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2020-21 Club Rugby Women Community Series Women Editorial

Club Women: Leinster Conference Update.

The women’s Community Series doesn’t kick off until next weekend. We’ll be striving to cover all the conferences in the women’s series so we’ll be looking at each of the provinces individually.

The Leinster conference get’s top billing as it features five teams from the women’s All Ireland League; Blackrock, Old Belvedere, Railway Union, Suttonians and Wicklow.

Blackrock College RFC

We’ve been hearing quite a bit of chatter about Blackrock’s impressive recruitment over the summer and, with five current internationals joining the fold, they have been given the tag of preseason favourites from a few quarters.

The players have taken the Covid restrictions in their stride, everyone just happy to get out on the pitch, and with a new coach Ben Martin in situ there is certainly a bit of a buzz around Stradbrook. Martin, who was the Coach of the Year during his time with UL Bohemians also coached with the Ireland Sevens U18’s girls squad.

Key player Hannah O’Connor brought us up to date on the ongoing work at the club.

We’ve worked hard over the past number of years to build a culture and welcoming environment within the club, which we feel has been essential in helping us not only acquire new players but, more importantly, retain the brilliant group of people we already have at the club. With two teams competing in both the Leinster League and the AIL, we are constantly looking to add to our squad – anyone who will help add to life both on and off the pitch is always welcome. 

We tipped Blackrock as contenders for the AIL last season but they ended up playing catch up after a slow start. This time round they have the Community Series to get their house in order.

O’Connor continues:

We’re looking forward to the league kicking off. All going well, we will have a great selection of competitive matches to look forward to this side of Christmas. Matches against our Dublin neighbours are always exciting and physical encounters to be involved in, and the addition of Wicklow RFC only adds to the level of competition.

PLAYER INFROM
Béibhinn ParsonsBallinasloe RFC
Meabh DeelyBallinasloe RFC
Ellen MurphyGloucester Hartpury Women
Leah ReillyDCU
Nichola FrydayOld Belvedere
Kate CullenDCU
Orla MolloyGorey RFC
Dorothy WallRailway Union RFC
Larissa Ferreira
Laura FeelyGalwegians
PLAYER OUTTO
Mona FehilyTBC
Mairead CoughlanClontarf RFC

The FRU View

Béibhinn Parsons

Rock are certainly ticking a lot of boxes this season. That is some recruitment as internationals Laura Feely, Dorothy Wall, Nicola Fryday, Ellen Murphy and Béibhinn Parsons join O’Connor, Judy Bobbett, Katie Fitzhenry and Michelle Claffey to give the club 9 current internationals, The big question is – how often will they be available?

It can sometimes be difficult working round a host of international call ups but I suspect that Rock will be there or there about come December. A top two finish is what they’ll be aiming for and no one will look forward to playing a fully loaded Blackrock in the final.

Old Belvedere

Belvo have also been recruiting heavily on and off the field during the summer with a shake up of their coaching team seeing the introduction of Johnny Garth as head coach, with Nora Stapleton  continuing as assistant coach and Ailis Mardon-Egan returning.

We caught up with Belvo during their return to rugby with Linda Djougang bringing us up to date on the challenges ahead.

Linda Djougang looking forward to getting back on the pitch.

We have also heard from coach Garth who gives us his expectations for his new charges.

It’s great to be involved with such a fantastic club, I’m really enjoying working with the players. We’ve had really high numbers at training, which has been great for both squads. Lots of players are putting up their hands for the 1st team. Management have been great with handling all things covid related and it’s really made my job very easy.

Our main goals for the season are improve and compete. We want to get out of our comfort zones by pushing our limits and helping our teammates wherever possible. We want everyone to get the best out of themselves as players. “If it’s to be its up to me” is our mantra.

Players In.

Alannah O’Carroll, Anna Bidgood, Ava Jenkins, Brittany Hogan, Ciara O’Dwyer, Ciara Treacy, Ellen Murray, Ellie Meade, Grace Fennell, Ivanna Dempsey, Jane Leahy, Jane Linehan, Jane O’Neill, Jessica Chambers, Josie Hale, Katelyn Faust, Kaylee Hale, Lara Doherty, Laura Carroll, Leanne O’Neill, Maria Kelleher, Megan Banahan, Megan Fogarty, Oreoluwa Olateju, Ruth Byron, Sadhbh McDonnell, Sarah Melvin, Sinead Brophy, Sophie Farnan, Stacy Buzlin.

Players Out.

Alba Marlasca, Anna McGann, Andrea Bascunan Munoz, Franziska Klappoth, Nichola Fryday.

The FRU View

That is some net gain for Belvo over the summer and, looking at the names, it’s been a good recruitment from Leinster U18’s I believe. They have also picked up an absolute jewel in, Ireland Sevens and Team FRUs, Brittany Hogan who joins on dual status from DCU.

rittany Hogan, Ireland Women Sevens

Brittany Hogan

The abrasive centre/back row told the FRU:

Really looking forward to getting back to the XV’s code with DCU and Belvo. Being involved in the Community Series in Dublin is so exciting and a fantastic opportunity to get some game time. I’m really looking forward to the challenges ahead.

With 30 new recruits and a new coaching set up is is going to take them time to find their feet and they do need to find some out and out front five players in that new intake. They will be very competitive this season and genuine contenders next. I’m looking forward to following the journey.

Railway Union

We also caught up with our friends at Railway Union over the summer and they are another club that have been making substantial changes on and off the field.

The recruitment of Jonathan Butler as Technical Skills Development Coach and their continuing drive to increase the standing of the women’s game does mark them out as one of Ireland’s most innovate clubs.

We posted a substantial article last week on their developments over the summer and they highlighted a need for developing a harder edge. It was something they missed last season with UL Bohs out muscling them twice and Rock turning them over shortly after.

Players In:

Megan Collis (Greystones), Orlaith McCullagh (University of York), Cliona Duignan (UL Wolves), Anna Walker (Dublin University), Eleanor Furlong (U18s), Orla Hayes (Ashbourne), Marlise Flynn (Carrick On Suir), Ava Ryder (Westport), Alex McGuinness (Wicklow), Erin Coll (UL Bohemians), Gemma Najar (crossover athlete), Anna McGann (Old Belvedere)

Players Out:

Ciara Cooney (Wasps), Karen Plunkett (Belgium), Dorothy Wall (Blackrock), Katelyn Faust (Old Belvedere)

The FRU View.

Meg Kendal

Railway get a second go as defending champions this season and there will be plenty of sides lining up to knock the “sevens show-ponies” off their pedestal, with Blackrock and Belvo rolling up their sleeves at the front of the queue.

Railway finished 11 points behind Bohs when the shutters came down last season but DoR John Cronin was confident of their ability to do something in the play off’s, I wasn’t so sure. To me they missed the street smarts of Emma Taylor and Meg Kendal when the going got tough.

They are one of my favourite teams to watch and they are the best out there when they are on the front foot but they might just find themselves “comparatively” underpowered for a second season when they get to the business end of the competitions.

Suttonians

Suttonians had a very positive debut in the All Ireland League last season with a 36% points pick up and a 5th place finish when the shutters came down.

Heading into season two of All Ireland rugby, the TRIBE have been busy managing the demands of 2020 alongside the challenges of building an AIL side capable of challenging for those top four positions.

Head Coach Robert Forbes brings us up to date with their developments and expectations.

It’s still hard to believe it’s just the seventh season of rugby on Station Road, but while the progress has been rapid, the desire exists within the club and moreover the player group to ensure it remains permanent. Currently the only women’s rugby club in Leinster north of the river Liffey, TRIBE are delighted to welcome new players and ambitious girls from a part of the country bursting with sporting talent.

With last year’s goal of establishing a strong mid table finish achieved, it’s fair to say ambitions were exceeded. The club did enough to earn a final straight race for fourth place with Blackrock, before lockdown decided the outcome with a few games to go. Second season can often be a measure for sides and while a top four finish would be exciting for all, opportunity presents to develop the squad this time around. 

This year’s focus is all about ensuring game time for all of our players above anything else. We know that players need to play and experience top level rugby to improve and grow. By making sure players are getting that precious All Ireland League game time allied to the mentoring of our team of five vastly experienced coaches we are all about investing in the individuals. Whatever the outcome of this season, both within and outside our controls, it’s crucial that this time next season our TRIBE is a happy group of seasoned All Ireland rugby players who’ve benefited from that strong personal coaching investment to help them reach their own goals. That’s our culture. That’s who we are.

Notable additions to the squad this year include Denise Redmond and Shannon Tuohey who’ve been wonderful servants to Connacht rugby over the last number of years, bringing a super positive energy to the group.

Kate Farrell, who like Shannon had starred for us previously, will balance her Ireland 7s commitments with a commitment to her sister and this year’s captain Lauren.

A number of other young and developing players have joined the ranks to take on the challenge of the AIL.

A notable return to the club is local girl Jools Aungier, sister of Connacht player Jack, both of whom learned their formative rugby in the green, white and blue.

The FRU View.

Denise Redmond.

Well, well, well! Denise Redmond to Suttonians, that has to be the best signing of the season. What an absolute diamond of a player and someone you can build a team around. If Redmond and Shannon Tuohey buy into the TRIBE philosophy they will be genuine Top 4 contenders.

Wicklow.

We caught up with the AIL newcomers over the summer and we have a big article on our visit ready to go in the coming week.

It is a great set up for women’s rugby at Ashtown Lane and, with 200 female players coming through their system, it will be all about preparing for the future this season.

They will have to hit the ground running in this hugely competitive conference. It will be a struggle, but, we were pleased to see a few “old heads” in the team to keep the ship steady in what will be a stormy season.

Amy O’Neill

Amy O’Neill, will be captaining Wicklow in their first foray into the AIL. Amy was involved with the Leinster and Ulster Women’s provincial squads during her time with Blackrock .

O’Neill will be joined by canadian Tammy Breen who also played for Blackrock and Leinster from 2010 and former St Mary’s College player Meagan Parkinson will also boost their AIL experience.

The FRU View

Yes, it will be difficult for the league newcomers, However, it is all about getting experience and developing the pathways for turning those huge playing numbers into a conveyor belt of talent over the coming seasons.

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