Should girls play rugby? Can girls play rugby? The ladies of Castlebar have answered that question with a resounding yes! Having played tag rugby in both Castlebar and Claremorris the girls of Castlebar decided last September that they wanted more and so the first senior ladies rugby team at Castlebar RFC was born. This team started out completely from scratch only 5 months ago and have gone from strength to strength in that short period.

Their first game saw them take on a determined and experienced Carrick-on-Shannon side after only 3 nights training and they certainly gave the Leitrim Ladies a lot to think about after getting two tries across the line and only losing the game on a score line of 28-12; an amazing result on their first day out. The girls went on to play NUIG just a week later and Carrick-on-Shannon a further 3 times and while they had yet to see a win, huge progress had been made in all areas of the game. This definitely came down to good training sessions, match experience and help and advice from the Carrick girls!

The girls have also got stuck in and have done a lot of fundraising for Castlebar RFC and organised a very successful Christmas party on December 8th last. This helped raise funds for the club.

Castlebar Ladies350Next in the diary of the Castlebar Ladies is the Ulster Provincial Cup. This is a competition for developing teams and as the league was already underway in Connacht, the girls have made the commitment to take part in the Ulster one. In this group are Newry RFC, Co. Down and Malone RFC of Belfast. Sunday the 20th of January saw the girls make the long journey to Newry Co. Down for the first round of the cup. What was their first competitive match could so easily have been their first win, but sadly on the day it just wasn’t to be for the Mayo girls. Castlebar completely dominated the first half and played the game on their own terms with team captain Linda McManamon opening the score with a fantastic try after ten minutes. With the ball hitting the cross bar on the conversion kick the try was not converted but front row player Audrey McNicholas kept her head up and when the team were awarded a penalty 10 minutes later she made no mistake. The ladies of Castlebar were 8-0 up. However, Newry stepped it up a gear towards the end of the first half and scored a try and conversion. The first half finished on a score line of 8-7 in favour of the Castlebar ladies. It was all to play for but a revitalised Newry side bombarded the Castlebar defence for the second half. The Mayo girls defended ferociously on their own line for 15 minutes and sheer determination prevented them from giving up. A switch in play from the Northern ladies saw a try go across the line with just 5 minutes to go and converted by the strong and accurate boot of the Newry fly-half. Heart break for the Castlebar ladies as all 15 girls fought bravely to the bitter end but eventually losing out on a score line of 14-8. A great display of courage, bravery and hard work from the Castlebar girls was seen on the day where they were forced to play in freezing conditions and a snow shower for the first ten minutes.

Heads were held high after the Newry game when the girls took on Donegal Town in a challenge match just 6 days later at home in Castlebar. Again the weather was not on their side where the girls played in freezing conditions and heavy downpours. Undeterred however, Castlebar came away with a comfortable victory over Donegal. The game started on a high for the Castlebar girls when 5 minutes into the game the Donegal girls were furiously defending their own line when German exchange student Anika Horst saw opportunity in a scuffle on the line and touched down to score her first try for the club. Converting this try was next to impossible for kicker Audrey McNicholas with cross winds winning the battle in the sky. Next try for the Castlebar girls came 15 minutes into the game when sheer determination from Ballindine native Yvon McNabb and her ‘never give up’ attitude saw her push through the Donegal defence along with the rest of her forwards and touch down for the 2nd try of the game leaving the girls 10-0 up. The girls were elated when a quick and accurate pass to Noelle Kilduff saw the winger make a run up the right wing for the 3rd try of the game. Just as the girls thought they were on a winning streak the Northern girls came back strong and Castlebar were forced to defend their own half for ten long minutes. Donegal attacked ferociously and were unlucky not to come away with two tries but Castlebar’s defence proved strong and experience from the previous weekend paid off where they were able to see off the advances of the Donegal girls. This came from the help of quick thinking flanker Caroline Staunton making a huge tackle five yards from the Castlebar line and a ball cleverly robbed by Fiona Nic Ruairí resulted in a 4th try for the team from Audrey McNicholas.

The second half started with a heavy shower making play very difficult for both teams and not satisfied with being 20 points up, left winger Nicola Hall decided it was time to get another score on the sheet. Bursting past the Donegal defence the number 11 made a run from the half way line towards the try line and with enough time to spare to touch the ball down between the posts; a move which proved very helpful for conversion by Audrey McNicholas. With five minutes of the game remaining were the girls happy with a 27 point lead over the Northeners? A simple no! A ball robbed from Donegal by Castlebar winger Nicola Hall resulted in her seeing off two separate tackles from Donegal and making her way towards the try line for a second time, again with time to spare and touching the ball down under the posts. A try which was converted by McNicholas. Donegal, however, never gave up and a few handling errors and poor weather conditions left them yearning for the scores that just never materialised. No doubt the two teams will meet again and the Donegal girls will be a team to be reckoned with in the future. Full time score Castlebar 34 Donegal 0.       

The future is bright for the ladies at Castlebar RFC as they continue on their rugby journey. The team is sponsored by Ger Whyte of The Castle Inn, Castlebar, Murrays Ambulance Service, Cuffe Car Sales (Belcarra) and Divas & Stud’s Hair Stylist and Makeup Artist, Claremorris.

The girls are trained by experienced players and coaches Christy Cusack and Nigel Byrne who have given freely of their time to coach the girls. They train every Monday and Wednesday evening at 7pm at Castlebar Rugby Club and are always looking for and welcoming new members. If you feel you’d like to join the team or even just ‘give it a go’ for one evening, feel free to come to the club where full training is provided, no experience necessary! The girls also have their own Facebook page (Castlebar Ladies Rugby Team) where pictures and match and training information can be found.    

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