This November, the Ireland Women’s team will compete in their first ever autumn international series, facing England, Canada and New Zealand in UCD. Rewind back to November 2015, to the Ireland Women’s first ever autumn International against England at the Stoop and you’ll certainly see a smile on Mairead Coyne’s face.
Mairead Coyne, who can play both on the wing and at full-back, won her first Ireland cap on that rainy day in south west London, and then went on to win three more caps during last season’s Women’s RBS 6 Nations.
The Connemara native and former Galway Ladies footballer decided to take up rugby in 2012. Galway had been knocked out of the All-Ireland Football Championship in the semi-finals by a Kerry side featuring Ireland Women’s Sevens player Louise Galvin, and Mairead was looking for something to keep herself occupied during the winter months.
A friend of hers, Lisa McDonagh, had been playing rugby with Galwegians, so Coyne decided to head up to a few training sessions and give it a try.
Mairead with friend and club-mate Lisa McDonagh tackle Blackrock and Ireland player Katie Fitzhenry
Since picking up the oval ball, Coyne has enjoyed some notable success with her club. She was on the Galwegians team that won the All-Ireland Cup in both 2014 and 2016 and credits the coaches she’s worked with since joining ‘Wegians with helping her develop her skills.
She has worked with Anthony Murphy, Luke O’Donnell, former Connacht number 8 George Naoupu, current Connacht centre Bundee Aki and former Black Ferns and Women’s World Cup winner Beth Mallard. “I’m really fortunate that I’ve worked with such good coaches, they’ve passed on so much knowledge. It’s really been brilliant,” she said.
From club success, she was selected for Connacht and caught the attention of then Ireland Women’s head coach Philip Doyle who invited her to train with the extended national squad in their preparations for the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2014.
While she didn’t win any caps during the 2014/15 campaign, Coyne continued to perform for her club and province and was rewarded last November when she was named by Ireland Women’s head coach Tom Tierney to start against current World champions England at the Stoop. Naturally she was delighted when the call came.
“I was at work hoping for the call, so I was constantly checking my phone to see if Tom (Tierney) had called, and when the phone finally rang I was absolutely delighted. I called my family and friends and just couldn’t wait for the game. It was a dream come true.”
Mairead in action against England on her debut at the Stoop last November
From the Stoop to the Six Nations, where Mairead played against Wales, France and England. It’s been an impressive four years in the game for the 27-year-old winger/full-back.
Looking towards the season ahead, she will be hoping to add to her caps tally next month when the top teams in the world visit UCD, and with Ireland’s hosting of the Women’s Rugby World Cup next year looming, she is one of a number of players who is hoping the revamped Women’s All-Ireland League can give her an extra boost where selection is concerned (she has been in fine try-scoring form after the first three rounds).
“The games with the club are much tougher this year, there’s a bit of an edge there as well as we’re all fighting for spots for November so it’s really made everyone lift their standards and the level of skill this season is the best I’ve seen,” she added.
This is arguably the biggest and most important season for Women’s rugby in Ireland, and Mairead is planning on playing her part in what is going to be a very busy 10 months. She is part of the Ireland Women’s squad and will be looking forward to the Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland next August.
Tickets for the finals are available here: www.ticketmaster.ie/wrwc2017. #BringIt