We were delighted to catch up with some young ladies from Kerry who started out playing rugby with their home teams but have gone on to play with Munster and Connaught and indeed some of them have had the achievement of playing with Ireland too. We are very proud of them and just wanted to share some of their thoughts with you about the game the training and what it’s like to be a lady in the game of rugby.
Siobhan can you tell us were you always interested in Rugby from a young age or was it something that developed later in your teenage years?
I was a late comer to rugby; it wasn’t until my late 20’s even before I started playing with Tralee RFC, and something I simply took up in order to just keep fit and to try something new. I was always big into sports growing up, so as a sport mad person it’s often nice to try out different sports from time to time also.
How about you Riona?
I played Gaelic football from the age of11/12. It wasn’t until I played tag rugby that I found out there was a ladies team in Tralee. A few girls on my tag team played rugby and sold it to me. I really enjoyed tag but the physicality of rugby was a bit daunting. I never imagined it would be one of my favourite parts of the game, that and the camaraderie and commitment within the team. You really have to give everything for each other on the field. This is my 5th season playing with Tralee Ladies RFC and I am totally hooked.
Christine Have you always been into sport too?
I was always interested in sport growing up – horse-riding, football, hockey…I was at a salsa dancing class aged 15 when a friend of my sister’s suggested I give rugby a go. The next morning I was up at the pitch and was bitten by the bug!
Siobhan tell us a bit about the day jobs are employers flexible to meet the needs of the team for extra training or matches etc.
I work as a Special Needs Assistant Monday to Friday in Currow National School until 3 o’clock and continue on from there in the evenings to another job I have in an office until 6 o’clock. I am fortunate enough thou to have weekends off when all club and provincial matches are played but when it comes to the six nations competition I often need to get time off work during the competition for games or travelling, thankfully I work for some great people who truly appreciate sport and the sacrifices and commitment needed, so when it comes to needing a day or two off or having to leave work early they are more than accommodating, I am very lucky!!!
What did it feel like to win a six nations medal?
Winning a six nations medal is something that I still can’t really believe I have done myself, at the time it was just so surreal. For me it was like living someone else’s life or like watching a movie or something strange like that. It was and still is hard to fully appreciate what we achieved in the height of all the craziness and excitement. The support I received when I came back home was unbelievable and this support made my achievements even more special. I have great memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Siobhan do you think rugby is changing, it was always known as the strong man’s sport, is this turning a corner now and do people take it seriously when ye say we are the ladies rugby team?
I believe that rugby will probably always be known as a strong man’s sport. Change takes time as we all know but opinions towards women playing rugby is definitely changing which is the important thing right now. It’s something that has to be constantly worked at thou. It’s also important that the woman’s game is not just portrayed as a game for “big strong women” and the beauty of rugby is that there is a place on the team for all kinds of players of all shapes, sizes and skill levels. It’s a sport like any other that requires skill, talent and hard work combined no matter what your gender.
Christine what are your thoughts on the game? Is ladies rugby becoming more acceptable in recent times?
I think so. Before when you’d say you play rugby, people would wonder if it was tag rugby or touch rugby – people could hardly get over that the rules were exactly the same as the men’s game – full contact, fully contested scrums and the like!
Whereas these days’ people are able to watch women’s rugby on TV and have been able to see the girls in action in the World Cup & 6 Nations – the awareness and support is growing!
Riona you play Gaelic too do you find it hard going with both?
I play football with Na Gaeil ladies as well as playing rugby. During the summer once football, Munster and club rugby training started it was seven days a week. It’s important to look after yourself and not to over train. It’s very easy to burn yourself out if you don’t take a common sense approach to it and allow for a recovery day. This is important mentally as much as physically.
Siobhan you are currently Munster Women’s player of the year for 2014 has this had an impact on your life?
It’s not the awards that we win that have the impact on our lives, it’s the journeys we have to take and the people we take them with that has the impact. It’s extremely humbling when you get selected for an award when deep down the reality of it is that without the people such as your team mate’s beside you it never would have been possible. Also for me I have to specially mention my Tralee coach Paul “Yak” McMahon who dedicated and sacrificed so much of his own time away from his family training me to become the player I have become, along with my training partner Riona Kennedy. I get the glory of the awards when the reality of it is that without these people to mention but a few it would not have been possible.
Is the training schedule hectic?
Training schedules vary depending of the time of year and the various competitions. It’s all a matter of habit and when you’re stuck in the thick of it all you don’t really take much notice of it, it becomes part of your norm.
Christine give us an idea of the schedule
When I was with the 7s squad a typical week involved 2 morning gym sessions before work, 2 evening conditioning sessions, 1 skills session and weekend camps involving 5-6 training sessions.
What do ye do to wind down?
Is there time out from training to chill and have fun?
Siobhan – When I first started out with the Irish ladies I always remember having a conversation with one of the established girls and the topic of having time to have fun came up as I was still getting into the swing of all the training, travelling etc. on top of work I wondered where you’d find time for anything else but she assured me “there is always time to have fun”, and she was dead right. No matter how crazy the schedule got you do always manage to have a laugh. Very often the best crack is at training, you’re with your friends and the banter and tricks are never in short supply. Plus rugby is a season sport so the schedule allows lots of time for socialising during the off season also.
Christine – It’s very important to be able to switch off and relax. I try to meet up with friends and family regularly – I head home to Kerry when I can!
Riona they tell me you are a bit of a live wire and don’t do
winding down is this true?
Me and winding down don’t really go together. I always have to be on the go. I am very fortunate to have strong friendships within the teams I play with so there is never a lack of activities outside of training. It is important to spend time with friends outside of sport when you can as once the season starts most weekends are taken up with games. I have nieces and a nephew who keep me busy and there is nothing better than spending time with them, I look forward to introducing them to rugby and football. It will be interesting to see if they will develop the same love of sport that I have.
Hair and Makeup: Crowning Glory Hair Salon and Woman’s World beauty Castleisland
Clothes: La Femme, Hannons and Divas and Dudes Ladies
Footwear: David Costello Shoes.
Styling team: Orlagh Winters and Margaret Brick
Photography: Dave Hogan and his team
Location: Ballygarry House Hotel