It may not have ended with the result she had hoped for, but Molly Scuffil-McCabe was still able to enjoy her Ireland 15s debut against England in the TikTok Women’s Six Nations last Sunday.
Having waited patiently on the sidelines during the opening three rounds of the Championship, the Lucan native was given her chance to impress at full-back at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.
Although Greg McWilliams’ side ultimately fell to their third defeat of 2022 in comprehensive fashion, it was a game that Scuffil-McCabe will not forget in a hurry.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I originally came from Sevens and didn’t get the opportunity to do it there and that’s something I was very aware of,” she admitted.
“We were all very aware of the challenge ahead of us and getting your first cap was unbelievable. I was very focused on it. I had moments where I let the enjoyment of getting my first cap come into it, but for the most I was focused.
“I’d say it’ll hit me in a few more weeks how amazing it was. Playing in front of a record crowd, I don’t think it gets better than that. I signed my first autograph at the weekend which was pretty cool, I realised I need to practise it!
“I got congratulated on my first cap by someone, I didn’t expect anyone to know that. It was surreal in that sense. That took me aback. I’m not used to people knowing my name.
“I got home and watched the game straight away and watched it again last night (Monday). We’ve done our reviews. No one wants to lose 69-0. It’s hard to take, but we’ve done our learnings, now we’ve got to concentrate on what’s coming this weekend (against Scotland).”
Before representing St. Mary’s College and Railway Union in the All-Ireland League, Scuffil-McCabe began her club rugby journey at Garda Westmanstown RFC in Clonsilla.
However, it was thanks to the persuasion of a Grand Slam-winning Ireland captain during her school days that she first took up the sport.
I originally started in Lucan Community College where Fiona Coghlan was my maths and PE teacher, that’s who pushed me into rugby. I was playing hockey at the time.
“Every maths lesson it’d be, ‘go on, down to the pitch, go join your local club’, which was Westmanstown. There was an underage open trial at the time and I went to it at 15, still not knowing many of the laws of rugby.”
From there, she progressed through the Ireland Sevens ranks and eventually became more active on the 15s club scene again.
“I went into a Sevens senior contract, but I was trying to balance it with a law degree and now, having finished my degree and left the Sevens programme I have a much better understanding of the balance you need to strike.
“I enjoyed my time in Sevens and saw parts of the world I’d never have seen without it. It gave me better skills to bring back to my club when I went back to the AIL.
“I had an overwhelming moment when I left. ‘Oh God, I’m not going in training every day or as hard’. There’s a big gap there.
“Club is different, you’re training Tuesday and Thursday, gym on Wednesday, game on Saturday. Club really gave me a love for the game again.”
While it is entirely possible that she would have donned the green jersey without Coghlan’s encouragement, the legendary former Ireland prop had a position in mind for her that was far removed from the full-back role she occupied against England.
“She originally said to me she thought I could be a flanker, I still hold that one to her. She texted me before my debut and I said, ‘to think you thought I could be a flanker’, and she said, ‘a good player is a good player’. I took that as a compliment.”
Aside from her 13 Railway Union club-mates who have featured in the Ireland squad across this Six Nations, there are a number of others in the set-up – such as Dorothy Wall – who Scuffil-McCabe was familiar with from her time in the Sevens programme.
As a result, this meant she was able to settle seamlessly into the Ireland 15s environment. The 24-year-old added: “A lot of good friends from Sevens who reached out again. I was on a FaceTime to Eve Higgins last night, she’s over (in Langford), chatting about the game and everything like that.
“Chatting about how she is getting on. I’ve friends there for life from Sevens. It is great.
“I think it’s nice just coming into an environment and having friends there. You settle in so much easier. It’s a different kettle of fish when you’ve your friends beside you.”