Wednesday 17 July 2019

Worlds await Katie, Jeamie

Duo on Irish rugby squad

Katie Fitzhenry in rugby sevens action for Ireland against Hong Kong
Katie Fitzhenry in rugby sevens action for Ireland against Hong Kong
Jeamie Deacon

Brendan Furlong

Ambitious Katie Fitzhenry is targeting World Cup glory on home soil.

The Wexford town native made the 28-player cut for Ireland's World Women's Cup which will open against Australia at the UCD Bowl tomorrow (Wednesday), and she is joined on the squad by a fellow Slaneysider in Jeamie Deacon.

Having been part of the Irish sevens team throughout the season, Katie put an injury nightmare behind her to gain inclusion in Tom Tierney's squad ahead of the opening Pool C clash with the Aussies.

Japan and France are the other two teams in the Irish pool, with pre-tournament favourites, England, New Zealand and Canada, in the other two pools.

Ireland reached the semi-finals in France in 2014, but this is Fitzhenry's first time involved in the World Cup, coming on the back of a highly-successful series with the national team.

'We played in Dubai, Sydney, Los Vegas and Russia. Russia was part of the European series while the other three came under the world eeries.

'In the Europeans we came second while we also qualified for next year's world series, which was great for us,' she said.

'I missed out on Russia through injury. I had feared the injury would hinder my chances of making the World Cup squad but when I made it into Tommy Tierney's final 28 I was delighted, thrilled to have made the cut.

'It's a great honour for me and for Wexford. I am really looking forward to it,' she added.

Katie, who lived in Ivy Lane in Coolcotts, started her club rugby under Noel Ferguson with Wexford Vixens and will be the first Wexford town girl to play in a women's World Cup.

Now employed by the I.R.F.U. working in the Spirit of Rugby programme, Katie plays her club rugby with Blackrock in Dublin.

Recently Katie travelled with the squad to Fota Island for a four-day camp in preparation for the opening games. There are just four days between the opener with Australia, and the second Pool C game against Japan, and then another four days separate that game from the final pool game with France.

'We've prepared well in terms of training. It was stepped up over the weekend and on August 5 we will re-group at U.C.D. to continue preparations for the opening game. We've put in the hard work so hopefully this will be seen in the pre-tournament game against Spain during the Fota Island camp.

'Many of the side have been there and done that in the World Cup.

'It's my first but I'm hoping the sevens experience will help me settle in in terms of a major tournament.

'I will embrace what is a wonderful opportunity for me,' she added.

Enniscorthy native Jeamie Deacon will also be playing in her first World Cup.

Jeamie, the former U.C.D. and Irish international hockey star, had a belated switch to rugby, having enjoyed some memorable moments during her sporting career.

Indeed, she was once flown by private jet to play in a hockey quarter-final for Michigan State University, a journey unlikely to be unforgetted.

The now 30-year-old was called in to Tom Tierney's 2015 Six Nations squad, having only taken up rugby two years previously. Hockey had up to then been her sole focus since her school days in Newtown, Waterford.

It was Ireland's Grand Slam of 2013 that caught her imagination, and she decided to give rugby a go, joineing Dublin club Blackrock, from where she made rapid progress through the excellent coaching that was available.

Now she is on the verge of competing in her first World Cup in Dublin this month.

Gorey Guardian