SEVEN girls from the Clonakilty RFC Academy are getting their chance to shine with Munster Rugby.
The province’s Regional Development Programme has been curtailed by Covid-19 restrictions in recent months but that hasn’t stopped Munster from carrying out online Zoom sessions including young players being called up from West Cork club Clonakilty RFC.
Such is the strength of the Shannonvale-based club’s girls academy setup, that seven players have been taking part in the Munster U16 and U18 Regional Development Programme over the last number of weeks.
Maeve Dowling, Susan Walsh, Caoimhe White, Aoife Godwin-Coombs, Kate Llewellyn, Alana Murphy and Eabha Egan are enjoying their time in the Munster Women’s setup. The seven were part of Munster’s first full (non-contact) squad session on the Musgrave Park pitch following the easing of level 5 restrictions.
‘Up until recently, Munster would have started looking at recruiting girls for their development programme at U18 level,’ Clonakilty RFC’s Teresa Godwin-Coombs told The Southern Star.
‘The appointment of two new Munster Youth Women Development Officers has changed all that. Now, Munster are able to start working with the girls from U16 onwards which basically mirrors their existing Munster boys structure. That in itself is fantastic and allowed for seven of our (Clonakilty) girls to benefit from working with Munster’s coaches. We are so proud of them.’
Over the past three months, the seven Clonakilty players, as part of Munster squads, have been engaging with their provincial coaches online. Non-contact training in smaller pods began recently and is scheduled run until the end of May.
Susan Walsh has been involved with Munster U18’s since last season but the other six Clonakilty players are the first to emerge from the U16 ranks.
‘Clonakilty RFC is fortunate to have such a strong underage structure and an increasing number of girls playing across all our age-grades,’ Godwin-Coombs added.
‘That’s why it is a huge boost to the club to see the (seven) girls involved with Munster. The new GAA season is about to start but we are lucky in that a lot of the girls playing for Clonakilty RFC have rugby as their primary sport now.
‘If our girls are good enough and show enough commitment then they may be invited to stay on with Munster next September. That decision is up to the players and the Munster coaches.
‘No matter what happens, our girls are currently working with professional Munster coaches and that’s an amazing thing for any U16 player. They are training in Musgrave Park too. The only time the girls would have been there before would have been to watch a Munster match and now they find themselves out on the pitch working with professional coaches.
‘The biggest bonus for the girls involved and Clonakilty RFC is that they are bringing back everything they have learned to the club. That means all the other Clonakilty U16 and U18 players will benefit from the Munster girls’ experiences. Hopefully, that will raise the standards within our club.’