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Preview | Munster Clubs Girls League Finals Triple-Header

2nd February 2024 By The Editor

Preview | Munster Clubs Girls League Finals Triple-Header

Ennis U18s Girls squad. Photo Credit: Ennis RFC

On Saturday, Old Crescent’s Takumi Park will host the Munster Clubs Girls League finals at U14, U16 and U18 levels.

It is set to be a brilliant day of age-grade girls rugby with players and coaches excited to reach this stage and have the opportunity to win silverware.

Up first is the U14 Girls League final which will see Richmond RFC take on Fethard-Thurles at 11am before Ennis RFC take on Clonakilty RFC at 12.30pm in the U16 League final.

The U18 final then takes place at 2pm which will see Ennis RFC take on Killarney RFC.

We spoke to the coaches of each of the teams involved on Saturday to see how preparations are going ahead of the finals.

Richmond RFC v Fethard-Thurles – U14 Girls League Final | Saturday Feb 3, 11am

Richmond finished top of their conference with six wins from six before securing victories over Dolphin-Old Christians and Ennis to reach Saturday’s final.

Richmond coach Bryan Clancy said that the team has made huge strides after having a girls youths team for the first time last season.

“The season so far has been very enjoyable and successful,” Clancy said.

“Last year was historic for the club as it was the first time having a girls youth team. It was a challenging year but we ended the season with silverware winning the Clare McCarthy tournament in Bruff RFC and the girls haven’t looked back since.

“The success is due to building relationships with the local clubs (especially St Patricks Ladies GAA and Treaty Gaels Camogie) where we work together to arrange our schedules to avoid clashes, while encouraging the girls to give the different sports a try.”

Clancy says that Munster Rugby and former Richmond players have helped develop girls rugby in the club.

“We had great support over the years from Munster Rugby’s Ken Imbusch who helped with the start-up, the GIAT programme, to the encouragement given from our own Munster captain Nicole Cronin, former international Jackie O’Brien and current Irish International Grace Moore giving the girls encouragement, gear etc after recent International games.

“This encouragement from these role models was fantastic and it has really motivated the girls, from attending Excellence camps, to the success on the pitch.”

Looking ahead to the final, Clancy says that the most important thing is that the girls continue to enjoy their rugby.

“The squad would be ecstatic to win but regardless, they are really enjoying their rugby. We train twice a week and they have built great friendships through their sports.

“This final is a brilliant opportunity for the girls to sample a big occasion. I’m certain some of the girls will go on to achieve great things in the game but to experience this with their friends will be memorable.”

Richmond U14 Girls squad. Photo Credit: Richmond RFC

Fethard-Thurles won all of their matches in their conference before beating Dunmanway-Bantry Bay and Clonakilty to reach the decider against Richmond.

Fethard-Thurles U14s head coach Mary Gorey said that the work-rate and eagerness to learn from the players has made the season so far very enjoyable.

“The team have an eagerness and hunger for learning and understanding the sport,” Gorey said.

“They are a credit to their families, the way they conduct themselves on and off the pitch, displaying a huge work rate and a selflessness in their support of each other.”

Gorey said that the squad will once again look forward to working hard for each other on Saturday and regardless of the outcome, the club will be incredibly proud of the players.

“The girls will be looking forward to playing for each other, again this weekend. It is a great honour for us all to reach the finals. Win or lose, we as a club will be hugely proud of the players and we are certain that they will give it their all.”

Fethard-Thurles U14s Girls squad. Photo Credit: Fethard-Thurles

Ennis RFC v Clonakilty RFC – U16 Girls League Final | Saturday Feb 3, 12.30pm

Ennis finished top of their conference with six wins from six before the Clare club beat Dunmanway-Bantry Bay and Dolphin RFC to reach the final against Clon.

Ennis U16 Girls coach Lorchan Hoyne says the squad have been on a great journey this season and that they’re looking forward to testing themselves against Clonakilty on Saturday.

“We’ve played some good games against strong teams. It’s been a great journey so far, to see this group of players come together and bond as a team.

“It will be our first league final as a group. We know Clonakilty are a very good team, but we’re going to give it our best shot.

“It’s always an honour to represent your club. We’ve had great support from all the teams.

“These girls know how hard it is to get to a final and hopefully will enjoy every minute of it.”

Ennis U16s Girls squad. Photo Credit: Ennis RFC

Like Ennis, Clonakilty finished top of their conference with six wins from six before beating Shannon and UL Bohs-Garryowen to reach the final.

Clonakilty U16s coach Trevor Buttimer said that the squad’s progression to the final has been a result of hard work from all aspects of the club.

“We have a large dedicated squad of players this season, matched by an equally committed team of coaches, managers and parents who have all worked hard to get us to the final.

“Our overriding priority for the group has been the development of the entire squad of players from those who started this year to those who have been playing several years and involved in Munster development squads.

“The buzz at Monday night’s training was certainly there. We pride ourselves on our teamwork and work rate for each other on the pitch so knowing we have everyone ready no matter who gets out there is vital.

“Clonakilty RFC is very proud of the Youth Girls program at the club and success for us is as much about participation as it is results. We know it will be tough but we know 1 to 22 will be giving it everything they have. Silverware on the bus would make for an even louder bus trip back to Clonakilty where I am sure we will get an even louder reception.”

Clonakilty U16s Girls squad. Photo Credit: Clonakilty RFC

Ennis RFC v Killarney RFC – U18 Girls League Final | Saturday Feb 3, 2pm

Ennis are also in the U18 League final and like their U16 side, won all of their games in their conference before beating Dolphin and Ballincollig to reach the final.

Ennis U18 Girls coach John Kelly says the squad have showed a lot of determination throughout the season to defend their league title which they won last year.

“The girls returned to training this season back on 1st September eager to retain the U18 League Cup they won last season. This year’s squad is made up of 12 of last year’s squad plus another 12 that came up from U16 and a couple of new members.

“We have five girls on loan from Kilrush Rugby Club in West Clare and they are an integral part of this squad. Their commitment to training is amazing with four of them having to do a 140km round trip from the Loop Head Peninsula to Ennis.”

With two Ennis teams involved in finals on Saturday, it could be a very special day for the club.

“Saturday is going to be a great occasion for Ennis RFC Girls Rugby with two teams competing in the finals. Of course when you get to this stage you want to go ahead and win it.

“It would be extra special for the core of this squad that have played together since 2019 and possibly the last time they will all play together as they move on towards women’s rugby next season.

“Win or lose on the day the club and coaches already see them as winners for all their efforts to date. The winning is now the squads own prize!”

Ennis U18s Girls squad. Photo Credit: Ennis RFC

Killarney came through a very competitive conference with the Kerry club and two other  teams finishing on 16 points and they secured their passage to the league final after wins over Carrick-on-Suir and Clonakilty.

Killarney coach Diarmuid O’Malley says it has been a very good season for the club and he’s very excited at the growth in playing numbers.

“The most satisfying part for myself and Josh Whelan, our other coach, and Elaine Clifford, our Manager, is seeing our numbers continuing to grow. We have grown our numbers from other areas in Kerry with players from Listowel and Tralee joining us this season, and this has been a huge contributor to our success to date.

“A club like Listowel RFC have a great underage structure and they are giving kids from a young age a super understanding of the game and very good technique, but as the kids get older especially in the girls game they are unable to have the required numbers to field a team, and it’s not easy to make the 90 minute journey to training and games.

“But there are 3/4 girls making that journey on a consistent basis and thankfully now get to test themselves at the highest level in the province.”

Looking ahead to Saturday’s final, O’Malley says motivation is high amongst the group.

“These players continue to drive their own very high standards and are always looking to work hard, learn both individually and as a team. Last year we got beaten in both the league and cup semifinals, so this season they definitely want to win silverware, but they are more than aware that Ennis are a really good team and it’s going to take a titanic effort on the day to potentially get the result we want.”

Killarney U18s Girls squad. Photo Credit: Killarney RFC

Munster Girls League Finals Fixtures – Takumi Park (Old Crescent RFC).

Richmond RFC v Fethard-Thurles – U14 Girls League Final | Saturday Feb 3, 11am

Ennis RFC v Clonakilty RFC – U16 Girls League Final | Saturday Feb 3, 12.30pm

Ennis RFC v Killarney RFC – U18 Girls League Final | Saturday Feb 3, 2pm

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