When the women's rugby team lost to Scotland recently, the team captain bought some calves to cheer herself up

Captain of Irish Women's Rugby team, Ciara Griffin on her farm in Ballymac, Co Kerry.
Captain of Irish Women's Rugby team, Ciara Griffin on her farm in Ballymac, Co Kerry.
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Farming and rugby have more in common than you think, according to farmer and captain of the Irish Women’s Rugby team, Ciara Griffin.

Ciara Griffin (24) from Ballymac, near Castleisland, Co Kerry has been playing rugby and farming for as long as she can remember.

While Ciara works as a primary school teacher in Co Limerick on week days, in the evenings and the weekends, she helps her father Denis run their 70 acre beef cattle farm and contract rearing of Angus and Hereford dairy heifers.

From an early age she recalls playing rugby in the backyard with her sister and says that rugby and farming have more in common than people think.

“You have to work hard on the rugby pitch, there’s never not a job to be done and that’s the same in farming. There’s always something to be done and there’s rules and responsibilities in both. You can’t be afraid of hard work,” says Ciara.

Ciara’s father Denis has always been hugely involved in the Castleisland Rugby Club and always encouraged his daughters to play the sport. While Ciara spent most of her early childhood scrambling for the rugby ball in her garden at home, she finally got the chance to play with a club when she was 14-years-old.

“Dad has always been hugely involved in rugby and encouraged us to play it, so it was a very natural progression for me. I played since I was very young with my sister in the back garden.

“I didn’t start playing with a club until I was 14 as there was no club around but then Castleisland RC set up a women’s team for the first time which was great,” says the Kerry woman.

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Ciara then went on to play under-age rugby for the Munster squad and then the senior squad. She started to play for Ireland in 2016 before being made Captain in January 2018. She says that the role is a huge honour for her.

“It’s a massive honour to be Captain. It’s so humbling. They’re a great team to be a part of. Playing for your country is an honour but to be captain is something else. It’s still sinking in,” she adds.

While the team suffered a share of defeats in the recent Six Nations Championship, Ciara explains that she is happy overall with the team’s improvement.

“We’re improving as a team. There’s definitely more cohesion there and new girls are coming up. We’re constantly trying to develop things and see the positives we can take from the Six Nations,” says Ciara.

She recalls that after their recent defeat to Scotland in the competition that she bought some calves to cheer herself up and feels that how you react to defeats is a more important learning curve than winning.

“I collected calves the day after in Limerick. They’re thriving now. It’s great to get back to normality. It can be difficult after being beaten. You have to lose to know the value of winning. That’s sport.

"Nobody is perfect and no match is perfect. You need to have bounce back ability,” she adds.

Women in sport and women in farming are known to not get as much publicity as their male counterparts, but Ciara is hopeful that things are changing for women both on the rugby pitch and on the farming field.

“Women in sport is improving. We got broadcast on RTE during the Six Nations and there’s more coverage of our matches in in the paper. More women are getting involved and you don’t have to be 12-years-old to start rugby, women can start at any age,”

“Farming is more male dominated but I hope to see that change too. There was a woman farmer on Big Week on the farm, so things are getting better," she says.

While Ciara admits that balancing teaching, training and farming can be challenging, she says it’s the love for all three that keeps her going.

Ciara Griffin with her parents Kathleen and Denis at home on the farm in Ballymac, Co Kerry.
Ciara Griffin with her parents Kathleen and Denis at home on the farm in Ballymac, Co Kerry.

“I really enjoy teaching. On the farming side I love animals so much. I love hard work and being outside. Some people love machinery but I love the animals, especially the Aberdeen Angus cattle,” she says.

“Life is busy. You might fly in on a Sunday after an international match and then be back to the teaching and farming again, but I love it and I wouldn’t have it any other way. You’d have to love it to do it.”

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