and we were building. Unfortunately we lost some of the impetus with the virus. Now we want to get the club back out there again and get people talking about the club again.”
Ennis RFC are among the clubs hosting the ‘Give It A Try’ initiative which has been established by the IRFU. The aim is to entice girls aged from 12 to 14 years of age to sample rugby for the first time and have fun in the process. This initiative takes place every Tuesday, starting August 3rd on Lees Road.
Hoyne stated: “The aim of this is to introduce the kids to the game and gradually bring a level of comfort so that they can enjoy the game. There will be a lot of fun activities so it’s something that will be enjoyable for everyone who attends.”
Colleran admits that young girls and parents can be put off by the physical side of the game. The women’s coach within Ennis RFC is keen to point out that the club will start slow with new arrivals and not throw them in uncompromising positions.
“We would urge as many girls as possible to give rugby a try. Don’t be afraid. We had girls who hadn’t played rugby five years ago and now they are getting called up to Munster so it shows what can be done.
“I understand there can be a bit of fear initially but the first thing you are taught is how to protect yourself. We give people the basics and build from there. Once you have the basics you can ad in everything else later.”
“There is huge enjoyment that is guaranteed when you come and play.
“Safety is our first concern and we won’t put players in unsafe situations. The girls we have playing underage will all say that they learned the basics first and got the fundamentals before pushing on.”
Colleran is pleased with how women’s rugby is developing within Clare and is keen for the sport to continue to grow within Ennis and around the county so that girls can have a greater variety of sports to choose from.
“Regionally I think the sport is doing brilliantly. We hope that more clubs can create women’s teams and we can help the sport grow more. It is a tough task to get it going, I won’t lie but it’s worth it to get girls out trying something new. We would love the county town to provide all sports as an option for young girls and for everyone.”
Despite women’s rugby continuing to develop, Colleran insists that Ennis RFC can aim high for the future and over time try and compete with the best in Ireland while trying to earn more provincial call ups.
“We want to have the same vision going through the entire club. We want girls in Ennis to believe that they can play for Munster if that’s what they want. We also want to continue to welcome everybody and make playing for the club an enjoyable experience.”
“We did up our plans last year but they went out the window due to Covid-19. Our long-term goal would be to achieve AIL status. We want to put the structures in place to help the girls reach their potential and we do that by good quality coaching at underage. We want to get to that pinnacle and challenge teams like UL Bohs down the line.
“We hope to hold on to our home grown talent and we hope that if the girls stick with us for a bit, they could be playing AIL with their home club.”
Senior women’s training resumes on August 4 with U-18 and a half training returning at the start of next month also. U-14 ad U-16 training starts on August 10.
For more information on senior women’s rugby contact John Colleran on 086 8333530 and for any queries on underage rugby within the club contact Lorchan Hoyne on 087 6492026.