Rugby star garda uses sport to help children
GRAND Slam-winning full-back Niamh Briggs is using her rugby skills to help get disadvantaged children off the streets.
Ireland's Six Nations top scorer spends her day job working as a community garda in Ballinacurra Weston, one of Limerick's large regeneration areas on the south side of the city.
The 28-year-old Waterford woman was yesterday honoured for her team's recent success at a reception in Roxboro station, Limerick, where she is based.
Speaking after the event, which was attended by senior gardai, including Assistant Chief Commissioner Tony Quillter, she said she's determined to get as many young people as possible involved in rugby through the Garryowen Project.
The initiative involves bringing children from Southill and Ballinacurra Weston to Garryowen Rugby Club twice a week where they play sport and are given their dinner.
"It's great to get them out of the environment that they are used to, out of their comfort zone and bringing them together playing sport. There's no better way for them to be off the streets," said Garda Briggs.
"It is about taking them away from the things they are used to and that circle that they are in. They love it. At the start they were big soccer heads, I couldn't get a rugby ball into their hands.
"If we can just keep boosting the numbers we are looking to get as many kids off the streets as possible and the only way that I know how is by playing sport."
She said the children involved are all boys aged between eight and 15 but she is determined to get girls involved.
"We tried girls but I couldn't get any out, but it's definitely something I will target in the future," she said.
"Even if it's dance or whatever they're into, I will do it as long as it's to get them off the streets."
Garda Briggs said she was "overwhelmed" by the presentation by her colleagues. She was told Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan is a big fan, and plans to meet her later this year.
"I have great colleagues and they are the reason that I am able to stand here today with this trophy," she said.
She said she hopes the publicity surrounding the Grand Slam victory will inspire more young girls to play rugby.
Former rugby international and mayor of Limerick, Gerry McLoughlin, and former Munster, Ireland and Lions back row forward David Wallace were also in attendance along with her parents Mike and Geraldine.