Women’s Rugby in Connacht is thriving like never before, and now Connacht Rugby is shining a light on all the great work that has been done in the past and is continuing to take place around the province to promote the female rugby stars of the future.
Every week you’ll get to read a bit about every club in Connacht that offers a Girls Rugby programme. You can find out about what they’ve done in the past, how many teams they have, what times they train and who are the people that bring Girls Rugby to life in the club.
This week we have Creggs RFC, with text and pics with thanks to Padraic Deane. Girls rugby renaissance kicking off in Creggs
Back in the mid-1990's Creggs Women's rugby team blazed a trail of glory. It all started following a fun charity mixed rugby event in January 1993 and quickly went on to become a powerful force in national competitions for several years. By the mid 90’s, their hugely successful squad won several national competitions including the Blackrock Rugby Festival in 1993, All-Ireland League Champions in 1994 and All-Ireland Cup Winners in 1995.
Five Creggs players were capped by Ireland in 1994. They were: Fiona Devaney, Mary Grehan, Jacinta Hanley (Gibbons), Paula Keane, and Claire Wall. Indeed, there were many other great players in that era that wore the Creggs jersey, a number of which should possibly have also won caps at that time. All are great role models for young players of today.
When that truly great era passed, Women's rugby went in to decline in Creggs and accept for a period from about a decade ago for a few years when under the tutelage of Larry Mannion and his management team, the Creggs underage girls teams started to once compete successfully in Connacht. In the 2015, Creggs RFC – Ballina RFC Combined Ladies Team won the 2014/'15 Connacht Under-18 Cup. Creggs players on that team were: Althya White (Captain), Olivia Hussey, Shauna Lavin, Ciara Corcoran, Aishling Edwards and Karina Rodregas.
Now, after a short void, there's good vibes coming from the village club that Creggs is sowing the seeds to once again be a force in Girls and Women's rugby in a few years time.
While the club's mini structure facilitates girls up to Under-12, Creggs RFC is now putting a new girls underage structure in place. Part of Creggs development plan 2018/19 was to increase inclusivity and the goal set was to field at Under-14 girls team in both the Connacht League and Cup.
As a good starting point, it was decided that having an Under-14 team was quite possible following on from the success of the Aviva Mini blitz last year when Creggs were selected to take part in this major event in the Aviva Stadium. Creggs brought 17 Under-12 Girls to Dublin and they thoroughly enjoyed the day out. This was to be the foundation needed to start the process of trying to field at Under-14 level.
Next on the agenda was getting a quality and committed coaching team in place. A huge thanks to Micheal Glennon and Dave Purcell who committed themselves to this task and to Siobhan Purcell who is doing a fantastic job as the Under-14 and Under-16 team manager!
Micheal Glennon as CRDO with Connacht Rugby was tasked with the project of going to Secondary schools in the area to promote the game to girls, and this has already proved a huge success.
As training began it became evident with the numbers turning up, that we would have no problem fielding at Under-14’s and also a number of players were now turning up at older ages to take up the sport.
Consequently, a decision was made to get an Under-16 team together by Connacht Cup time and the coaching team were joined by former Creggs ladies player Geraldine O'Brien to help at this level.
While many of our girls play other sports, we also have a few that play rugby only. While an increasing number of girls tend to stop playing sport at the start of secondary school, it is great to see so many girls taking up rugby in Creggs and enjoying the game.
Currently at training we have 21 Under-14 players and 15 at Under-16 and also 5 committed Under-17 players who continue to train although Creggs do not have a large enough squad yet to field at this age group.
With the taste of success at club level, most of the Creggs girls are now playing schools rugby and the Convent of Mercy in Roscommon recently fielded in both the Junior and Senior League competition. The girls train together and training is every Monday night at 7.30pm. They have been very dedicated, even turning up recently in blizzard type conditions. They love playing on the new 4G artificial pitch.
While the aim is to introduce the girls to rugby and to teach them the basics of the game, it is also about making new friends and developing skills such as teamwork in a fun environment. There is certainly a lot of shrieks and laughter to be heard around Creggs on a Monday evening.
Creggs Under-14’s entered the league and played games against Claremorris, Ballina, Sligo and Galwegians and recently won their first round of the Cup competition defeating Galwegians, followed by a Semi-Final win over Ballina in Creggs.
Creggs Under-16’s fielded against a strong Ballina RFC side in the first round of the Connacht Under-16 Cup and put in a great performance going down 36-17. They have subsequently won their first round Connacht Under-16 Plate v Galwegians RFC with a scoreline of 17-10 on the new 4G pitch in Creggs.
Creggs Under-14 girls have been selected to play at half time in the upcoming Ireland V France women’s International at Energia Park Donnybrook on March 9th and that promises to be another enjoyable day out for the girls.
Finally, Creggs has recently included new dressing rooms for girls and women only, complete with cubicle shower-rooms in their updated 2020- '21 development plan. Girls rugby is getting the full backing of the Creggs RFC with resources, coaching teams and developing the game in schools.