By John O’Sullivan 

 

Connacht’s Beibhinn Parson’s has been named the Guinness Irish Rugby Writers Women’s Player of The Year for the 2019/2020 season. 

 

The Ballinasloe native starred in Ireland’s Six Nations victories over Scotland and Wales before the coronavirus pandemic forced the curtailment of the tournament. 

 

The 18-year-old’s achievement is especially impressive, given she balanced representing Connacht and Ireland with studying for the Leaving Certificate examination. 

 

Connacht women’s U18 coach Fraser Gow said Parson’s — who he coached at that level — award came as no surprise to him, given her dedication to her sport and natural athletic abilities. 

 

“It was an amazing achievement for someone so young,” the Glaswegian said. 

 

“The performances that she put in and the tries that she scored meant she was absolutely deserving of that award.

 

“You could tell immediately the talent she had, in terms of her speed and acceleration and how she can switch the gears so quickly and in terms of her evasion and awareness of exploiting space. 

 

“I think Beibhinn has the absolute spot-on attitude. She wants to improve and she wants to get better every day. This recognition that she has got is another step forward for her, but she has the motivation and drive and she wants to do more. She wants to be part of a winning Ireland squad and to help that squad and help Ireland get to the World Cup. 

 

“She knows herself that you have to put the hard work in and be dedicated to your craft. If you’re not — even if you have the talent — you won’t go on to achieve these things and get the recognition.”

 

Meanwhile, Wendy Hickey — women’s rugby development officer at Connacht Rugby — praised the role played by Ballinasloe RFC in the Irish international’s development, highlighting the importance of the club game in the province. 

 

“The coaches in Ballinasloe RFC deserve recognition for helping her get to where she is now,” Hickey said. 

 

“Every coach from mini to youth rugby had their part to play in her achievement. It all starts with club rugby.”

 

By John O’Sullivan 

 

There has been a significant growth in the number of schools playing girls Rugby in Connacht over the course of the last two years. 

 

In the 2019/20 school year, 21 girls schools teams from across the province played competitively, an increase of nine from 12 the previous year. From these teams, who competed in ten a side games, there were over 200 players, almost double the amount of participants from 2018/2019.

 

In total, 12 schools -- across both junior and senior age grades -- played girls schools Rugby in the last school year, which represents a growth of three schools from the preceding year. There were no girls schools teams in 2018, highlighting the rapid growth of the sport in a short space of time.

 

Emer O’Dowd, Connacht Rugby Women's Development Officer for North Connacht, has hailed the huge increase of participation in girls schools Rugby, and said that the aim is to eventually establish a 15 a side league and cup competition. 

 

“The school's game has grown massively and it’s brilliant,” the Mayo native said.

 

“In another couple of years,  we will hopefully have a full-on 15 a side schools league and cup competition. We have one now,  but it’s 10 a side. Numbers are growing and more and more schools are getting involved. It’s great and it’s grown massively this year.”

 

As head coach of the Club Force Emerging Talent Programme, a stepping stone between underage Rugby and adult competition for 18 to 24-year-olds, O’Dowd has been impressed by the levels of talent in the province.

 

She says that the success of the likes of Beibhinn Parsons and Nicole Fowley -- two players who came through the system from clubs in Connacht and played for Ireland -- has proved to young players that there is a pathway to the highest levels of Rugby west of the Shannon. The aim of the programme is to build the confidence and increase the skill levels of young players before they transition to adult level.

 

“There’s a lot of Beibhinn’s coming through, we can see it all over the province and it’s exciting”, the former Galwegians player,  who has worked with Connacht in various capacities since 2008, said.

 

“We formed the team last year and we had about 30 girls training, from 18 to 24-year-olds. We wanted to bring them in and give them some upskilling and training. We had the likes of Mary Healy, the former Ireland international, and Andy Friend and Pete Wilkins coming down to do sessions. We had professional coaches coming in to do sessions on specific areas. We had Craig Hansbury coming in to do work with the forwards and scrummaging, we had Ross Mannion coming in and then Lyndon Jones and myself and Mary(Healy) working on specific things.”

 

Clubforce, a Galway based sports participation management system used by clubs, leagues and governing bodies to fund and drive greater participation in sport, coming on board as sponsors of the Emerging Talent Programme has allowed the team to grow and put plans in place for the future.

 

Pre Covid, the Emerging Talent team -- who have played against their Munster equivalents and touring American College teams since their establishment a year ago --  were due to tour London and play London Irish -- a trip made possible by the sponsorship -- but the pandemic unfortunately caused its postponement. 

 

“They said they’d back us, which gave us a huge opportunity to put this team together and put the money and funding into it,” O’Dowd says of Clubforce’s sponsorship.

 

“It would have culminated into a tour over to London Irish last April, but it didn’t happen. But it will happen, once we get the green flag to start training again and start flying again then we’re going to go. It has been paused and not cancelled. It’s great to have Clubforce there to put the funding into us and have that money ring-fenced for us, it gives us great opportunities.”

A squad of 26 players has been named by Ireland Women’s head coach Adam Griggs ahead of their training camp in Scotland this weekend.
 
The Ireland Women are traveling to Edinburgh for a weekend training camp which will culminate with a training game against their Scottish counterparts on Sunday afternoon.
 
Speaking ahead of the trip, Griggs said:
 
We’re really looking forward to this weekend’s camp and the next few weeks ahead leading into our Test match against Wales. Each player included in the squad has been selected on their form through the Interprovincial Championship and the English Premiership.
 
“As well as having a larger squad to travel and play, this will give the coaching group a chance to look at different combinations and give the players a great opportunity to test themselves at an international level and see how they handle the step up in pace and intensity.
 
“We also have two new coaches on board this year, who have added real quality to the work Jeff Carter and Mike Ross have started with this group.
 
“Steven McGuinness, who works full-time with IQ Rugby, is our new forwards coach, and Kieran Hallett, who is with Leinster as an EPDO, has come in as our defence coach. It’s great to see the professionalism of the new coaches and the value they have brought to the players.”

 
This is the first of two away training camps and training matches the national side will undertake, with the squad traveling to France next week, ahead of their clash with Wales at the UCD Bowl on Sunday, November 10 (kick-off 1pm).
 
IRELAND WOMEN’S Squad (Training Camp, Edinburgh, Scotland, October 26-27, 2019):
Judy Bobbett (Blackrock/Leinster) *
Enya Breen (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Anna Caplice (Harlequins/IQ Rugby)
Michelle Claffey (Blackrock/Leinster)
Eimear Considine (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Victoria Dabanovich-O’Mahony (Old Belvedere/Leinster) *
Kathryn Dane (Old Belvedere/Ulster)
Lauren Delany (Firwood Waterloo Ladies/IQ Rugby)
Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
Laura Feely (Galweigians/Connacht)
Nichola Fryday (Old Belvedere/Connacht)
Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemians/Munster) (capt)
Mary Healy (Lindenwood University/IQ Rugby) *
Edel McMahon (Wasps/Connacht)
Grace Miller (Old Belvedere/Leinster) *
Cliodhna Moloney (Wasps/IQ Rugby)
Larissa Muldoon (Railway Union/Leinster)
Ellen Murphy (Gloucester/IQ Rugby)
Hannah O’Connor (Blackrock/Leinster) *
Katie O’Dwyer (Railway Union/Leinster) *
Beibhinn Parsons (Ballinasloe/Connacht)
Laura Sheehan (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Juliet Short (Railway Union/Leinster)
Shannon Touhey (Tullamore/Connacht) *
Dorothy Wall (Fethard & District/Munster) *

* Denotes uncapped player at this level

IRELAND WOMEN’S SCHEDULE – KEY DATES:

October 26-27: Training Camp & Game, Scotland

November 2-3: Training Camp & Game, France

Sunday, November 10: Ireland Women v Wales Women, UCD Bowl, 1pm – click here to buy tickets

2020 Women’s Six Nations Championship:

Sunday, February 2: Ireland Women v Scotland Women, Energia Park, 1pm

Sunday, February 9: Ireland Women v Wales Women, Energia Park, 1pm

Sunday, February 23: England Women v Ireland Women, Castle Park, Doncaster, 12.45pm

Sunday, March 8: Ireland Women v Italy Women, Energia Park, 1pm

Sunday, March 15: France Women v Ireland Women, Le Stadium Villeneuve d’Acsq, Lille, 4.35pm local time/3.35pm Irish time

Ireland Women’s head coach Adam Griggs has named a squad of 37 ahead of their busy November schedule, which will see them travel to Scotland and France for training and practice games ahead of a November 10 Test against Wales at the UCD Bowl.
 
There are 10 uncapped players who have been included after an impressive IRFU Women’s Interprovincial Championship which saw Leinster overcome Connacht in a hard-fought final at Energia Park last Saturday evening.
 
Leinster’s Judy Bobbett, Victoria Dabanovich-O’Mahony, Grace Miller, Niamh Ni Dhroma and Katie O’Dwyer have all earned Ireland selection. They are joined by Shannon Touhey from Connacht and Munster’s Dorothy Wall who also make their first appearances in a national squad.
 
Mary Healy, a former Leinster Under-18 player who is currently studying at Lindenwood University in Missouri, USA, was invited to national training camps throughout the summer while home and, as part of the IQ Rugby programme, has been tracked and identified to come back into the IRFU national set-up.
 
Speaking about the squad announcement, Griggs said:
 
We are really excited to announce our squad for the season ahead. The Interpros have identified some brilliant talent, and with the extended games and finals series, players had the opportunity to show their skill and grow throughout the competition.
 
“It has been a very tough selection process and we have picked players purely on form. We are confident we have a really strong group to take us through this autumn. Shannon Touhey from Connacht had an outstanding series, helping them to the final, and she now gets the opportunity to come into the national squad to develop her all round game.
 
“Leinster’s Hannah O’Connor, who has been part of the national set-up now for over a year, also stood out for her performances during the Interpros and will be striving to earn her first cap for country.
 
“There’s a good mix of youth and experience throughout the squad which will drive our standards and make sure there is high quality
competition for places as we head towards the Six Nations and the 2021 Rugby World Cup qualifiers next summer.”
 
The Ireland Women have a busy few weeks ahead, preparing for the November 10 clash with Wales at the UCD Bowl (kick-off 1pm). They have two away training camps, which will include training games against Scotland (October 26-27) and France (November 2-3).
 
IRELAND WOMEN’S Squad (2019 November Training Camps & Test v Wales):
Judy Bobbett (Blackrock/Leinster) *
Enya Breen (UL Bohemian/Munster)
Anna Caplice (Harlequins/IQ Rugby)
Michelle Claffey (Blackrock/Leinster)
Eimear Considine (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Ciara Cooney (Railway Union/Leinster)
Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Victoria Dabanovich-O’Mahony (Old Belvedere/Leinster) *
Kathryn Dane (Old Belvedere/Ulster)
Lauren Delany (Firwood-Waterloo Ladies/ IQ Rugby)
Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
Laura Feely (Galweigians/Connacht)
Nichola Fryday (Old Belvedere/Connacht)
Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemians/Munster) (capt)
Mary Healy (Lindenwood University/IQ Rugby) *
Ailsa Hughes (Railway Union/Leinster)
Claire Keohane (Railway Union/Munster) *
Leah Lyons (Harlequins/IQ Rugby)
Aoife McDermott (Railway Union/Leinster)
Claire McLaughlin (Old Belvedere/Ulster)
Edel McMahon (Wasps/Connacht)
Grace Miller (Old Belvedere/Leinster) *
Cliodhna Moloney (Wasps/IQ Rugby)
Larissa Muldoon (Railway Union/Leinster)
Ellen Murphy (Gloucester-Hartpury/IQ Rugby)
Sene Naoupu (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
Niamh Ni Dhroma (Old Belvedere/Leinster) *
Hannah O’Connor (Blackrock/Leinster) *
Katie O’Dwyer (Railway Union/Leinster) *
Anne-Marie O’Hora (Galweigians/Connacht)
Beibhinn Parsons (Ballinasloe/Connacht)
Lindsay Peat (Railway Union/Leinster)
Laura Sheehan (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Juliet Short (Railway Union/Leinster)
Shannon Touhey (Galwegians/Connacht) *
Dorothy Wall (Fethard & District/Munster) *
Megan Williams (Old Belvedere/Leinster)

* Denotes uncapped player at this level

IRELAND WOMEN’S SCHEDULE – KEY DATES:

October 26-27: Training Camp & Game, Scotland

November 2-3: Training Camp & Game, France

Sunday, November 10: Ireland Women v Wales Women, UCD Bowl, 1pm

2020 Women’s Six Nations Championship:

Sunday, February 2: Ireland Women v Scotland Women, Energia Park, 1pm

Sunday, February 9: Ireland Women v Wales Women, Energia Park, 1pm

Sunday, February 23: England Women v Ireland Women, Castle Park, Doncaster, 12.45pm

Sunday, March 8: Ireland Women v Italy Women, Energia Park, 1pm

Sunday, March 15: France Women v Ireland Women, Le Stadium Villeneuve d’Acsq, Lille, 4.35pm local time/3.35pm Irish time

The Connacht Women management team have named their squad for tomorrow’s Women’s Interprovincial Championship semi-final against Munster in St. Mary’s.
 
There’s just the one change from the side that impressively beat Ulster in Belfast two weeks, with Irish international Beibhinn Parsons coming into the side fresh off her exploits with the Ireland U18 Sevens team.
 
She’s named on the wing with Aoibheann Reilly moving to full-back, while Nichola Fryday again captains the side from number 8.
 
Kick-off in St. Mary’s is at 1.30pm.
 
Connacht Womens squad vs Munster Women
1. Laura Feely – Galwegians
2. Moya Griffin – Tullamore
3. Annmarie O’Hora – Galwegians
4. Tara Buggie – Galwegians
5. Denise Redmond – Galwegians
6. Ciara Farrell – Tullamore
7. Edel McMahon – Galwegians
8. Nichola Fryday (Capt.) – Galwegians
9. Mary Healy (V-Capt.) – Galwegians
10. Meabh Deely – Ballinasloe
11. Alison Miller – Old Belvedere
12. Shannon Touhey – Galwegians
13. Catherine Martin – Suttonians
14. Beibhinn Parsons – Ballinasloe
15. Aoibheann Reilly – Ballinasloe
16. Elizabeth McNicholas – Shannon
17. Katie Murray – Tullamore
18. Aifric O’Brien – Suttonians
19. Lily Brady – Westport
20. Shannen Lane – Galwegians
21. Nicole Fowley – Galwegians
22. Orla Dixon – Galwegians
23. Aisling Brosnan – Carlow

Beibhinn Parsons’ extraordinary achievement of earning a senior Ireland cap has been selected as the first winner of the Connacht Rugby/Portwest Ireland Rugby Moment of the Season award.
 
Parsons became the youngest player in Irish rugby history, male or female, to play senior international rugby when she came off the bench in Ireland’s November clash with USA at the age of just 16. Her Ireland appearance crowned a stunning few months for the winger/centre, after she played a major role in Connacht winning their first ever U18 Girls Interprovincial title in September.
 
Her call-up and subsequent appearance was named as one of the eight entries for the first Connacht Rugby/Portwest Ireland Rugby Moment of the Season award, and it has since been chosen by the selection committee as the inaugural winner of the accolade.
 
As a member of Ballinasloe RFC, her club will now be rewarded with €200 worth of rugby equipment with thanks to Portwest Ireland. Ballinasloe have placed a particularly strong emphasis on girls rugby in recent times, with Parsons’ call-up the accumulation of many years work by a strong cohort of volunteers at the club.
 
Parsons’ achievement will now go on as one of the three nominees for the 2018/19 Rugby Moment of the Season Award, which will be announced at the 2018/19 Connacht Rugby Awards Ball next April.
 
The second Moment of the Season award will be chosen in late January.

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