Westport RFC: Womens Community Series Club Profiles
Westport RFC Club Overview 🏉
Westport RFC started girls rugby in 2008. The girls section flourished and today there is a thriving girls and ladies section drawing players from Westport, Newport, Mulranny, Achill, Louisburgh and further afield.
By 2010 numbers were massive and one training session had over 40 girls learning new skills and having fun. Dolores Shanahan, Bernie Nolan, Pauline Ryder , Daphne Haire, Liz Brady, Donna Gavin amongst others dedicated their time coaching and administrating to lay the foundations what was to come. Their hard work and enthusiasm is evidenced in that many of today’s senior players like Emma Fabby and Hazel Moran started in underage and are still driving standards over a decade later. While numbers were high at youth level, the club was also putting resources into the minis. Under the watchful eyes of the coaches they natured some of future players in the first women’s senior team. The likes of Claire Coughlan, Sarah Walsh and Becka Walsh began their rugby career as primary school students every Saturday morning. Even in the current season, take a spin past the rugby club on Saturday morning and you see loads of girls learning new skills and having fun.
By 2011 word had spread across the secondary schools in the area and it became the first year Westport RFC had numbers for both an under 15 and under 18 girls youth teams. Under Coaches Colin Weston, Robert Kilkelly, Dermot Ruddy, Martin McNally and Kevin Corcoran both teams qualified for Connaught Finals, held in the Sportsground. Unfortunately in 2012, both teams ended up second best. Undeterred by that disappointment the majority of girls returned the following season. They worked their socks off and on the 29th of March 2013 they outplayed Ballina RFC in Mayo derby, to become the Under 18 Champions of Connaught.
The following inter-pro season saw 12 Westport players as starters for the Connaught Under 18 side. This success created its own problem. The club found it very difficult to find opposition. The squad travelled around the country in search of games. Many Saturday were spent in buses having craic and making friends for life. Many of that under 18 squad went off to College but continued to play rugby for various 3rd level institutions around the country.
While many players were away at third level, the club was still working hard at developing underage girls at under 14 under 16 and under 18. Dermot Ruddy asked the experienced coach Joe O Grady to help him with under 18 team. Numbers grew as the two men gave these girls a great foundation in the basics, which has led to the successful current senior team. Having worked with the double winning under 18 team in 2016 both coaches recognised the talent at their disposal. Liz Brady and Bernie Nolan were brought on board to assist. Joe and Dermot still are heavily involved in girls/ladies rugby and can be seen on Tuesday nights coaching young women who are future of ladies senior team. In 2018 Westport RFC decided it was time to launch a senior women team in the club. Many of the players who had gone college and had played underage for club had returned home. The club asked Steve Keane a former Irish under 20 player and club stalwart Eoin Joyce to coach this newly formed team. Bernie Nolan came on as manager, having worked with many of the players at underage level since 2010. Under their guidance they never lost a game in Connaught and lead them to an Ireland Final but unfortunately due to COVID-19 pandemic the final was never played.
Wendy Hickey and Emer O’Dowd from Connacht Rugby have been instrumental in the development of girls and ladies rugby at Westport RFC and continue to be so. David Keogh, the clubs dedicated CCRO has worked tirelessly to attract and develop players from all schools in the wider locality.The players themselves dedicate huge time, effort and resources travelling to training and to matches. In the season before last many of the senior ladies squad organised the GIVE IT A TRY (GIAT) programme to encourage young girls to take up the sport. Many also give up their spare time to assist with coaching underage girls sections in the club. The squad and management team are devoted to the Spirit of Rugby and its core values of Respect, Integrity, Inclusivity Fun and Excellence. The players are always willing to help out when needed and this is something the club is particularly proud of.
This season Lyndon Jones and Matt Gill have taken on the role of coaching the senior women’s team with Bernie Nolan remaining as a team manager. Westport competed in the Energia Community Series which has been interrupted by Covid19. This season will be a tough one due to the pandemic but no doubt this squad will be up for the challenge when the season restarts.
Honours and Achievements
Lily Brady, Grace Browne Moran and Ava Ryder have all donned the Green Jersey at various levels to represent their country.
Shona Kennedy is currently on a rugby scholarship with Washington State University in the USA.
Mary McLoughlin has this year been awarded a rugby scholarship to Notre Dame University
The Sacred Heart Girls Secondary School in Westport town are the Junior All Ireland Schools X Sevens Champions and runners up in the Senior Schools last year.