Captain Coghlan dreaming of Slam glory
IRELAND's women's Grand Slam hopefuls are juggling careers as teachers, doctors and physiotherapists as they prepare for what will be the game of their lives.
These amateurs may have languished in the shadow of their professional male counterparts thus far.
However, the Ireland women's senior rugby team will be hoping to make history by completing their first clean sweep of the Six Nations when they face Italy tomorrow.
But unlike the men, the players must fit a gruelling training regime around their everyday working lives.
Among them are team captain Fiona Coghlan, a PE and maths teacher at Lucan Community College in Dublin where Grand Slam excitement is reaching fever pitch.
"You have to be very organised, particularly on those weeks when we're travelling away," the prop said.
"I'm lucky enough as a teacher to have the holidays, but for some of the girls – the doctors and the long hours they put in – it's unbelievable."
The Clontarf native travels to Limerick each week to train with her club – she joined it as a student at the University of Limerick – and has weekly weights sessions with the Ireland team.
"There are a lot of things in your life you have to put on hold, but it's not a sacrifice, it's a choice and it's what I want to do."
Winger Alison Miller (28), from Ballickmoyler in Co Laois, agrees that rugby can take over. The UL student said: "I have to make room for college but having a social life and seeing friends, you don't have as much time for that. Other things do slide."
Miller plans to become a teacher like Coghlan, whose students threw her a party when the team won the Triple Crown for the first time a few weeks ago.
"My first years said if I won the grand slam, could there be no summer test. I told them 'dream on'," she laughed.
The team's final match against Italy will be broadcast tomorrow on RTE Two – the first time a women's rugby game has been broadcast live on television – and Fiona's students, among others, will be watching it closely.