ON the Monday morning following the biggest game of their season, Skibbereen captain Averyl Condell popped a message into the team’s WhatsApp group.
It was the day after they bowed out of the Energia All-Ireland Women’s Junior Cup after an away 29-13 semi-final loss to Tullamore in Mullingar so while Skibb were disappointed, Condell still felt some perspective was needed.
‘This is our second playing season,’ the Skibb captain emphasised to the group.
‘We have 32 registered players. Of that 32, only four have come through an underage system so it means that every other player in the team has come to rugby as an adult.
‘We have a league final coming up, we were in the Munster Cup final and we were in an All-Ireland semi-final, and all that with just two years behind us.’ The point Condell was making was the huge progress Skibbereen’s senior women’s rugby team has made in less than two seasons.
Here they were, in their second full season, lining out in an All-Ireland semi-final away from home against a more established Tullamore team that eventually wore Skibb down.
Skibbereen trailed 8-3 at the break, Emma Connolly had kicked them into an early 3-0 lead, but the second half saw Tullamore’s strength in depth make a difference. Connolly had narrowed the gap with her second penalty but two Tullamore tries saw the home side move 22-6 in front. Then came a moment of magic from Skibb full back Jasmine Kiely, who scored a superb solo try. Converted, it narrowed the gap to 22-13, but it was Tullamore who struck next to seal the win and a place in the All-Ireland final against MU Barnhall.
‘They are definitely the best side we have ever played. They have experience, really good game-management and real strength in depth,’ Skibbereen captain Condell says, but they will take confidence from, having hammered Westport in a home quarter-final, going toe to toe with Tullamore.
‘Our attitude was top class. We never imploded. At the final whistle we were still going for the try line, and we made them work for every inch.
‘If we want to compete at this level we need to make sure that everything we do is as good as it can be. I could not be prouder of the way the girls played. We made Tullamore work for it. That drive and fight, that will help us.
‘I think they have five women’s divisions in Leinster and there are eight teams in Tuallmore’s division so they had 14 league games. We had eight concessions, we have struggled to get 15-a-side games, we are having uncontested scrums, so to be able to go to a Leinster team like Tullamore and push them is encouraging. We know we have work to do but this team has the potential,’ she says, as Skibb’s attention now turns to the Munster Women’s League Conference play-off against UL Bohs on April 16th. That is their final game of the season and they want to bow out with some silverware.
Skibbereen: Jasmine Kiely, Sinead O’Donovan, Kate O’Sullivan, Eva O’Sullivan, Amy Kiely; Emma Connolly, Averyl Condell; Katie Cullinane, Katelyn Hurley, Claire Barrett, Fiona Love, Eimear O’Rourke, Caitlin Heffernan, Cléa Michel, Sharon Stoutt. Replacements: Áine Geoghegan, Nadia Collins, Mollie O’Connell, Emma Beamish, Anna Kavanagh, Aoife Breen, Fionnuala O’Driscoll, Aisling O’Connell.