Women’s rugby scholarships in DCU aren’t as well publicised as the men’s, believes Club Captain Clara McDonald.
“DCU women’s rugby scholarships aren’t widely publicized. No one is really to blame for it and we just want to get as many girls involved as we can. Women’s rugby is growing hugely at the minute; it’s only at the start of where it’s going to be in a couple of years.”
Though the club has experienced a barren period in recent times, McDonald is hopeful that success isn’t too far in the distance. Their league form to date would suggest not, with victories over UCD, Old Belvedere and NUI Maynooth secured. The Devils destroyed NUI Maynooth by 60-0 at St. Clare’s, overcame UCD by 39-12 and subsequently disposed of Old Belvedere by 25-17.
If the current form is maintained, the team are well on the road to picking up the clubs first piece of silverware since the Division 2 league title was annexed in 2009. Promotion to Division 1 ensued, but life at the top table proved difficult and after only one season in Division 1, the Devils returned to the second tier where they have plyed their trade ever since.
“We went up to Division 1 but we didn’t get on very well, so we dropped back to Division 2 where we have played for the last two years. Last year we got to the final in Cork, where we sadly lost.”
McDonald has high hopes for the team this year, but believes Cork IT could prove their biggest stumbling block. For this season’s competition, CUSAI have regionalised the groups and so DCU and Cork IT will only come face to face, if both emerge from their respective pools.
McDonald, along with her team mates, is using last year’s final defeat to Cork IT as motivation for the coming season: “I think that’s a big motivation for the players. It’s a big reminder in the back of your head when you are on the field.”
The growth of women’s rugby over the last few years has had a huge effect across the country, with many clubs and colleges experiencing a sharp rise in their playing numbers. DCU Devils are one of many set-ups to benefit from this, with a huge increase in interest, as well as experienced players coming along.
Portlaoise RFC and DCU Devil’s scrum-half Niamh Griffin is a prime example. The first year Engineering student lined out in the Leinster jersey last week for their under 19’s side.
“She played club rugby underage, so I think it’s great getting new players in at the start of the year, but to have someone like Niamh come in, at quite a high level, it’s so much better for us.”
Despite the rise in popularity in women’s rugby, McDonald explained that it is still hard to find decent coaches for a women’s side. With the help of the Rugby Development Officer, Phil De Barra, DCU Devils seem to have struck gold with their new coaching team of Wayne Brennan and Meddy Baker. Brennan is the forwards coach who graduated from the rugby programme in Carlow IT, while Baker has won world titles playing 15’s and 7’s rugby with her native New Zealand.
“It is difficult to find coaches for women’s rugby, not a lot of people want to take it on. Meddy Baker has been a breath of fresh air. She is a world champion and she’s fantastic. It’s amazing to see how much of a difference a coach can make in a couple of weeks. Last year the backs were really good and had a great system in place but the level that they are at now is impressive.”
Emma Jane Hade