We made our first visit to Ashtown Lane, home of Wicklow RFC, a few week’s to catch up with one of this season’s new teams in the Women’s All Ireland League.
Wicklow’s debut in the all Ireland competition has been delayed until January 2021, due to Covid 19 restrictions, but they will be facing four AIL sides from the start of October in, what promises to be, a competitive Leinster Conference in the Community Series.
Our first port of call was a quick catch up with Club President Brian Clarke who brought us up to date on the club’s development since their formation in 1963.
It has been an impressive progression for the club and it’s good to see that they intend to move forward with considerable emphasis on their, record breaking, women’s programme which boasts over 200 players, including 48 seniors.
With that in mind, we caught up with a familiar face, Amy O’Neill, who will be captaining Wicklow in their first foray into the AIL. Amy was involved with the Ulster Women’s squad in 2015.
We asked Amy how the team are coping with the return to rugby and if they are looking forward to pitting themselves against the AIL sides?
While Amy and the players were looking forward to getting back out on the pitch the senior women’s coach Jason Morton is wary of the challenges ahead. Like all good coaches, Jason somewhat plays down the expectations.
There is no doubt that it will be a difficult enough challenge for Wicklow and, since our visit, they have recorded a big loss to Blackrock in the opening round of the Community Series, but, with a solid pathway to senior rugby for their 200 participants, the possible rewards to the club, and the women’s game in Ireland, will be substantial in the years to come.
While we were there, there was a constant shuttle of players being dropped off and collected, in line with the return to rugby protocols, as one pod of players swapped with others to take up training time on pre designated areas of the pitches. It all progressed flawlessly and with good humor as you would expect from a club embedded in the community.
Unfortunately, not all teams are cleared for return to rugby and at one change over we caught up with James Keating who brought us up to date with how Wicklow’s inclusive side Wicklow Warriors are coping without their much enjoyed run outs.
Wicklow tick a lot of boxes as a club and with their clubhouse redevelopment nearing completion they can look forward to continuing their important role in the community for many years to come.
I’m particularly looking forward to see how their vibrant women’s programme develops over the coming seasons.
Below are some pictures from our visit.