Ireland Women’s captain Fiona Coghlan has been named as the Irish Times Sportswoman of the Month for February.
Fiona Coghlan’s captaincy of the Ireland squad, which has seen 10 new caps introduced this season, has been a key factor in sustaining the momentum that saw Ireland achieve their highest ever World Cup placing last September.
Extract from the Irish Times:
When Ireland Women’s coach Philip Doyle named his squad for the Six Nations Championship last December, the inclusion of 10 new caps was a fair indication of the amount of rebuilding that had to be done after the 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cup.
Injuries and retirements deprived Doyle of several experienced players following an encouraging World Cup that saw the team improve its ranking by one spot to seventh.
With so much new blood, it was impossible to predict how the team would fare or if it could maintain the progress achieved in the Six Nations in recent years.
“We were definitely nervous going into the campaign,” said prop and captain Fiona Coghlan, “we just didn’t know how things would go when we had lost so many players.
“And we lost them in key positions too. “e had a brand new half-back pairing (Nora Stapleton and Amy Davis), so that was another test for us.”
Well, with comfortable wins over Italy and Scotland so far, and just a two-point defeat to France, Coghlan is more than satisfied with the progress of the new-look side.
“The new caps have just come on in leaps and bounds, they’ve done fantastically well,” she said.
Niamh Kavanagh and Geraldine Rea (a junior All-Ireland football winner with Nemo Rangers) had particularly impressive debuts in the 26-5 win away to Italy in the opening game – winger Kavanagh jinked her way through the Italian defence to mark her first cap with a try, while Rea’s display in the centre earned her the player-of-the-match award.
Kavanagh made it two tries in as many games against France in Ashbourne, but despite a late Irish rally the French held out for a narrow win.
The team, though, made it two away wins out of two with a 22-5 victory over Scotland a fortnight later, this time one of the experienced crew, centre Lynne Cantwell, was named the game’s outstanding player.
Cantwell’s two tries and partnership with Rea helped drive Ireland on to their sixth successive win over Scotland.
Also helping guide the newcomers through their first Six Nations campaign have been full-back Niamh Briggs, number 8 Joy Neville and Coghlan, in her second season leading the team.
“We’re still not where we want to be and we have two tough games to go, but we’ve taken plenty of encouragement from the three performances so far, and we’re just delighted with how well the new players have done,” added Coghlan.
With so many contenders from the team for our award we opted in the end for Coghlan as a representative for them all, and for her leadership of a side that has overcome the loss of key players.
Next up is Sunday’s game away to Wales, before Friday week’s meeting with six-in-a-row-seeking England in Ashbourne.
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