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.”

Connacht Rugby partners, Clubforce, are hosting a Webinar on Wednesday 10th June on the topic of ‘Fundraising in a Virtual World’, something that has become very relevant over the last few months.
 
Clubforce would like to share their wealth of experience and support in this area with all Connacht Clubs. We encourage a member of your club to attend online to gain some invaluable knowledge for future fundraising.
 
Clubforce: Fundraising in a Virtual World Webinar
Date: Wednesday 10th June
Time: 7 PM
Registration link: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/7314591670880317196
 
“While some clubs have frozen their fundraising activity and are waiting for “things to return to normal”, more and more clubs are recognising that we will have to adjust to a new normal and are accelerating their online fundraising efforts in anticipation of a return to sports participation in the near future. The old reliable ways of fundraising through in-person, cash-based fundraisers have become a thing of the past”.
 
“Clubforce offers clubs the flexibility to handle virtually any fundraising effort with ease online. We provide a range of alternative ways of generating revenue for your club from members and supporters at home and abroad. All fundraising activity is made easier with the Clubforce app, designed to make it easier to raise funds and manage member data from one complete club management system”.
 
In this webinar, Clubforce will look at
– Examples of current Club fundraisers on our system
– Communicating with your members with new fundraisers
– How to utilise the Clubforce App to promote sales

Connacht Rugby is pleased to announce a new three-year sponsorship with Galway-based sports technology services company Clubforce, funding the development of a player pathway initiative aimed at getting young girls involved in rugby from a young age and improving retention rates as they progress to adulthood.
 
The Clubforce Emerging Talent Programme will see Connacht Rugby work with schools and clubs in the province to foster participation among female participants and to grow the women’s game in the West.
 
As a result of this new partnership, Clubforce will work with Connacht Rugby to promote female participation at grassroots level through the 26 rugby clubs, and contribute to player coaching from minis through to senior women’s teams.
 
Clubforce will also provide clubs with the systems to maximise participation, and train them to report on member retention and pre-empt common drop-off rates.
 
This co-operation between Connacht Rugby and Clubforce will ultimately aim to bring the growing female rugby participation at all levels closer to their male counterparts.
 

At the launch, Connacht & Ireland out-half Nicole Fowley said the Clubforce Emerging Talent Programme is a welcome development providing new opportunities for girls interested in rugby west of the Shannon.
 
“The growth of women’s rugby in the last number of years in Ireland is testament to initiatives like this. As a young girl rugby was never really an option but nowadays thanks to partnerships like these, girls are getting a chance to start rugby much younger and have a clear pathway to follow which can lead them all the way to the top. It’s exciting and I’m looking forward to seeing the future stars growing from grassroots to green shirts.”
 
Speaking about the programme, Joe Gorham, Head of Domestic Rugby at Connacht Rugby said:
 
“Women’s Rugby is a key cornerstone of what we in Connacht Rugby are all about, and it is absolutely vital for us that we continue to build on our growing female participation numbers for many years to come. This three-year partnership with Clubforce will provide us with the tools to do exactly that. We are delighted to have them on board and it’s particularly pleasing to see another West of Ireland brand succeeding in the sports industry.”
 
This strategic partnership with Connacht Rugby reinforces Clubforce’s commitment to assisting grassroots sports in Ireland and strengthens the company’s reputation as international expansion comes into focus.
 
“We are delighted to secure this new partnership with Connacht Rugby which will help the development of the women’s game in the province while building awareness of our brand internationally. At Clubforce we are committed to making the life of sports club volunteers easier and this deal will give them more tools to identify and address the current gaps that exists in female participation in rugby across the province. We believe the association with Connacht Rugby will benefit us greatly as we look to expand in the UK in the coming years,” added Paul Madden, CMO, Clubforce.
 
About Clubforce
(Net Beo Teoranta trading as) Clubforce is the leading club management system provider on the island of Ireland. The company was founded in Galway in 2009 as locallotto.ie and since then has served over 2000 sports clubs across the length and breadth of Ireland through online fundraising and data management systems.
Clubs use Clubforce to process membership fees, sell and distribute barcoded tickets, communicate with members, conduct fundraising and report on the club’s financial performance – saving significant volunteering time in the process. GAA and soccer clubs can also sync data to their respective National Governing Body (NGB) systems quickly and securely, further reducing paperwork for club officers.
 
Contact:
Paul Madden
CMO
Clubforce
[email protected]
087-6639282
 

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