THE popularity of rugby in Ireland has skyrocketed in recent years and ladies’ rugby in particular seems to be ever-growing. Jeanette Feighery of UL Bohemians has noticed a significant sea change in the sport during her time with the club, which will stage a recruitment evening on Thursday August 8 from 7pm at the club grounds in Annacotty.
She told PostSport that anyone who signs up will join a club where team spirit and positive morale are in abundance, with the players willing to give more to the cause as a result.
“I have been with UL Bohs for 10 years and we’ve been very lucky in that time in that we’ve had a constant flow of players getting involved with the club. We’ve also been lucky that we’ve been so successful and success then attracts people to the club.
“The main thing for me about UL Bohs is the sense of camaraderie and friendship within the club. We work hard and train hard but off the pitch we have so much craic and people buy into that. You develop friendships and then the level of commitment increases.
“That’s probably one of the main reasons why we’ve kept so many players in the club, which is in its 13th year. In that time we have had a lot of success which shows the commitment from the girls and from the committee.”
Jeanette added that everybody at UL Bohemians is held in the same regard, regardless of whether they are seasoned international players or rookies who have just come into the setup.
“There is a sense of togetherness in everything that we’ve done. Everything we do, we do it for each other. One thing I’ve found is that when you enter the UL Bohs dressing room, you’re a UL Bohs player, whether it’s your first game or whether you’ve just come back from a Six Nations international.”
“Every person is on the same level and that, for me, is the strongest part of UL Bohs. That is what makes it such a special club. Anyone who may have any notions about themselves is brought down to earth quickly!”
Jeanette has long clamoured for ladies’ rugby to be shown the respect it deserves and her letter to The Irish Times in February 2012 outlined the logistical problems faced by the women’s national team. It outlined her disgust at the team having to travel to France just one day before a major Six Nations match, as well as how travel disruptions played further havoc with preparations.
However, a landmark Grand Slam success earlier this year has made people sit up and take notice, with girls taking up rugby at a much earlier age than she had. She also spoke of how the UL Bohemians committee’s dedication and interest adds to the players’ self-belief.
Jeanette said: “I don’t think it has caused the change in things since then. Change has to come from within and you can see that the ladies’ team has become more united. They do everything for each other and you could see that the team which won the Grand Slam is a team full of leaders. Every single one of them bought into the one objective and that started from the people involved. External factors have played a part but ultimately change has to come from within and their success is a testament to every one of them.
“I was at an under 19 sevens event in Ashbourne and there were around 40 girls there, all of whom were well able to play rugby. I began playing rugby when I started in UL at 18-19 years of age. I was only picking up the game then but these girls are all seasoned players who have played with clubs.
“Club involvement is so important and that is something at which UL Bohs are quite strong. The club’s committee is incredible. The ladies could have a game on a Sunday afternoon a day after the men’s team and we’d always have five or six committee members at our games. They come to Dublin and Cork to see us play and that really helps you believe in what you’re doing.”
With Jeanette also at the forefront of the growth of sevens rugby in Ireland, it is her work and dedication which is helping to make rugby more accessible than ever before.