Sports

Women's Rugby Going From Strength To Strength In Birr

Thursday, 20 April 2017

THE idea of girls playing rugby in Birr was like most good ideas hatched over a cup of coffee one Sunday morning in Birr Rugby Club.

It was back in November 2015 with the Sunday mini rugby section in full flow and afterwards when the boys and girls were tucking into cups of hot chocolate and goodies, somebody had the bright idea that the club should start a 'women's' section to cater for girls from 12 years of age and upwards.

Cue Johnny Butler who immediately organised a meeting of interested parties and a training session was organised. Close to 40 girls of varying ages turned up for that first session which was a great success and despite the fact that there was only a few months to go till the end of the season these girls trained every Sunday morning and finally as the season drew to a close they participated in a rugby blitz where they showcased their newfound rugby skills.

The introduction of women's rugby into Birr Rugby Club has been a great success and presently they have 45 girls from local parishes, mostly attending St Brendan's Community School, playing rugby for the club.

A number of girls who participated down through the years in their mini rugby section have now graduated up to youth level. In addition they also have young girls in their minis from neighbouring towns like Banagher who have always had strong ties with the club.

This season Birr participated in Leinster Branch competitions at both U-18 and U-15 levels and performed very well. In fact nine of their U-18 girls have been selected for the Midlands Area team and are currently participating in Leinster U-18 trials and their former U-18 player Clodagh Hanniffy is currently trialling with the Irish 7-a-side Women's Team

Whilst it is exciting times for the girls in Birr Rugby Club, it is also exciting times for girls in Irish sport, particularly with the 2017 Women's Rugby World Cup being held in Ireland for the very first time from August 9th to August 26th. It promises to be the most exciting tournament yet and a highlight of the sporting calendar in Ireland this year.

The pool stages take place in Dublin from August 9th to August 17th with the finals in Belfast from August 22nd to 26th. The final will be played in the iconic Kingspan Stadium, Ravenhill - home of Ulster Rugby and one of the shortlisted venues for Ireland's 2023 Rugby World Cup Bid.

In advance of the competition kicking off in August, the World Cup Trophy is on tour around Ireland, visiting clubs and schools in all four provinces. Over 100 clubs and schools from across the island had applied to host the trophy, so supporters from all 32 counties will get a chance to see the trophy.

Birr Rugby Club was one of the lucky clubs chosen to host the trophy and it was with a sense of great excitement and anticipation they welcomed Orla Fullam-Smith from the Irish Rugby Football Union, in a specially commissioned LandRover to Birr with the trophy.

The first stop was St Brendan's Community School where Principal, Ming Loughnane, welcomed Orla and members of Birr Rugby Club to the school. In her welcoming speech to the large crowd present in the auditorium, Ming announced that in keeping with St Brendan's proud sporting tradition, the school was very happy to announce that rugby for girls would be introduced into the school's sporting calendar, much to the delight of the girls present in the auditorium.

Orla from the IRFU gave a very interesting talk on the history of the Women's World Cup and facts about the actual trophy itself. There were opportunities for all present to have their photo taken with the actual trophy before it was whisked away to its next destination.

Next stop on the tour in Birr was the Mercy Primary School and a great welcome was in store with Principal Barbara Hanamy, teaching staff and pupils waiting in the school yard. All the classes had their photo taken with the trophy and Orla's Women's World Cup knowledge was tested to the full with some very 'interesting' questions posed by the young girls present.

Finally, it was onto the final tour stop of the day with a visit to Crinkill National School. Once again a warm welcome was in store from Principal Sandra Nolan, teaching staff and the boys and girls in Crinkill NS. Once again everybody present was afforded plenty of photo opportunities with the trophy. And not to be outdone by their counterparts in the Mercy Primary School, the line of questioning by the young enthusiastic boys and girls here in Crinkill would ensure that Orla is well versed on 'tricky' questions for the remainder of her nationwide tour with the World Cup Trophy!

They are very lucky in Birr Rugby Club to have been chosen to have the opportunity to host the World Cup Trophy during its nationwide tour. A word of thanks to the U-18 girls who in the first instance wrote to the IRFU to request an opportunity to host the trophy and Welfare Officer Ann O'Connor who liaised with the IRFU and the Leinster Branch on the trophy tour arrangements.

A big thank you to all three schools who kindly hosted the trophy on the day and to the Rugby Club personnel who assisted on the day.

Their season is now coming to a close but already they are planning ahead for next season. Somebody has organised a get together for a cup of coffee and a suggestion that they should consider a senior women's side for the years ahead! Anybody interested in playing women's rugby next year at any level should contact the club on info@birrrugby.ie and keep up to date on all Birr Rugby news on their website birrrugby.ie

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