This weekend, Loughrea RFC fielded the first U18s Girls' team in the club's history. They played Westport RFC in a friendly this past Saturday, 7th October in Loughrea RFC.
In what was a major milestone for the club, Loughrea RFC hosted Westport RFC Saturday, 7th October for an U18s friendly to mark the first ever match played by the home side. This match came from years of work by coaches, parents, players, CRDOs, staff, and others who put time and effort in to develop the Girls' game in the club.
Following the Give It A Try programme in Summer of 2017, Loughrea were able to start their first U12s Girls' team the following September which saw only 4 girls at the first training session. Since then, Loughrea has hosted Give It A Try every Summer.
In what is a story of great success for the club, this season Loughrea will have nearly 100 girls registered across all age groups. Loughrea has 40 or so girls at Minis level and 55 girls playing at U14, U16 and for the first time ever this season, at U18.
Loughrea RFC Honorary Secretary Eoghan Young says about the success, "the growth in the past few seasons has been driven by the massive buy-in from the girls' parents across the board, bringing the girls to training each week, attending matches, hosting visiting teams and everything in between. This support can be seen this season with the numbers of coaches, managers and physios we have across all groups numbering nearly 20, the vast majority drawn from the Mums and Dads".
A positive initiative by the club is having the U18s and U16s girls help coach the minis every Saturday which has created a strong connection between the groups (and a ready-made supporter's club for each other's matches).
"Ultimately, what has allowed us to create and sustain this momentum for girl's rugby in Loughrea to date and hopefully into the future has been a core focus on just having fun. The girls get to train and compete on their terms, which is to turn up, no matter the weather, and hang out and have fun with friends old and new," says Eoghan Young. "Yes, they would like to win, but more importantly, they want to enjoy themselves with their friends whilst playing. We travel to International and Provincial games a couple of times a season, have parties at the drop of a hat (Halloween, Christmas, Pizza, end of Season, etc.) and will have our first trip away this season for the Under 18s which will become an annual tradition. In a congested space for the girl's time and mindshare with school, other sports and hobbies, it's having fun that counts and keeps the participation growing, year after year."
What girl's rugby has brought to Loughrea RFC cannot be understated either. From a number's perspective, girl's rugby has contributed towards a rise of over 25% of the club's total membership this year, including parents and siblings in family member packages. More importantly though is the diversity and inclusivity that has been embraced by all club members. Both the Mini and Youth Girls are seen and managed under the same structures as the boys from committee level right down to booking pitch times for matches. Dedicated girl's dressing rooms and facilities have been provided.
"Another key element of the growth of the girl's rugby has been the support of Connacht Rugby and in particular, the superb work, support and advice of Wendy Hickey and our CDRO, Ailsa Hughes," says Eoghan Young. "Whether it is helping organise bitzes, matches, coming to the club to take training sessions or advising on how to drive things forward, Wendy, Ailsa and the broader team have been a massive part of our successful growth. As a club, we feel so proud of all the girls who have played and continue to enjoy playing rugby in Loughrea and are really excited about what the future holds for both the girls and club. We'd love to have a senior women's team in the very near future so that the girls playing now will have a pathway to stay playing the game they have grown to love with the friends they have made today."