Clodagh’s been a class act with Haverfordwest Ladies RFC!

Clodagh with her team matesHaverfordwest RFC Ladies' new season in Division One of the Welsh Ladies' set-up got off to a great start with an impressive 17-7 win over Pencoed Phoenix at their Pembroke Road headquarters but success was tinged with sadness because it marked the final match for Clodagh Llewhellin, who had done so much to help found the team about seven years ago.
Clodagh, who originally hails from the Donegal area of Ireland, moved to Pembrokeshire after her marriage to another influential rugby participant in Johnny Llewhellin, and had already played and coached in the Emerald Isle.

Switch from running to tackling

Clodagh’s start in the oval ball game came after she’s been involved in athletics at a high level of Irish athletics.

“I enjoyed the tough 400 metres hurdles and competed in loads of 5 and 10K races as well as cross country, where I represented Ireland at venues as far afield as Spain and Italy.
“But then I began to develop hip problems and had to take a spell out of sport before I discovered rugby, almost by accident as I went along to watch and decided to give it a go – and loved it from the very first training session where I came off having made my first tackle and was covered from head to toe in mud!”

Rapid improvement

Clodagh improved so much that she was soon involved at a decent level, playing on the wing for the City of Derry, some 40 minutes away, and admitting that she was thrilled to be chosen for provincial rugby with Ulster Ladies for three seasons.
She was chosen twice for Irish trials but just missed out on squad selection and therefore a national cap, but she also had a wonderful time playing for Letterkenny, her home  town where she started out in her coaching career with junior squads that she helped start, and loved it.

Moving to Pembrokeshire and starting to play here

Clodagh with her boys“I met Johnny when I was studying for a sports degree at Liverpool University and he taught in Ireland before dragging me, kicking and screaming, back to Pembrokeshire after we got married.
When she discovered there was no ladies' rugby in the area she decided she would love to see the game started in Haverfordwest - and so contacted the Blues to see if they would consider getting a team started.
“I met up with club officials Graham Dalton and Delyth Summons and were both superlative with their support as we started out with teams at under 18 and under 15 levels which I helped coach for a while after our teams being written about in the local press and on Radio Pembrokeshire.

Slow start at senior level but success follows

“Once those teams were under way we decided it was time to establish a senior ladies’ squad by trying to recruit former players from other clubs elsewhere and newcomers – and before we knew it we had our first friendly game set up against Lampeter with Steff Harries, Jazz Joyce, Rhian Perry, Lisa Neumann, Rhian Swift and Jess Jones as early recruits.
“Unfortunately, we only had six players for our debut who were available but we travelled nonetheless because our opponents had agreed to loan us another nine players from their huge squad – and although it might not seem to be the best start we enjoyed each other’s company from the outset and Haverfordwest Ladies were up and running.”
The following season saw the Lady Blues join the Welsh Development League, moved up into division one and a season later found themselves in division one, where they more than held their own with excellent coaches like Gareth John, Gareth Charles and, more recently, Chris Beggan, another Irish person who arrived via Scotland!
She has also played for The Scarlets in both sevens and 15 a side rugby - and found that a great stimulation as well.
There was also cup silverware in the process and the win over Pencoed was a brilliant start to the campaign and which nicely rounded off Clodagh’s playing days.

Looking forward to further challenges

Clodagh makes a breakSo what of the future? Clodagh is going to continue to coach young players in the younger age sections, alongside Helen Wilcox (under 15s) and Carwyn Richards (under 18s), and at STP School, and says that ‘Dolly’ (Dalton) and Delyth (Summons) continue to provide support, along with the club’s main committee.
It is clearly of immense pride to Clodagh that as she steps down the team she has been instrumental in developing is in a strong position and loved her send-off.
“I had a wonderful day before, during and after the match and it was lovely to take a ‘Walk Down Memory Lane’ with some of my team mates I had spent so much time with – and I intend staying involved with them and cheering them on as often as possible.
Talk to Clodagh Llewellin for a short while and it is easy to see her love of the game and her commitment to Haverfordwest Ladies RFC – she is a lovely lady and the comments below show exactly what her team mates think about her support of them!
Delyth Summons:
Clodagh has been a terrific ambassador for our club and has always encouraged everyone to have a go – and given total support to newcomers afterwards. She has done a fantastic job, on and off the field and the whole club is proud of her!
Maria Phillips:
 “She will always be our ‘wee pet’. She has built what we have at the club today, and put Haverfordwest on the map for women’s rugby. If I wasn’t for Clodagh, I wouldn’t be playing. She has also been central to recruiting our amazing coaches and sponsors.”
Lyn Ward (who also recently retired):
 “There were only six of us in our first game, but thanks to Clodagh the team has built up to where it is now.”
Nina Colville:
“Clodagh was a great inspiration to get fit for rugby, so much so that a new fitness scale was born at Haverfordwest. There’s fit, there’s super fit and then there’s Clodagh fit!

Clodagh takes lineout ballShe won woman of the match on many occasions, but was awful at downing pints (which was the prize so she always managed to palm hers off. We’ll miss her energetic, infectious enthusiasm in the team.”
Joanna Price:
 “She’s such an inspiration to anyone wanting to play rugby from all walks of life, be it girls, women, mums and fitness enthusiasts.”
Awen Prysor:
 “Clodagh is such a versatile player. She is strong in every aspect of the game, whether it be part of the back line or in the back row.”
Ceri Coleman-Phillips:
 “I met Clodagh at a touch rugby tournament and it took me weeks to pronounce her name correctly.  She kept on at me to come and train with the ladies and I finally gave in. It was the best decision I have made. I’ve found a sport I love, regretfully at the wrong side of 30.

Before my first game my husband Brian, who had played rugby all of his life, gave me some advice. He said ‘just follow Clodagh’ on the pitch!

Two minutes into the game I was absolutely shattered as Clodagh gets involved in every single breakdown so I soon learned to follow a prop instead.

She is the fittest person I have ever met, and she manages this with a busy job and young family. Her determination to better herself is inspiring.

She also has that rare quality of being incredibly beautiful, inside and out and will be greatly missed as a player at the club.”