Tullamore utility forward Nichola Fryday approaches Saturday’s IRFU Women’s Interprovincial clash with Leinster clash as a rookie – never mind the two Ireland caps under her belt!
The Connacht Women commence their 2016/17 Interprovincial campaign in Tuam at 2pm on Saturday afternoon, hoping to exorcise some demons from fixtures past.
Most recently, Connacht has squeezed interpro margins to such an extent that more clinical finishing and cutting down a couple of errors would have all but reversed their 2014 and 2015 losses to Leinster.
For newcomer Nichola Fryday, however, recent history counts for little. “My main goal last year was to play the best rugby I could and give myself a shot at provincial selection. Making the Connacht squad earlier this year was already a pleasant surprise,” she said.
The Tullamore blindside flanker/number 8 may play her club rugby in Leinster, but green is the new black this winter as far as she is concerned, swapping her Ireland kit for a Connacht one this weekend.
“It feels great to have experienced international rugby; something I’ve always dreamed of doing but it was certainly not on my radar 12 months ago. Getting the opportunity to play the last two matches against Canada and New Zealand is amazing. I still can’t quite believe it. Now it’s job-on against many of those team-mates one week later.”
The 22-year-old Fryday, who starts at number 8, is one of five new caps in Connacht’s starting line-up. Galwegians’ Amelie Roux (lock), Tullamore’s Shannon Touhey (outside centre), NUIG and Galway county footballer Orla Dixon (wing) and Castlebar captain Anne-Marie O’Hora (prop) are also set to play in their first interprovincial fixtures.
Connacht Junior stalwart, Westport club relic and Connacht Women’s coach John-Paul Walsh said 2016 was a bit of an unknown to date, admitting: “We’re light, I won’t lie to you. We’re light on kilos, y’know? But that’s not a massive problem if everything else goes according to plan. We’ve got most of it ticking away quite nicely, but until it’s tested at interpro level it’s a hard one to call.
“As we know, mistakes at this level pose a whole new world of problems versus mistakes at club (level) and I think the girls who’ve been here before have instilled quite a competitive culture. You presume mistakes are going to happen in rugby, it’s the nature of the beast.
“What the more experienced guys here have done is stressed to the squad that we have to avoid as many mistakes as possible and ensure that any fallout from ones made is mitigated as well.”
The burly former loose forward was excited though, in particular with the most recent fortnight’s preparation. He added: “There’s an edge there now. The girls are keen, they’re all looking to get involved, be involved, and stamp their own mark. Even the newbies who up until within the last month were watching in silence, they’re vocal now. They’re all vocal now.”
2015 vice-captain and inside centte Emma Clery steps up this winter in the captain’s role. A clever player, in her sixth campaign, Clery is mindful of the new faces in the back-line but took heart from the fact they were talented and largely unseen by interpro opposition too.
“We know these girls, we’ve seen what they can do. The rest of us now make sure we engineer the right opportunities for them to work some magic,” she said.
CONNACHT WOMEN (v Leinster): Mairead Coyne (Galwegians); Orla Dixon (NUIG), Shannon Touhey (Tullamore), Emma Clery (Galwegians) (capt), Ursula Sammon (Galwegians); Clare Raftery (Galwegians), Jill Draper (Tullamore); Laura Feely (Galwegians), Ciara O’Connor (Galwegians), Anne-Marie O’Hora (Castlebar), Amelie Roux (Galwegians), Mar Sheridan (Tuam), Heather Cary (St. Mary’s), Grainne Egan (St. Mary’s), Nichola Fryday (Tullamore).
Replacements: Eimear Murphy (Carlow), Valerie Mitchell (UL Bohemians), Caroline Staunton (Castlebar), Tara Buggie (NUIG), Carol Staunton (St. Mary’s), Shannen Lane (NUIG), Mary Healy (Galwegians), Niamh Connolly (St. Mary’s).
CONNACHT WOMEN – INTERPRO FIXTURES:
Saturday, December 3: Connacht Women v Leinster Women, Tuam RFC, 2pm
Saturday, December 10: Munster Women v Connacht Women, Irish Independent Park, 2.30pm
Saturday, December 17: Connacht Women v Ulster Women, Galway Corinthians RFC, 2pm