This season sees Castlebar RFC fielding an U18 Girls' side for the first time in their 50+ year history when they hosted Buccaneers RFC in the 1st round of the Connacht U18 Girls’ league.
This came to fruition after fielding the clubs first youth teams only 2 seasons ago. With the Connacht Rugby ethos of ‘Grassroots to Green Shirts’ they also saw their first female player progressing from Minis to Youths to donning the green Connacht jersey for the U16 Girls' 7s squad this summer.
From tentative beginnings with Girls-only Mini training starting in the 2017/18 season and the introduction of the Give It A Try initiative supported by the IRFU in 2018, the interest and hunger for the development of Girls teams showed. This initiative allowed girls to try out rugby in a friendly, fun, non-competitive environment and subsequently Castlebar RFC have hosted Give It A Try each summer since.
In those humble beginnings the number of female playing members totalled 5, fast forward to this season where there are over 100 playing female members ranging from u8 – u18 (50+ minis, 48 youths). This in turn has contributed to the overall increase in club memberships where whole families are now registering not just the players! Without the ongoing support from the club coaches, committee and Emer O’Dowd (WDO North Connacht) we wouldn’t be able to continue developing the teams.
Castlebar RFC Women’s Coordinator Mairead Bradley has said “Castlebar RFC girls’ rugby programme has experienced remarkable growth over the last 5 years. With small numbers initially attending mini training there are now up on 50 young enthusiastic players coming every Saturday morning and almost equal numbers attending youth’s mid-week. Witnessing the girls actively engaging their time in the club is truly heartening. Rugby not only imparts valuable rugby skills but also fosters teamwork, friendships and personal growth. The girls’ teams have become an essential and cherished part of Castlebar RFC”.
With a whole club focused on the spirit of rugby, the girls get the same level of respect, support and opportunities as the boys have done over the years with both the Boys' and Youth Girls’ teams supporting each other for home and away matches.
The future of the club will see dedicated accessible dressing room facilities, promotion of the girls to engage in coaching and refereeing courses and the introduction of Girls’ rugby into the local schools. “We are always looking for new players, no experience necessary and players can join throughout the season. You will be taught everything – from how to fall all the way to tackling safely. The beauty about rugby is that there is a position on the field for everyone regardless of height, shape, size, everyone is welcome. This side of the club operate on a no judgement approach as long as everyone is having fun and having the craic after training and matches”.