Emotions ran high in the aftermath of Ireland’s 25-18 loss to Women’s World Cup hosts France, especially with Fiona Coghlan and Philip Doyle heading up the list of departing players and coaches.
Fiona Coghlan, who took over the Ireland captaincy in a permanent capacity in 2010, has decided to retire from international rugby at the age of 33.
The Clontarf woman leaves the top level of the game having captained her country to a first ever Grand Slam and Triple Crown along with maiden wins over both England and New Zealand and now an historic fourth place finish at the Women’s Rugby World Cup.
Coghlan, an inspirational leader both on and off the pitch, has been a vital cog for the girls in green – particularly in recent years as they mounted consistent challenges for silverware.
Speaking to reporters after the 25-18 loss to French, she admitted: “Obviously today was a little bit emotional because it’s the last game, but once that whistle goes, it’s the last thing on your mind.
“It was emotional at the end and the girls were apologising to me (for the result).”
The Irish captain hailed the current squad as ‘an amazing bunch of girls’, agreeing that it was an ‘amazing’ achievement to secure a top four finish albeit that ‘losing two games (at the business end of the tournament) isn’t how you want to finish’.
“We reached our goal of being in the top four. Obviously when you get to the top four, you want more. We didn’t quite get there but we reached our goals and we’re leaving the jersey and the ranking in a better place than coming into the competition.”
Today marked Coghlan’s 85th cap in the front row, with the durable loosehead prop ending her career as Ireland’s second most-capped player behind her good friend Lynne Cantwell, the lynchpin centre who missed the play-off due to concussion.
The Dubliner (pictured above with Paula Fitzpatrick) is well placed to sum up just how far Ireland have come in terms of competing at World Cup level, and is hopeful that the girls can build on what was achieved in France in the years ahead.
“My first World Cup was in 2006 and I suppose we were lucky to finish eighth. The last World Cup we finished seventh. But in the last three years, we’ve moved the game on so much and we’re playing a type of rugby that is good to watch.
“The standard of the players coming into the game now is great, and to finish fourth for Ireland is a great place to be. It bodes well for the future.”
Asked about the way forward now for Irish Women’s rugby, the PE and maths teacher added: “I want to see proper development pathways put in place to encourage more girls to get involved. I think it can become a sport of choice in this country, whereas it hasn’t been in the past.
“I think if girls get opportunities, they will embrace them. It can go places, but obviously it will take time and resources. It’s about the standard of coaches – I was lucky to have Ian Costello and ‘Goose’ (Philip Doyle) as my coaches. They were superb coaches and I think everyone needs coaches like them.”
Coghlan and her team-mates, along with Doyle’s management team, will arrive home on Monday afternoon. You can welcome Ireland’s fourth-place finishers home at approximately 4.30pm in the arrivals hall of Terminal 1 at Dublin Airport.