Ni Chadhain can vividly remember her first rugby match, a baptism of fire in the County Cork town of Ballincollig. She had been dragged to training at Galwegians by a college friend the previous week and decided to travel with the team as a supporter for their first AIL League game to get a sample of what the game entailed.
"I got on the bus and as we were leaving someone told me that they only had 15 players and I'd be playing. I didn't have too much time to take it all in and I started on the wing. I remember not knowing much about the rules or tactics and my first touch of the ball was an experience. I caught it and stood still and could hear the screams of 'run' from my teammates."
A major factor in Ni Chadhain's rise to prominence was the fact that she was such a keen footballer. She was fit and strong and admits that a large reason she took up the oval ball game was to keep fit in the winter months for the football in the summer. However once she started playing regularly her career took off at lightning pace.
"In October of my second season I started playing for Connacht and later that year I got an Ireland 'A' cap in their match with the English Academy. My first full cap was against Spain in the Six Nations in 2002, which turned out to be our first ever away victory in the competition."
Since then her involvement in Ireland has taken her from Canada to Toulouse in an eventful four years. Colleagues and former coaches point to her dedication and hard work as been the key factor to the unlikely rise to prominence and Ni Chadhain admits she found herself hooked on rugby from day one.
"I never really followed the sport up until getting involved but now I am completely hooked. From watching it on television or going to games, I'm always involved. Most of my friends are playing at this stage and my young sister Sorcha is now playing with Galwegians and Connacht."
Women's rugby as a sport is growing rapidly in Connacht but it is still some way off the other provinces. On the field Galwegians are one of the strongest clubs in the AIL. Off the field developments are even more encouraging with huge numbers involved at schools level and the introduction of Roisin McNulty in the new role of Womens Rugby Development Officer.
"I think we are definitely making major progress. The interest in the game is growing but we need more development clubs. At the moment Galwegians are the only major club in the province and we could do with more clubs getting involved."
Ni Chadhain is taking a year out from the game in 2007. The balance of working as a medical scientist in the University Hospital in Galway and playing international rugby has been difficult but rewarding over the past number of years and she has more then earned a break from action.
Womens Rugby in Connacht
Women's rugby is a rapidly growing sport in Leinster, Munster and Ulster and in the past few years, has become a very popular activity among girls and women of all ages.
In line with the expansion of the game in the other provinces, this year Connacht rugby appointed their first ever Womens Rugby Development Officer. Roisin McNulty took on the role in October 2006 and her primary task this year involves increasing participation numbers in the game by providing outlets for women and girls of all ages to play.
How to get Involved
Primary Schools- Following last year's very successful primary schools extravaganza, Wendy Hickey is continuing her work in developing girls tag rugby at primary schools around Galway. Girl's tag rugby is currently played in 4 primary schools in Galway city from 4th-6th class. Recently a tag blitz for 350 girls from primary schools was held at Salthill Park - click here for a report.
Secondary Schools- A secondary schools competition is being piloted this year and 2 blitzs in spring 2007 saw teams compete from all over Galway and Mayo. The rugby played at secondary schools level is leprechaun rugby. This is a fast and exciting soft contact game of touch rugby, encouraging the positive development of running, balancing and handling skills.
Colleges- Women's college Rugby is one of the most popular ways for women to get involved in the game all over Ireland. NUIG, Sligo IT & St. Angela's College, Sligo are currently competing in the Irish Colleges League. Athlone IT are also in the process of re-developing Women's rugby in the college. The rugby played at college/university level is full contact U19 rules - (no pushing in scrums) and is played at 10 or 13 a side.
Clubs - Galwegians are currently the sole representative of Connacht Womens rugby in the All Ireland League and the team competes in the top division. Watch out for information on the website!
Creggs RFC re-introduced women's rugby into the club this year and have been training since November. The club have both senior women and U18s training every week. For more information contact Rebecca Egan - firstname.lastname@example.org
Roisin McNulty, Connacht Rugby Branch, Sportsground, Galway.
Phone: (087) 6445268.
Log onto the Irish Women's Rugby Football Union website at http://www.iwrfu.com/
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