A host of players with inter-county ladies football and camogie backgrounds will be at the heart of the action as the Ireland women’s rugby team gets their World Cup campaign underway this evening.
Dublin All Ireland winner Lindsay Peat, who netted twice in that epic 2014 All Ireland final, has been a revelation since her relatively late conversion to rugby and picked up Ireland’s most recent Player of the Season award.
Waterford’s Niamh Briggs, who was due to captain Ireland at this tournament before being forced out with injury nine days before the opening game, and Donegal’s Nora Stapleton played against each other in the 2010 All Ireland Intermediate final a few weeks after playing together in that year’s World Cup.
Outhalf, Stapleton, will be taking the field for her third World Cup as will replacement captain Claire Molloy, who was a teenage corner back in the Galway team which reached the 2005 All Ireland final.
Another former Galway footballer, Mairead Coyne, was tipped to replace the injured Briggs in the No 15 jersey but instead former Dublin footballer, Hannah Tyrrell, has switched to full back with Clare dual player, Eimear Considine, coming in on the right wing.
Kerry footballer Louise Galvin, a regular for the Ireland sevens side, was called up to the World Cup squad when Briggs was ruled out while others such as barnstorming centre Jenny Murphy and world-class lock Marie-Louise Reilly have been involved with the Kildare and Meath set-ups respectively.
Stapleton’s halfback partner and fellow Donegal native Larissa Muldoon works as a Games Development Officer for Dublin GAA. Peat’s success as Dublin corner forward Kim Flood unluckily missed out on squad selection having started the Grand Slam showdown with England in March but will be one of eirSport’s pundits for the World Cup.
Fiona Coghlan, who captained Ireland at the last two women’s World Cups including to the famous victory over New Zealand en route to the semi-finals, has retired from international rugby and will be RTE’s co-commentator for this tournament.
The 36-year-old is back playing ladies football for Clontarf and scored three points in the semi-final last month as her club booked a place in the Dublin Intermediate decider.
One of Coghlan’s colleagues at the 2010 World Cup was Eliza Downey, who had separate spells as Down skipper either side of that tournament including captaining the Mournewomen to an NFL Division Two title.
Downey, who made the 2014 ladies football All Stars shortlist and is still playing rugby for Ulster, scored two tries as Ireland beat Scotland in the seventh place play-off at that 2010 World Cup.
By Richard Bullick