THE road was long and rocky and the hard graft involved years of heading out to the gym on dark nights after a day's work at their "real" jobs.
But as 'Come on Ye Girls in Green' rang out in the arrivals hall of Dublin Airport to welcome home the all-conquering Irish women's rugby team after their historic first Grand Slam success, this seemed to be the start of something fresh and exciting.
The crowd of around 300 supporters was an ecstatic sea of green flags as they waited for the arrival of Ireland's latest sporting heroines.
For at least an hour beforehand, any new passenger emerging through the double doors of the arrivals hall was greeted with pleasantly startling whoops and cheers that caused them to either blush or beam with delight. And when the women's rugby team themselves finally arrived on their delayed flight from Milan, they did both.
The team had not been expecting this reception, they admitted afterwards.
Captain Fiona Coughlan (32), from Clontarf in Dublin, admitted it had been "frustrating at times" not to get the recognition but said she understood why.
"We hadn't got the results," she shrugged.
She said they saw the men's team "making money" and getting the recognition, adding, "That's their job and we're cool with that."
But now that the public are aware of how good the women are, she said they needed to keep on "plugging away".
Coach Philip 'Goose' Doyle said that now success has come, he hoped a company would step forward to provide vital financial support to the team in the form of sponsorship.