By John O’Sullivan 

 

Connacht Rugby will host a strength and conditioning webinar for girls playing under 14, under 16 level rugby as well as under 18 and senior female Rugby players on Wednesday, December 9th at 7 PM.

 

Presented by Ann Caffrey, an athletic development coach with experience with elite and underage sports teams in Rugby and GAA, the webinar will firstly look to introduce young female Rugby players — and their parents — to exercise techniques that will prepare them for playing at a higher age grade. 

 

With the objectives of increasing understanding of exercises and their benefits, lowering the risk of injuries, and sharpening functional movements, attendees of the webinars will be better prepared for the introduction of competitive set pieces to under 16’s rugby — line outs and scrums — when the 2020/2021 season gets underway.

 

The under 14 and under 16’s specific part of the webinar will take place between and 7 and 7:45 PM, while the under 18 and senior — which will focus on developing mobility, strength, and speed of players with aspirations of playing adult Rugby — section of the informational evening will take place between 8 PM and 8:45 PM.

 

Emer O’Dowd, Connacht Rugby’s Women’s Rugby Development Officer for North Connacht, says that the strength and conditioning(S&C) webinars will provide a stepping stone for younger players into the increased physicality of higher age grade Rugby, with contested scrums and lineouts starting at under 16’s level.

 

“It’s exciting because we have never done it down to U14’s before, this will be the first time we have done it,” O’Dowd said of the series of webinars. 

 

“It’s a stepping stone into training age and it will be all bodyweight and form and technique. There will be fundamental movement and technique training, so they can do the exercise properly. It will also aid in improving their movement, so they can get into that tackle technique and also help them in the scrums. It will make them stronger and, overall, that will help with injury prevention as well.”

 

The S&C webinars are the latest in a series of free educational talks and seminars provided for free by Connacht Rugby. Gavin Rackard, the professional team’s lead performance nutritionist, recently presented an online seminar to underage Rugby players and their parents on the importance of nutrition. There are also free online resources for club coaches to upskill, in the form of animations of training drills that are narrated by qualified coaches at Connacht. 

 

O’Dowd believes it is important, especially during a pandemic, that Connacht Rugby engage with their community by providing online information sessions for players, coaches, and parents to increase their knowledge on a wide variety of rugby-related topics.

 

“It’s great, in addition to everything else we are running,” she said. 

 

“It is really important(the programme). The earlier we get it started, the better. During covid, it gives us opportunities like this. Plus, with the introduction of scrums and lineouts, at under 16 level, it will help them. It will help them to strengthen their bodies to be able to lift in the line out.” 

 

To register for the webinars, please fill out the following form:

 

https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=apLJY8e08023pkvfMZvnHtYsZS3Ah5FKtpKyY5q40UNUQjFCN0JTU1kxUFlJSlhFUVIyOENETkNHQS4u

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.”

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