Over recent years woman’s rugby union has been developing at an exceedingly fast pace. The sport is identical to the men’s game with the same rules, same pitch size and same equipment. The early history of woman’s rugby union is somewhat hidden as it was initially meet with fierce opposition.
Since, rugby union turned professional the sport has grown for Ireland Woman’s rugby union it peaked in the spring of 2013, when the Ladies won the Grand slam.
On a more grass roots level there has been a huge development in girls tag rugby;with girls of all ages playing in a blitz and league format. Quite a large number of clubs are involved in the recent leagues including Ardee, Barnhall, Blackrock, Boyne, Dundalk ,Navan,Ratoath, Suttonians and Virgina.
The ages vary from U10’s to U 15’2.The sport is an excellent way for young girls to improve their speedball skills, fitness and stamina as well as learn team work. On February 14 Dundalk RFC’s U 15 girls tag team had the privilege of playing at the half time in the RDS during their Rabo Pro 12 match against the dragons. I met up with some of the team and their coaches to have a chat about their season and this fantastic experience.
The squad travelled together by bus to the RDS so from the moment they left the town the girls were in great form. According to the girls some of whom had previously played in the RDS, it was a very exciting experience. They played sides from Navan and Boyne, the squad of fourteen who travelled to Dublin for the match got the luxury of sitting in North stand during the game, and to meet some Leinster players post-match. The game itself consisted for two seven minutes matches. By all accounts it was an exhibition of Tag rugby with Deborah Malone getting a rip roaring cheer from the crowd when she scored a try. “I couldn’t hear a thing. Everyone said the crowd were cheering. After the opposition scored, I was just wanted to get back up the pitch” stated speedster Deborah.
When asked what maintains their interest in the sport Niamh Craven stated; “I’ve been playing tag since I was seven, its great fun keeps you fit and you make great friends. Our current squad has been together for years and the sense of team work is very important. I play for the team itself.”
I also spoke to Maria Cartwright and Susan Flynn two tag rugby coaches to learn more about what is actually involved in girls tag rugby. “The sport is a non contact game it is very simple with no line outs or scrums. The side get six tags attached to a belt; you must score a try before losing your tags. A high level of fitness and stamina is required as it’s a running game. The training improves agility in ball handling. What is most important is the team work and friendships that involve through the training.” stated mini’s coach Susan Flynn. Girls tag rugby in Dundalk is for a variety of ages from U10 to U15. Maria and Susan stated that the girls are very enthusiastic and highly competitive despite tag rugby being a non competitive league.
I asked the ladies just how they got involved, “I have a daughter Clodagh who has played Tag rugby for years. I would often do my bit at training and when club Stalwart Sabrina Maguire who coached the girls tag decided to step down. I got to step up along with other rugby loving woman such as Maria Cartwright, Sharon Toale and Linda Valentine “ stated Susan. All coaches have their mini-coaching qualifications which they acquired through the club and Leinster Rugby. They also have the additional expertise of former of a town’s cup winning player Chris Scully.
Over the course of the season the U 15’s squad have started some light training for full contact rugby. Sadbh stated “That sometimes your brothers or boys will slang you saying that it’s not real rugby. So it really nice to play full contact and be able to say you did it”
However, at present the girls would like to have the option of full contact but do feel from watching the woman’s six nations that they are just too tough. Maria stated “that at present we are trying to extend the age gap on girls U 15 tag rugby so that they can play continue to play onwards in the 2014-2015 season. We are also looking into the reality of a girls full contact team just sourcing coaches and the league structure at the minute.”
Several clubs within Leinster already play in a competitive league structure for full contact woman’s rugby. Leinster rugby is delighted to just have girls playing either tag rugby or full contact just as long as they are playing rugby.
As for our U15’s, they fully support both the men and woman of Irish rugby with Niamh Briggs held in high regard for her work ethic while Louth’s golden boys Robert and Dave Kearney are clear Leinster favourites.
Interview for “The Rugby Show, Dundalk Fm 100”. Maria Cartwright, Susan Flynn, Girls Tag: Meadhbh O’Callaghan, Sadbh McDonnell, Deborah Malone and Niamh Craven