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Interview | Women’s Committee Chairperson Wendy Keenan

11th May 2020 By The Editor

Interview | Women’s Committee Chairperson Wendy Keenan

(L-R) Aoife Corey (Ennis RFC), Munster Women’s Committee Chairperson Wendy Keenan, Munster Women’s Enya Breen and Erin Riordan (Abbeyfeale RFC). INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Munsterrugby.ie caught up with Wendy Keenan, Chairperson of the Women’s Committee, to review the 2019/20 season and highlight some of the stand-out moments from the women’s and girls’ game.

Munsterrugby.ie caught up with Wendy Keenan, Chairperson of the Women’s Committee, to review the 2019/20 season and highlight some of the stand-out moments from the women’s and girls’ game.

Wendy joined the Women’s Committee ahead of the 2018/19 season having been involved in various aspects of the game, including playing, coaching, and strength and conditioning.

A former Munster Women’s player, Wendy lined out for Old Belvedere, Shannon and Ballincollig RFC during her playing days, and has enjoyed various coaching and S&C roles with clubs across the province, including UCC.

A Cork native, Wendy currently divides her time between working at Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa as Director of Adult Education, lecturing at the University of Limerick, overseeing the Munster Rugby Women’s Committee and continuing to play hockey competitively.

Wendy reflected on the 2019/20 season, highlighting the growth of girls’ rugby and the success of various events and development days held throughout the province.

Chair of the Munster Women’s Committee, Wendy Keenan, with Caoimhe Lyons of UL Bohs/St Mary’s RFC.

“It was a very progressive season for age-grade rugby from minis and U14s through to U16s and U18s, where we have seen a large increase in the number of clubs participating.

“This season past, we went from holding blitz days to developing more leagues to accommodate the growth in numbers playing, which was a huge step for us.

“In the minis game, there was fantastic development with 31 clubs producing girls only teams this season, where we would have previously seen amalgamations.

“The U14 and U16 league finals held in Irish Independent Park earlier this year were both superb matches with terrific skill on display and stood out as a real highlight.

“If we can keep those girls in the game from U14 level onwards, the future looks very bright for Munster.

“Dorothy Wall played her underage rugby with Fethard RFC and was capped for Ireland this year at 19 years of age, showing young girls there is a pathway for them to the green jersey.

“The major highlight of the season was the Munster U18 Girls winning the Interprovincial Championship.

“This was a special group who learned from their first three matches and went on to show huge growth in their skill development to defeat Leinster and Ulster in the semi-final and final, respectively.

Munster U18 Girls celebrate with the Interpro trophy.

“Moving onto College rugby, there were 90 players participating in two 10-a-side tournaments and we will have more opportunities for students to get involved in the future.”

Wendy then recognised the development of the schools’ game as a significant growth area for girls’ rugby in the province.

She continued: “We have done a lot of work around the schools’ game with our development officers driving numbers through the delivery of blitz days and development sessions.

“The work with primary and secondary schools, X7s and first year 10-a-side blitz programmes, has transferred into playing numbers in clubs which all contributes to the development of the game.

“The X7s programme was delivered in six regional areas with qualifiers and a finals day, resulting in 950 girls participating in total between junior and senior squads.

“We are planning to run a Schools Cup competition in the future, which is very exciting for us.

“Some players will have played for their clubs while for others, it will be their introduction to rugby across both junior and senior competitions.

“We also held a two-day prime coaching course with transition year and fifth year students to expose them not only to playing and skill development but also to coaching.”

The Celebrating Munster Women Past and Present event, due to take place last month in Thomond Park, to honour and acknowledge the contribution of former Munster players was unfortunately postponed due to Covid-19.

Wendy said: “We had a lot of girls coming from all over the country, there was one girl coming over from the States, and there was over 200 former players expected to attend but we will be re-scheduling the event for the future.

“We received a huge response on social media during the April weekend of the event where former players posted images from their time in a Munster jersey.

“It was like a trip down memory lane in relation to old friendships and it was lovely to see the social presence bringing everyone together virtually.

“I would also like to acknowledge the retirement of Fiona Hayes, Niamh Briggs and Niamh Kavanagh from the Munster Women’s team, they have been fantastic throughout and are future role models for young girls aspiring to play for Munster and beyond.

“The all-female coaching and management teams for the 2019 U18 and Women’s Interprovincial Championships showed the strength in depth we have as a province when it comes to former players transferring their knowledge and experience to coaching.

“We are extremely proud of Fi Hayes who was recently named Women’s All Ireland League Coach of the Year 2020.”

Munster Women’s & U18 Girls’ Coach & Management Teams: L/R: Mairead Kelly, Niamh Briggs, Maeve D’Arcy, Lorna Barry, Laura Guest, Kathyrn Fahy, Helen Brosnan, Sarah Hartigan, Fiona Hayes & Ciara Griffin.

The success of Munster clubs also stood out to Wendy when looking back at some of their most recent achievements.

“UL Bohs continue to be one of the most successful women’s teams in the country and hopefully in the future, we will see another All Ireland League team develop within Munster and alongside them.

“I would like to congratulate Ballincollig for achieving AIL qualification and we look forward to supporting them in their development.

“Next season should be exciting because we are going to see Ennis field an adult team.

“They have been very successful at both U16 and U18 level over the past two seasons, so we are really looking forward to seeing those players compete at adult level for the first time.

“It demonstrates the growth of rugby and how with good structures and governance, a club can grow their numbers to the extent where they can field in every division across every competition.

“To see that progress all the way through to the adult game is a huge success for the club.”

 

The Women’s Committee has continued to develop over the last couple of seasons which has in turn benefitted the girls’ game at a grassroots level.

Wendy said: “The committee works extremely hard and there is a lot of time spent developing the girls’ game, growing the numbers as well as looking at what is best practice.

“We are made up of volunteers who devote their time and we are always looking to expand while also introducing new ideas.

“It has also been great to draw from the support and experience of Munster Rugby President, Mike Keane, and Chair of the Rugby Committee, Bertie Smith.

“Our communication with clubs and rugby communities is very open when it comes to receiving feedback while also ensuring we are there to listen and support them on their journeys.”

“The committee works closely with the development officers and we were delighted to add to our team last year with the introduction of a new women’s development officer and women’s participation officers. The support of Munster Rugby and the IRFU ensures the development of girls’ rugby both on and off the field.

“We have a united vision when working together and with the recent developments we have seen results through the growth of the game across the province.”

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