Club of the week

Rutherglen Reformer - - Sport -

A Ruther­glen-based girls foot­ball team are prov­ing that suc­cess is not con­fined to the men’s game in the Royal Burgh.

Ruther­glen Girls FC was founded in 2012 when fa­ther Brian O’Neill, from Croft­foot, was left un­happy about the game-time his daugh­ter got when play­ing for an­other side.

Since de­cid­ing to set up his own club, the girls have picked up two tro­phies and com­pete at two dif­fer­ent age groups - un­der 13 and un­der 17 - in the Ayr­shire League.

A scorch­ing start to this sea­son is stark con­trast to the first ev­er­train­ing ses­sion when just five girls took part. Of those five, four are still part of the un­der 17 squad and it is this to­geth­er­ness that makes the lo­cal out­fit such a tight-knit group.

Brian said: “We’re a com­mu­nity club.

“We had five girls that first night and had to re­cruit a cou­ple to have enough to play a game. We played our first com­pet­i­tive game at Fern­hill and de­spite be­ing 2-0 up we lost 3-2.

“At the start and even now we got a lot of help from South La­nark­shire Coun­cil Sport and Leisure.

“They gave us our train­ing and games free for the first few years and that re­ally helped be­cause fi­nan­cially it’s a big com­mit­ment but we also have good spon­sors that help us there too money-wise.

“Martin Kiely is our club chair­man and he is the man­ag­ing direc­tor of WH Mal­colm con­struc­tion and they spon­sor us.

“He has also got us a cou­ple of other spon­sors and we wouldn’t be able to func­tion with­out them.”

The team train two nights each week with the un­der 13s play­ing matches on Satur­day morn­ings and the un­der 17s on Sun­day morn­ings.

Although there are cur­rently two age groups, Brian and as­sis­tant coach Neil Pater­son have as­pi­ra­tions to set up an acad­emy struc­ture right through the age groups.

Brian said: “Next year we have to go to the women’s league be­cause more than half the team will be too old for the un­der 17s.

“So next year it’s look­ing like there will be a women’s de­vel­op­ment team, an un­der 15s team and if we can get an un­der 11s that would be good. It all de­pends, if we can at­tract some new play­ers.”

Coach­ing the team is a big com­mit­ment for Brian and Neil, who ad­mit Ruther­glen Girls has essen­tially taken over theirs and their fam­ily’s lives.

From ar­rang­ing matches to tak­ing train­ing and games, both men agree that the re­wards out­weigh the dis­ad­van­tages as they see girls de­velop into match win­ners, even when it means los­ing the girls to an­other team.

Brian added: “We lost a cou­ple of girls to Glas­gow City and although they weren’t with us for long one of the girls sent me a card say­ing if it wasn’t for me they would have stopped play­ing foot­ball, and she has gone on to win the Scot­tish Cup so it means a lot to us.”

Neil said: “It has been a strug­gle but we’re get­ting there. We have 32 girls now across both teams.

“I would say that Ruther­glen Girls is now a huge part of my life, even my wife has to ar­range her life around the team.

“I be­lieve it is just a re­ally good place for the girls to play foot­ball.

“At some of the big­ger clubs like Celtic and Glas­gow City they have squads of 20 and a lot of the girls don’t get to play much and for me that is just a cry­ing shame.”

The un­der 13 side have made a blis­ter­ing start to the sea­son and cur­rently sit top of the league hav­ing only lost to Kil­marnock ( blues) away who they still need to play at home at Fern­hill.

They knocked the cur­rent league cham­pi­ons, Clarke Drive, out at the quar­ter fi­nal stage of the League Cup with an im­pres­sive 8-0 victory at To­ry­glen, be­fore see­ing off Hamilton Girls in the semis at the same venue.

De­spite be­ing knocked out of the Scot­tish Cup by Celtic and los­ing the League Cup to Kil­marnock, the un­der 13s still have a chance of win­ning the league this sea­son but face stiff com­pe­ti­tion from a very strong Kil­marnock side.

To do this they will have to beat the Ayr­shire side and force a play­off.

Build­ing the club from grass­roots level is the main agenda for the club and they are cur­rently re­cruit­ing with a view to set­ting up teams at dif­fer­ent age groups over the next few sea­sons.

The club are look­ing to play­ers and any­one in­ter­ested should con­tact Brian on 07983885398 or Neil on 07947890633.

One of the girls sent me a card say­ing if it­wasn’tformethey would­havestopped play­ing foot­ball

Mov­ing up The un­der 17 squad are set to move up to de­vel­op­ment level next sea­son

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