Elise O'Byrne-White with DLSP's Aoife Davy
There was huge excitement last Wednesday evening at Kirwan Park as the Salmo U12 Girls team (along with a huge crowd that included proud parents and other club members) gathered to welcome Leinster and Irish International Elise O'Byrne-White back to her childhood club.
Elise had very kindly accepted an invitation to present the official kit to all the lucky girls who are going on their inaugural tour to London Irish this weekend and also shared some of her own experiences, such as when she donned the Salmo jersey at London Irish as the only girl playing amongst over 1500 boys!
In front of a captivated audience in the course of a brief Q&A with DLSP Director of Rugby, Norman Byrne, Elise recounted how, in 1995 (aged just 5), she began playing rugby in Kilternan on Sunday mornings on the boys' team (there was no girls' team then) which was coached by Tom McCormack and her late father, DLSP club stalwart Geoff.
Elise then recalled many great stories of being a regular on the boys' team, including the 2002 team that travelled to London Irish's Mini Festival, which was then was held on the hallowed turf at Sunbury: a tournament where she was famously selected as Player Of The Festival, for her courageous tackling and electrifying pace, not to mention the bag-full of tries she scored!
Our club has a very proud and unique relationship with London Irish, as the first Irish and Non-English club to be invited to play in their prestigious boys/youth tournament, with this year's team being our 38th to travel.
Elise O'Byrne-White in action for Leinster in the Interpros in January 2023
This weekend, however, our blossoming female rugby section will send our first DLSP Girls team over to the impressive Hazelwood Centre to experience that special London Irish welcome where they will take part in the inaugural London Irish Amateur International Girl's Festival.
This is great testament to the development of female rugby at Salmo and is thanks to a very committed and positive group of coaches who are getting invaluable support from Leinster Women's Rugby and, in particular, CCRO Damien.
Elise spoke with great passion about her rugby experiences, offering huge encouragement and stressing that rugby offers a pathway for every shape, size and skill level with an "absolutely" to all who wanted the obligatory selfie, while making time for a personal chat with everyone as they received their tour kit from her.
To no surprise, Elise received a thunderous round of applause as the event wrapped up.
Leinster Women's Rugby can be very proud of Elise as an ambassador, with all the attendees in agreement that her emphasis on the importance of having fun and enjoying rugby really struck a chord with the girls who no doubt she has inspired. We look forward to following their playing careers with great interest over the coming years.
Thank you Elise!