New campaign aims to propel women’s rugby in Connacht to the stars
2013 was a breakthrough year for women’s rugby in Ireland, with the Grand Slam success and Sevens World Cup at the forefront of most people’s minds. Connacht Rugby was represented at the heart of these achievements with Alison Miller, Claire Molloy, and underage star Mairead Hopkins, emerging not only as reliable squad members but as tournament stars.
However, last year’s successes were not the pinnacle of years of hard work. Instead they were merely the starting point of a new and equally important project. But at a time when the sport seems to be on a perpetual upward trajectory, what more needs to be done?
“While last year was great for Connacht women’s rugby in many respects, we felt it was time to take the organisation of the women’s game here to a new level,” according to Ruth O’Reilly, captain of the Connacht Women’s squad and member of the Connacht Women’s Rugby Committee. “We needed to integrate within the branch better, but more important was the need to develop more communication and community spirit between the clubs within the province.”
Strength in Numbers
‘Strength in Numbers’ is a new Connacht Rugby campaign which was borne out of a need to collate the 28 underage, collegiate and senior clubs which now pepper the province, and to attract a new generation of players, supporters, and sponsors.
In the planning for months, the ‘Strength in Numbers’ campaign will run through 2014 rather than the strict duration of a rugby season, in order to take advantage of the Women’s World Sevens Series and the Women’s World Cup which will run through the summer which should garner more attention and more recruits across the province.
“Logistically, something like this could have been done a few seasons ago but, realistically, the timing would have been wrong. Our message would have been lost but rugby is growing so much in the region, we felt the time was right this season.”
The campaign will have its launch at next weekend’s Connacht v Treviso Rabo Direct Pro-12 fixture. This date was specifically chosen to coincide with International Women’s Day and Ireland’s historic debut appearance at the Aviva stadium, both of which take place the following weekend. The event will involve a series of player interviews, information stands for potential recruits, and some informal introductory skills sessions, and should help propel women’s rugby firmly into the local spotlight.
Following on from contributions received after a request from the committee asking those involved in the women’s game to describe what rugby means to them, the theme ‘Strength in Numbers’ was formed and aptly reflects where Connacht Women’s rugby is at present, and where it wants to go.
“Women’s rugby in Connacht is at a fantastic place at the moment but there’s room for more development,” according to Wendy Hickey, the branch’s Women’s Development Officer.
“This campaign will hopefully increase exposure of the game, introduce people to it and secure more recruits and perhaps even new clubs for next season. The positive aspects and advantages of women’s rugby within clubs has been well publicised. Now we want to ensure that volunteers know how to access the resources available. This is what ‘Strength in Numbers’ is all about.”
While one eye is focused on the success of this innovative campaign, another is cast firmly on the future. “We want to be successful as a province and we want to breed success within”, says O’Reilly. “Ultimately we want to see more silverware for our clubs, and more representatives on our international squads. That will come in time but for now we’re confident we’re taking the right steps.”
“We hope all players, young and old, all our managers and coaches and supporters will buy into this campaign – only together can we maintain the development of our game, and succeed exponentially.”