New blood sought for women’s rugby in Mullingar
If you’re a woman between the ages of 18 and 40, Mullingar Rugby Club is looking for you.
Although girls’ rugby is in rude health in the Cullion club’s underage ranks – all the way down to U8 level – the senior setup has taken a knock after the break-up of one of the club’s most successful groups of players.
In 2015, the Mullingar ‘Heifers’ memorably annexed a Leinster League Division 1 title, the high point of a memorable few years for the group brought together by Dave Farrelly and Davy Miller.
However, due to employment situations, moves to different clubs and various other factors, that “golden generation” has moved on, leaving big gaps in the women’s ranks at Shay Murtagh Park.
Now that the close season has arrived for ladies’ Gaelic football and camogie, Claire O’Brien, Leinster Rugby’s club community rugby officer in Westmeath, is hoping that women of all sporting backgrounds can join in.
“It’s an alternative way to keep fit for the winter season, and we’re trying to stress that it’s not just for 18-year-olds – it’s for all,” Claire, who lined out for Mullingar in the Leinster League against Dublin University last Sunday, told the Westmeath Examiner.
At the helm for the Heifers this year is Niall Kane, a women’s development officer with Leinster Rugby who has a vast amount of experience training senior boys’ rugby teams at Newbridge College. His backroom team includes former Mullingar player Alan Kelly (backs coach) and Fiona Faulkner.
Under their charge, Mullingar will compete in Division 2 of the Leinster Women’s League this year.
“Division 2 is a bit more forgiving for newbies,” said Mullingar Rugby Club president, Tony Doolan. “It’s not as intense, and there’s a bit of room to make mistakes initially. So it’s an ideal place for players to find their feet.
“We have a mix of girls training already, some of whom are very serious about their sport, and others who are there to keep fit and have a bit of craic.
“The social side is great, and even when Mullingar were competing as well as they did in recent years, there was always a very strong social aspect to it.”
With members of the U18 girls’ side who captured the Leinster Cup two years ago coming on stream, Tony said that there is a “core group” around which to build a team.
Every year, between May and August, the club runs a tag rugby programme, and a handful of the current women’s team became more involved in the sport via that route.
“But we need more strength in numbers,” Tony added.
With Ireland in Rugby World Cup action at the moment, all eyes are on the men’s international game, and the club hopes that this may have some spin-off for all of its ranks.
But both Tony and Claire agree that as far as women’s rugby is concerned, there is a misconception out there about the level of physicality in rugby.
“I think people thinking of taking up rugby are looking at the professional game and thinking, ‘Is this what I’m going to be up against?’, but the pro game operates at a much different level of physicality,” Tony said.
“People are aware of the issues surrounding concussion, but I played rugby for 20 years and only had one concussion over that time. Touch wood, it hasn’t done me any harm whatsoever.”
Claire, meanwhile, believes rugby is no more physical than GAA, and that the high standard of coaching in all codes teaches men and women alike how to deal with such demands on the body.
Training for the Mullingar RFC senior women’s team takes place every Friday at 7.30pm under lights at Shay Murtagh Park, and all are welcome. All you need to bring is a pair of boots and a gumshield.
If you’d like to get involved, contact Claire on 086 332 4865.