As the city prepares to host the marquee event in the women’s rugby calendar – the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup – next August, one of its oldest clubs is initiating its own new revolution in women’s rugby.
With just under a year until the championships kick off, when Ireland will hope to exploit home advantage to better its incredible fourth place in the 2014 competition, St. Mary’s College RFC has taken a long-term vision of developing the women’s game, from minis to senior level, as part of its new club development plan.
While the club has boasted a women’s team for over a decade, a new found energy, prompted by an increase in standards across the national league within which its senior team competes, hopes to confirm the importance of women’s rugby in the club as well as to provide the platform from which its squad can genuinely contest for league and cup silverware, as well bolster the ranks of the national 15s and 7s squads in this seminal season for the national women’s game.
A core squad boasting a number of current internationals including Paula Fitzpatrick, who returns to Templeville Road having spent last season plying her trade in the French Premiership, are currently in training, joined by new recruits and beginners to the game. The squad is filled with a number of players who arrived from other codes, such as GAA, soccer, and athletics, all of whom have transitioned effortlessly to one of the world’s fastest growing female sport. And with former senior captain and Leinster cap Sarah Brennan among the coaching set-up of the club’s u-18 side, the future is already looking bright for the women of St. Mary’s RFC.
“St Marys are really investing in developing the woman’s game. We have been coaching in Marys for 4 years following two good years at Under 20’s. Ahead of the world cup year, we are really targeting development of both the individuals and the club as a result, “says Philip Lynch, head coach of the women’s team for the forthcoming season. “We have a coaching team of three this season, a strength and conditioning coach in Rachel Connolly, not to mention the great gym and training facilities, and want to increase the number of representative players ahead of the World Cup. Everything is in place for players to develop, succeed and most importantly enjoy their rugby. So players looking to enjoy, develop their game more, and those with representative aspirations will be accommodated, and given all the support and expertise necessary.”
Lynch, himself a scrumhalf AIL medal winner with St Mary’s in 2000 is joined by both Gareth Logan, another AIL winner with St Mary’s in 2012, who has come on board as forwards coach for the coming season, whilst Ian Robinson will be responsible for the backs having guided last season’s squad to victory in both the Leinster and All-Ireland Plate Championships. The trio have high hopes for the coming season, as well as the future of the women’s game in the club. “We’re looking forward to a great season and in embracing & facilitating the very exciting development of the women’s game which is growing exponentially. There’s great friends to be made, and fun to be had – and fitness enthusiasts won’t be disappointed, either!!”
Mayo native, and the St. Mary’s first women’s international, Carol Staunton has been appointed captain for the coming season, and is eager to encourage anyone with an interest in the game to try it for themselves. “The league may kick off in only a matter of weeks, but that doesn’t mean doors will be closed to potential new players once matches get underway. We’ve players with a great variety of experience and ability, and welcome anyone who is interested in participating to simply give it a go. None of us have ever regretted taking that leap of faith with an unknown game!”
Meanwhile, season preparations have expanded beyond the formalities of competitive fixtures, with plans for an international trip following the completion of the national league already well underway.