Sunday, May 13 will be a landmark day for Girls rugby in Ireland as the first ever Girls interprovincial match at Under-18 level takes place between Munster and Ulster at Malahide RFC in Dublin (kick-off 2.30pm).
Both the Munster and Ulster Girls Under-18 squads have been training hard for this encounter, which will showcase the newest and youngest level of Women’s rugby in Ireland.
The development of Girls rugby has improved dramatically in both provinces this season and it is fitting that teams from Munster and Ulster will compete to make history this weekend.
Every girl wants to wear her province’s colours and 22 players from each will gain that honour, after trials and training for their province. Following an excellent programme of recent activity, it is hoped that Leinster will enter the fray next season and moves are afoot to further develop Girls rugby in Connacht for the 2007/08 campaign.
New Munster clubs are expected to come online with age-grade girls teams next season so competition should be hot and heavy in the south.
Meanwhile, in the lead-up to Sunday’s game, Munster U-18 Girls captain Louise Egan paid a visit to the Dublin studios of Newstalk 106-108FM to meet noted presenter, rugby pundit and former Ireland Women’s coach George Hook.
Louise, who plays for the Clanwilliam club in Tipperary, was on a crusade to gather some publicity for girls’ involvement in rugby. Her more immediate aim was to get publicity for the first ever Under-18 Girls interprovincial match between Munster and Ulster.
She found a ready enthusiast and interested listener in George Hook. Listening might not be a function that most of us would normally associate with Hook, but he was captivated by Louise’s story of the development of age-grade rugby for girls in Munster.
Hook thinks that females should play rugby. Not only does he think that, he believes that females are better able to be coached on more technical aspects of the game than males, who bring some baggage, mainly from involvement in other sports, to the rugby coaching environment.
Some might say that Hook is simply providing some platitudes here, to engage with the female audience. However, this is a man who has “walked the walk” of promoting female involvement in rugby. There is no more practical support for that objective than forsaking late evenings and early mornings in the coaching of teams.
Hook has spent many years coaching female teams at schools, colleges, club and international levels. Indeed, the Ireland Women’s team that took part in the first ever Women’s Rugby World Cup was coached by a certain G Hook.
From the first time Hook coached a female team at Stanford University in California, in 1987, he said he was “deeply impressed by their ability to understand the more difficult concepts of the game.”
Hook, who has agreed to take the Munster girls for a training session next season, insisted: “My commitment to Women’s rugby is total, the reason being that they have every right to play the game they love with all the same love, passion and affection that I have for the game. Roll on Women’s rugby!”
Ultan O’Callaghan, the IRFU’s Domestic Games Manager for Munster, is vocal in his support for the province’s newest team. He said: “We like to say that the Munster Under-18 Girls team is the new sister in the Munster rugby family. Our new sister team is as valuable to us as any other team in Munster rugby”.
Make sure you get down to Malahide RFC’s Estuary Road grounds on Sunday to support Irish rugby’s newest provincial teams. Kick-off is at 2.30pm.
MUNSTER U-18 Girls Squad (v Ulster U-18, May 13): Lisa Anglim, Anna Caplice, Niamh Coman, Lorraine Culbert, Danni Delahunty, Louise Egan (capt), Louise Fitzgerald, Mary Rose Flanagan, Mary Kate Glynn, Ashling Hutchings, Sarah Keane, Sandra Keane, Rachel Kelly, Kristina Kenneally, Tracy Lawlor, Shona Lynch, Rosie Lynch, Clare Merrigan, Molly O’Donnell, Danielle Ryan, Eileen Shanahan, Rachel Wallace.