17/05/02. Waterloo wing Fiona Neary is nursing a knee injury ahead of Ireland’s second Women’s World Cup match against Samoa in Barcelona today.
Neary, the experienced 24-year old, one of only six survivors from the 1998 tournament in Holland, took a heavy knock to the knee in Monday’s disappointing 57-0 defeat against fourth seeds Canada in Girona.
She was left out of the starting line-up for that match, but impressed during a lively final quarter cameo as Ireland finished with a defiant, though unrewarded, flourish.
The player is hoping to train again tomorrow after receiving intensive physio, but it would be a blow if she was ruled out of contention for a game the girls in green must win to have any chance of finishing higher than their 13th seeding.
In any case, if Worcester’s Nicky Milne is retained at centre, leaving the left wing berth between Neary and her Ulster colleague Rachel Boyd, the former may lose out again, even if fit, given the nature of Friday’s opposition.
Neary is an intelligent and accomplished all-round player, but the second lightest in the Irish squad, whereas the powerful Boyd, nicknamed the Larne Lomu, would be more of a match for the Samoans in terms of physical prowess.
Samoa lost 13-3 to Scotland in Monday night’s opening game, but predictably were big, physical and reckless, bordering on the downright dirty at times. Three sinbinnings and a red card tell their own story.
The real business of the tournament starts here for Ireland following Monday’s predictable opening defeat against a team ranked nine places higher. From now on, there is no margin for error and Samoa represent a formidable first challenge.