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10 Years of Women’s Rugby in St. Mary’s College RFC

10 Years of Women’s Rugby in St. Mary’s College RFC

The 2012/2013 season was a very special milestone for the women of St. Marys. Ten years ago under the guidance of then president Dr. D O’Brien, coach Donal Swift and inaugural captain Samantha Howe, women’s rugby had it’s debut in Templeville road.

While this ten year path has been much documented through a series of articles over the past few months and the current publication in the club, we came to celebrate as a unit last Saturday with all our peers, friends and fellow rugby players from all teams in the club.

The day itself began with the annual 7s competition in the club competently ran by Kats O’Donoghue. Kats had great assistance from club stalwart Keith McCarthy and Marie Hammond. There were 6 teams involved and the camaraderie and sportsmanship between all players was fantastic to be a part of. Occasions like the 7s competition are always a terrific way for club members whose paths might never normally cross get to know one another . The event itself was won by The Avengers, a nippy little outfit whose set pieces and bursts of speed saw them bring home the gold.

At 6pm the women of Mary’s past and present,  along with friends, coaches and well-wishers gathered in the Centenary Bar for some champagne and to celebrate with one another. We were very fortunate to have in attendance on this momentous occasion the Grand Slam trophy and Irish International players Nora Stapleton and captains Fiona Coughlan. Also in attendance was Mary Quinn,
IRFU Women's Rugby Chairperson, our club president Mr. Michael Fanagan and Mr. Kevin Potts, IRFU director of Corporate Affairs.

Susan Carty, one of our longest serving players and past captain spoke eloquently about her time in the club. She went through the time line of coaches and players, giving each past player in attendance a special mention. Su’s speech summed up the mood and the general pride we feel as not only a group of women in the club for ten years, but as members of this community of St. Mary’s RFC. Dr. D O’Brien spoke during this time also and commended the progress of women’s rugby paying particular homage to our integration within the club. Irish captain Fiona Coughlan spoke briefly about how rugby has grown in Ireland over the past 20 years and was delighted to be a part of our celebrations. She wished Mary’s women well for the future and is looking forward to meeting us on the pitch again next season. Mr. Michael Fanagan was complimentary as always in his speech and gave credit to our provincial and International players. There was then a presentation of club scarves to each of the past captains by Fiona and Michael. Past captains in attendance were: Samantha Howe, Anne Carroll, Su Carty, Paula Fitpatrick, Barbara Whooley, Anne Marie Donovan and Lorna Byrne. Those who could not make it sent their apologies.

At 7pm we moved downstairs where the international representatives were given a standing ovation from all club members. This was a proud moment for all of us. Whilst eating our fabulous spread, the awards were underway. Niall Rynne gave a lovely welcome to the women’s teams and our guests of honour. Rynner has always been a great supporter of the women’s team and we are thankful that both he and Michael Fanagan gave our teams so much time on the microphone despite the lure of the Leinster game.

Current captain of our first XV Annemarie Donovan gave a well-spoken and heart felt speech about how far we have come in the 10 years. It has been an emotional year for Anne Marie on many fronts but her speech summed up her pride in what we have achieved this year with having two teams and of course her love of the game. We are very thankful for her year of leadership. J1 captain Lorna Byrne must be the best “off the cuff” speaker I have ever witnessed and kept the crowd laughing with her confident turn of phrase. The awards were presented to our two players of the year; Aoife Thompson for the first XV and Michelle O’Sullivan for the J1s. Both worthy winners.

The night went on until the following morning. It was fantastic to see all the players and faces from the past. People like Fionnagh Nally, Anne Carroll, Ruth Fraser who flew in from the UK, Carol Staunton and Imelda Gibbons who came for the day from Westport, Samantha Howe, Muireann Walsh, The two Whooleys: Babs and Lil, Maria Ryan and Leanne McCarthy to name a few.

One thing that we always believe is that we are a family. Not only as the women’s team, but we are a family within the club. We never forget our own and we look forward to celebrating in another ten years. Although we might have a night or two out in between now and then!

Maeve Clarke

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