Womens Rugby Celebrated At Inaugral Awards Dinner

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It was a balmy summer evening in Belfast when the ladies of rugby in Ulster gathered at Belfast Harlequins for the inaugral Ulster Womens Rugby Awards Dinner. This was a celebration of all that is great about womens rugby around the province and clubs from near and far were represented. David Boyd and Robin Cole of the IRFU Ulster Branch were on hand to hear of the achievements within Womens Rugby throughout the 2009/10 season, from Cooke winning the Ulster Cup, Belfast Harlequins winning the Ulster Shield, City of Derry winning All Ireland League Division 2 North, the rise of Ballymoney from nothing and the resurrection of Enniskillen. Indeed, it has been an eventful season for Womens Rugby.

The popularity of the sport in Ulster is indeed on the rise and this was quite evident from the number and caliber of nominees in the various categories.

Ulster Branch development Officer Joy Sparkes with Under 19 Player of the Year Nikki Caughey

Although there were five well deserving players nominated in the Under 19 Player of the Year category however the honours went to Nikki Caughey of Malone RFC – Nikki had a wonderful season showing a full range of rugby skills, scoring tries in every match, making space for others and making many crunching tackles. She also scored many conversions and penalties and has proved to be a thorough all rounder. Nikki captained her club team to their second Ulster League title and also captained her school (Grosvenor) to the finals of the Ulster Schools Cup where they were narrowly beaten by reigning champions Enniskillen Collegiate.
There were six equally deserving nominees in the Front Row Union Senior Player of the Year category but there was no denying current Ulster and Ireland representative, Lauren Day. Lauren is currently in her third season of playing tight head prop for Cooke WRFC in AIL Division One. She also represents Ulster in tight head prop and is currently part of the Irish World Cup Squad. She broke onto the Irish panel late 2008, and received her first cap in the 2009 Six Nations championships against Scotland. She has just completed participating in this season’s 2010 Six Nations Championships, getting her first start in the green jersey against England, and went on to start in the remaining two Six Nations matches against Scotland and Wales. She currently has six caps, but hopes to extend this not she has secured a coveted place in Ireland World Cup Squad, due to play in England this August.

Ulster Branch Vice President Robin Cole with Enniskillen captain Brenda Brogan

The Club of the Year title was the most hotly contested with Award of the night with Enniskillen Ladies Rugby coming our eventual winners. Enniskillen have re-emerged after the senior team folded a couple of years ago. They have developed from the ground up, investing time and resources into the junior ranks and are now reaping the fruits of that labour. They were unfortunate not to make the Final of the Ulster Cup however put in an excellent showing against winners Cooke. They also completed against some strong AIL Div 1 teams in the All Ireland Cup making it through the pool stages despite being classed as a Development team – in every instance they were praised for their dedication and never say die attitude.

Ballymoney Ladies
Congratulations to the winners but also a heartfelt pat on the back must go to all the nominees – it is a great achievement to be nominated!

Harlequins Ladies

It is fair to say that a good night was had by all involved and that next years Awards will be bigger and better.

Grateful thanks to the Front Row Union and Fresh Print Design for their sponsorship of the event as well as to marvelous Voice of Ravenhill… MC Michael McAteer.

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