Numbers on the rise as sport continues to flourish
Women's Rugby Focus
It has been another stellar season for women's rugby in Munster and Ireland.
Wayne Falvey's youthful Munster side, shorn of their international stars, claimed the interprovincial title for the tenth time in 13 years last September. The Irish women's team then carried on the impressive form they showed at last summer's World Cup, where they reached the semi-final, to win the Six Nations title and the Triple Crown in March.
Waterford's Niamh Briggs captained the side and Highfield No 8 Heather O'Brien was outstanding as Tom Tierney led the team to the Championship in his first season in charge.
UL Bohemians prop Fiona Hayes also played her part with promising young Shannon winger Aoife Doyle making her international debut during the campaign.
The Irish Sevens team have also enjoyed a successful season to date with Siobhán Barrett of Tralee, Shannon's Nicole Cronin and UL Bohs' Claire Keohane all involved in the Biarritz Rugby Sevens and the Dubai International Invitation Women's Sevens. Next up for the Sevens team is the Amsterdam Sevens International tournament in three weeks.
In club rugby, UL Bohs were the top Munster performers in the AIL as they finished fourth in Division 1 to reach the semi-finals where they were beaten by eventual winners Old Belvedere. Highfield reached a fourth All-Ireland Cup final in a row but were beaten by Railway Union.
A very impressive Clonmel side completed an historic double as they won both Division 1 of the Munster Women's League and the Munster Cup.
The success of the Irish women's team on the international stage has seen the playing numbers continue to grow.
Munster Women's Community Rugby Officer Amanda Greensmith is delighted to see the sport flourishing. "The Six Nations win has renewed the energy within the clubs again," she said. "We've had clubs approach us this year about how they can get their girls' section off the ground for the start of next season so it's hugely positive. The Laya Healthcare Schools Blitz was held last week and it was great to see five girls' schools teams participating at that for the first time ever.
"We'll certainly look at ways in which we can grow those numbers over the coming seasons and get more teams into competitions within the schools sections as well.
"There's definitely another lift and more growth in the girls' game in the age-grade structures and more clubs are setting up and showing an interest.
"It's been fantastic to see Clonmel progressing again. It would have been a quite prominent club a few years ago and they've gone through a bit of a rebuilding phase so it was great to see them do the double. They've had tremendous support from within the club with Paul Condon and others so there are definitely good things happening there so that's been exceptionally positive."
Looking ahead to next season, the Munster Rugby women's team recently held two screening days with 60 players from all over the province.
Coach Falvey, assistant coach Aiden McNulty and team manager Dara O Tuama were all in attendance alongside Greensmith as they looked to spot the future stars of Munster women's rugby.
The two sessions gave players the opportunity to stake a claim for a place in the Munster team for next season's interprovincial series.
Falvey and McNulty have been attending club games throughout the season but the screening day allowed them to look at players they may not have seen.
Greensmith, a former international player herself, saw the screening days as a great success. "It was great to have open trials just to have a look around and see players that we hadn't seen before," she said.
"There are always new girls coming to the game, they may be coming from other sports and they'll certainly have a core group of skills that would be useful to us. It's important to see who's out there and if there are players that we can work with to help make the transition to playing rugby a little bit smoother for them so it's been really good.
"Winning the interpros this season was brilliant for us because we did it without our internationals and it was great to get a look at some players that maybe we hadn't seen before," Greensmith continued.
"We gave them an opportunity to stand up and replace the internationals that were unavailable and a lot of the girls acquitted themselves very well."
With the excellent work being done behind the scenes and more teams set to be formed next season, the future certainly looks bright for women's rugby.
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