The development of the female side of the game of rugby took a big step last Saturday in Limerick, when the first ever competitive structure for youth female players started with a three-team blitz. The Munster Under 17s League is being run on a blitz basis and on Saturday Shannon were the hosts at their Coonagh grounds. The League is played under the full rules for age grade rugby, including tackles, scrums, mauls, rucks etc. Shannon, Clanwilliam and Clonmel competed for the honours but it was the Tipperary Town team that won the day with two comprehensive victories.
The Clan girls first played Shannon and, led by Captain Jane O Rahelly, set out their stall with a 60 points to nil result. Jane scored two tries, as did Maria Hayes. Louise Egan and Liz Whelan scored one try each. Orla Donovan scored four tries and kicked five conversions. The front row of Lorraine Culbert, Chloe Breheny and Liz Whelan kept the Shannon defence busy with some strong attacks. Maria Hayes kept the Clan back-line well organised both in defence and attack. Sandie Fitzgerald was powerful in the forwards, creating huge difficulties for the Shannon defence. Maria Dalton and Candice Ford were very difficult to tackle and made some great breaks. Hazel O Keeffe put in some solid tackles and was involved in a lot of the attacking play.
The Clan girls next played neighbours Clonmel, who were better organised, especially in defence. However, the determination of the Clan girls won out, again with a scoreline of 60 points to nil. Captain and Player of the Day, Jane O Rahelly scored four great tries and set up many more. The remaining tries were scored by Liz Whelan, Maria Hayes, Chloe Breheny, Sandie Fitzgerald, Louise Egan and new player Orla Gallagher. Orla Donovan contributed 10 points with five well struck conversion kicks. The speed of the Clan attacks, the ability to move the ball across the field and very effective rucking were the main differences between the sides. Great pace and skill was shown by Kelly Ahern, Louise Merrigan, Joanne O Meara, Kate Morrissey, with barely a knock-on all day. Newcomer Louise Fitzgerald fitted right in and made a great contribution in both games.
Scoring 120 points and conceding none was an excelent result from the months of training the girls have undergone before the start of competition. Blitzes in the coming months will see the girls take on teams from Galway and Cork. Hopefully they can continue as the so impressively started. Training continues on Thursdays at 6 and beginners are always welcome.