21 July 2023 News
Jonny Diamond isn’t afraid to tackle a lot of work.
Apart from dedicating 10 hours of his time to coaching rugby at his local girls’ club, the 21-year-old from Coleraine also has demanding roles at church and university.
He’s going into his final year studying Theology and Youth Work at Moorlands College in Dorset, England, which is run out of Youth Link in west Belfast.
That will give him the choice of doing youth or interface work when he’s qualified – or go into rugby coaching full time.
The former fly-half with Coleraine and Dalriada turned to refereeing and coaching after he hung up his boots.
“I coached boys U16 and U12 for two years and then became aware of plans to start girls,” said Jonny, who started a ‘Give It A Try’ event for eight weeks to gauge the interest in girls’ rugby in his local area.
He subsequently created the Coleraine Girls’ Youth Rugby section, comprising U14 and U16 teams.
His role as Female Rugby Convener has many facets, including organisation of training every week and running a two-hour session every Monday.
Jonny also organises the wider coaching team, as well as matches, pulls in sponsorships and looks after all the administration behind the scenes.
“That could be team sheets or planning for forthcoming home or away matches for both squads,” he said, adding “There’s always plenty to keep me busy.”
If it wasn’t for Jonny’s tireless efforts, there wouldn’t be a Coleraine girls rugby team.
“When I came into the role there wasn’t any girls’ rugby in this area; I built it up from zero,” he said.
“After that eight-week ‘Give It A Try’ I was positive that we could create teams at two different ages.”
The fledgling teams suffered some early defeats but practice has significantly improved them.
“The U14s got to the semi-final of a cup competition and the U16 made it to a cup final, which is very encouraging” he said.
Currently, there are 23 girls registered as players and 29 registered for Give It A Try.
The numbers are growing all the time, which is a source of great satisfaction for Jonny.
“The girls are really thankful that they now have an opportunity to play rugby and, thanks to Fibrus, we’re now in a position to wear a Coleraine match day kit and contact tops, helping instil a real sense of pride and identity amongst the team,” he said.
“I’ve always loved the game, and coaching it is also something I really enjoy. It’s great being able to develop people’s skills.”
The progress the girls have made in such a short time has been a welcome bonus.
“The fact that, in one year, they managed to go from not being able to catch a ball to being one of the top four teams in Ulster is very encouraging,” he said.
With Jonny, few would bet on them going a step further. They’ll certainly try and try again.
Jonny Diamond, Female Rugby Convener, Coleraine Rugby Club