A talented Kilkenny woman and a man living in the county are leading lights in the charge to help ladies volleyball in Ireland create an impression on the European stage.
City girl Elaine McGeary, a student based in Dublin, and Willem Roosenburg, who hails from Fryslan in the North of the Netherlands and who lives in Kilmanagh, are part of the Irish set up aiming to qualify for the European championships in early June.
Mr Roosenburgh is the team manager/coach, and under his shrewd guidance the Irish have plotted a course they hope will lead to the Euros. The Irish have been drawn in a qualifying group that includes Scotland, Cyrus, Malta and Northern Ireland, and two teams go through.
“Cyprus could be the key match,” Mr Roosenburg explained.
“They played in the qualifiers for the World Cup last year and they are a fair side. I think we can can beat Malta and Northern Ireland, which would put us into the reckoning.”
In recent weeks the Republic played the North in a challenge match, and they won 3-1. Elaine McGeary, a middle blocker on the team, played and did very well, apparently.
A return match has been arranged against the North in TCD on March 16. In May the action will picked up with the Irish playing the Truman State University team, who will be touring, and a Most Valuable Player selection from the country to help them gear up for the qualifiers.
Volleyball is a minority sport in Ireland, but Mr Roosenburg, who took over as manager of the ladies team last year, is hoping to improve the standing of the game on the international stage.
“Things are going well,” he insisted when explaining he had a squad of 19 dedicated players working hard for the cause.
“We are getting a lot of support from the Volleyball Association of Ireland.”
From virtually nothing 12 months ago, Mr Roosenburgh has assembled a scouting group of six people, and he has been joined by an assistant-manager and squad physio.
This year a new men’s team was formed in New Ross, and it will enter the National League next season. There are roughly 20 volleyball clubs in Ireland playing in five divisions (three for women).
“There is a lot going on in the universities,” Mr Roosenburg said. “We hope to start a youths team in September.”