Every weekend, thousands of children, volunteers, coordinators, and parents take to rugby pitches across the province for mini rugby.
The idea behind minis is to introduce children to rugby, while sharing everything that is good about the game. In short, mini rugby is all about fun, participation, and inclusion.
A club where those elements are plain to see is Castlebar RFC.
The club, which is based in Cloondeash on the outskirts of Castlebar, welcomes children (along with their parents and volunteers) for an hour and a quarter of rugby fun every Saturday morning.
Over the past five years, the number of players registered from under 7 to under 12 with the club has grown from 85 to 180, with 40 girls included in that number.
Castlebar's mini rugby coordinator, Declan Bourke, discussed what children learn outside of the game when talking about the weekly training and games.
He said: “There were two lads on the u16 Connacht Development Squad, as well as two on the u17 squad, and all four came from the u8 minis.
“It's great to see those players coming through, however, the main thing we are trying to communicate is that mini rugby is for everyone. We try to get across the spirit of teamwork, fun, respect, and inclusivity to all the children who join and play rugby with us."
Declan was also keen to pay homage to the team who have helped Castlebar RFC’s mini rugby go from strength to strength over the past five years.
He added: “There is a group of about 20 volunteers who make mini rugby possible in Castlebar. A special mention should also go to Mairead Bradley who looks after the girl’s section and has put in trojan work last few years to grow it.”
Castlebar RFC minis takes place every Saturday at 10.30am in Castlebar Rugby Club, Cloondeash, Castlebar.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be focusing on other clubs around the province as part of our mini rugby series.