Eileen McCarthy won her first rugby medal last Sunday afternoon – not a bad achievement for a 53-year-old newcomer to the sport, writes Barry Coughlan.
Eileen McCarthy along with daughter Aileen (24) helped Bantry Bay RFC claim the Munster Women’s Plate title with a victory over Youghal/Dungarvan. And the elder McCarthy is already relishing a return for next season’s campaign.
“There are people out there suggesting it’s time to hang my boots up but I haven’t a notion,” Eileen laughed. “I’ll be around the club again next season and I’m looking forward to it.”
What makes her story more remarkable is the fact that she is such a late convert to the sport. McCarthy enjoyed tremendous success playing Ladies Gaelic football and soccer with a number of clubs but her first forays with the oval ball did not go according to plan.
“Originally, I started playing rugby in Clonakilty maybe ten years ago, but I suffered a burst appendix after a couple of weeks so that put an end to my rugby career at that stage. I always had thing about playing rugby, I have always been a sports nut in a sense.
“I was away in England for years and didn’t play anything but with my daughters I started playing football again with Caheragh around 2009 and starting playing soccer with Drinagh.
“I won a county with Caheragh, and won a double, (West Cork League and Cup) with Drinagh but I had always loved rugby. We saw an ad in the paper (for the rugby team) and when my daughter was heading out there I decided to go with her. I have enjoyed every moment of it.”
Bantry Bay coach Damien Hicks was delighted to welcome the McCarthy ladies on board and said both had contributed greatly to the success this year.
“In terms of Women’s rugby, the game in Bantry is only in its infancy, so to achieve success was something beyond expectation,” he said.
“We played in Division Two last year, competed well and managed to be chosen to move up to the First Division. Winning this trophy was obviously a huge thing, but I was also delighted with our performances in the league.
“Out of 12 teams, we finished in fifth. It should get better because we have a lot of girls coming through out of the Under-18s and they have been playing rugby for much longer than most of our senior players.
“We’re certainly going in the right direction and a lot of it is down to what the likes of the McCarthys and many others have contributed over the last two seasons.”