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Coach Trevor Buttimer hails double-winning Clonakilty RFC U16 girls’ team

April 15th, 2024 3:00 PM

By Kieran McCarthy

Coach Trevor Buttimer hails double-winning Clonakilty RFC U16 girls’ team Image
Clonakilty’s Erin McCarthy in action in the Munster Clubs U16 Cup final. (Photo: Ken Sutton/INPHO)

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TREVOR Buttimer can pinpoint the game where he knew Clonakilty RFC U16 girls’ team were the real deal.

The West Cork side had blitzed every team en route to the Munster Girls’ Clubs U16 league final, hammering both Shannon and UL Bohs/Garryowen without conceding a single score.

Waiting in the final in Limerick on February 3rd were Ennis.

‘We went up knowing we were good at playing rugby but not knowing if we had a team, and we came home knowing we were good at playing rugby and that we had a team,’ Buttimer explains.

‘That was the day I knew that when the chips are down these girls have the heart for the battle.’

Niamh Hilliard, Jo McCaughey, Erin McCarthy and Elva McAuley celebrate the cup final win.

The Clonakilty U16s – that would go on to enjoy an unbeaten season in competitive games – trailed at half time, 7-5. They had to dig deep. Erin McCarthy and Elva McAuley scored second-half tries, to add to Jo McCaughey’s first-half five-pointer. Clon didn’t have it all their own way, but found a way to win.

‘It was the first time we were tested; we were up against a big, strong team in poor conditions that wouldn’t suit our game,’ Buttimer adds. ‘The Ennis coach said afterwards that our defence won that game, that no-one else had stopped them like we did. The defence wins games, the attack decides by how much.’

With the league title in the bag, the Clonakilty U16s turned their focus to the Munster Girls Clubs U16 Cup, chasing the double. Ballina/Killaloe and Dolphin were brushed aside, before a battle with Dunmanway/Bantry Bay in the semi-final, Clon winning 26-7 to set up a final date with Killarney/Listowel/Iveragh at Musgrave Park. No surprise, this all-conquering Clon side got the job done, again, blitzing their Kerry opponents. Jo McCaughey, Laura Sexton, Erin McCarthy, Elva McAuley, Ciara O’Driscoll, Keelin McCarthy and Julie Finn all scored tries. Double delight for this clinical Clon team.

An indicator of the strength of this team is that Ciara O’Driscoll, Jo McCaughey, Elsa Quirke, Niamh Hilliard, Julie Finn, Maya McMahon and Erin McCarthy have all been part of Munster girls’ development squads, but Trevor Buttimer is keen to stress it’s a squad effort that backboned this memorable season. The U16s have 42 players involved.

‘Because we have a large squad we are getting very good numbers at training. That helps with the sessions because you have effectively two teams to work with, and you also have strong back-up in all positions. In terms of being consistent and winning, when you are down a player you have a strong squad with players rotating in all the time,’ the Clon coach says.

‘Also, the girls have really come together as a team. When they were presented with a challenge they really stuck together and trusted each other to do the things they needed to do to work as a team. Not everyone scores the tries, but you need forwards who will win line-out balls, you need people who will do rucks, who will tackle, and it’s the combination of everyone’s efforts that puts the team together.’

As well as laud the coaching structure in the club, Buttimer also highlighted the role of Clonakilty RFC’s new 4G all-weather astro pitch – the U16s missed just two training sessions all season, and they were due to weather warnings.

‘We were able to train consistently throughout the season, and we had consistent numbers and that all helps to raise standards. It meant we were improving all through the season,’ he adds, and the proof is in the trophy haul. Add in that the majority of this Clon team was also involved in Sacred Heart Secondary School’s Munster Schools’ Junior Cup final triumph, and the scale of their success is clear.

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