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From Clanna Gael to an Irish jersey, Stacey continues her sporting journey

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TCD players Rebecca McDonnell, left, and Stacey Flood, both from Clan na Gael Fontenoy, Dublin, celebrate with the Giles Cup in 2015

TCD players Rebecca McDonnell, left, and Stacey Flood, both from Clan na Gael Fontenoy, Dublin, celebrate with the Giles Cup in 2015

TCD players Rebecca McDonnell, left, and Stacey Flood, both from Clan na Gael Fontenoy, Dublin, celebrate with the Giles Cup in 2015

From a trickle to a Flood. Once sport took a hold in this family home, it wouldn’t let go. When Clanna Gael Fontenoy’s ladies claimed the Dublin Intermediate title in 2010, their success was underpinned by one local collection of enigmatic daughters.

Captained by Lynn, the Floods at various times contributed four girls to the side; and as well as Karen, they housed two future international stars of the oval ball, Kim and Stacey.

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Ireland out-half Stacey Flood

Ireland out-half Stacey Flood

Ireland out-half Stacey Flood

“I basically played since I was eight years old,” Stacey says, speaking from her Italian base as Ireland’s World Cup hopes teeter on the brink. She hadn’t even started her Junior Cert year by the time she was lining out in Parnell Park for a title decider against Parnells, and a special Irish female sporting trailblazer.

“It came up on my Facebook memories the other day, I think I was 14,” she smiles at the memory. “It was the day we had beaten Parnells and Lyndsey Peat is coming in to tackle me from behind and little 14-year old me looks so scared!”

Eleven years on, they are team-mates; Peat, now in her fifth decade, still striving for the next sporting goal.

Tomorrow, Sevens’ stalwart Flood prepares for the most formidable challenge of her fledgling career in an Irish XV’s jersey, trying to keep her country’s World Cup hopes alive against Italy in Parma.

And next week the Flood family, once so steeped in the GAA – “actually we’re a huge skiff rowing family too with the Stella Maris club” – will all pitch up on Italian soil as Stacey’s side complete their qualification tournament against Scotland. It has been quite the journey, embracing a sabbatical on the Gold Coast in the Australian Sevens’ programme, as well a globe-trotting career with an Irish Sevens side who have sadly dipped well below their potential.

It is a journey which she never really expected to take shape in such a way; particularly an oval one.

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“I stumbled into it a bit. I was playing a lot of football with Dublin’s underage sides and was also was playing soccer with Cambridge Girls when I wasn’t chasing All-Irelands.

“Rugby just didn’t come into it. Then Kim started playing rugby when I was 14 or 15. I always used to follow in her footsteps but I didn’t have an interest because I was such a big GAA head.

“Then, to keep fit I started playing sevens and Railway Union sent in a coach to my school and got a little sevens team together, a tournament against other schools and I just thought this is so much fun and I could also use so many of the skills I already had.

“I got picked for the U18s Ireland squad when I was 17. Once I went into college I was straight into the sevens, which was such an honour and opportunity for me and gave me my knowledge of sevens and rugby in general.

“Just training every day is such a huge benefit for everyone so that was brilliant and I’m happy that I was there. Then I got the opportunity to into sevens and learn from so many different players and that was a great chance.”

Like Kim, Stacey has vast experience in the shorter format of the game but has formed a steady recent migration into the XVs game; Lucy Mulhall, who debuted in last Monday’s shock loss to Spain, became the latest.

Regrettably, it has seemed to compromise Ireland’s progress in both formats of the game; albeit the talented Flood has impressed since her debut against Wales earlier this year, despite being the latest in a long list of out-half candidates since Nora Stapleton’s retirement.

“I’ve played in high-pressure environments since I was 18 in the Sevens,” the 25-year-old stresses.

“We played in the World Series for so many years. And I can’t harp on enough about the players’ support.

“If they see something, they will come and say it to me. It’s critical learning for me. I’m learning so much but the more the players around me help too, it makes it so much easier.

“And obviously out-half is a really important position. It’s not a one-player squad, it’s a 15, 25, 40 player effort. I’m honestly telling you, Enya Breen helps me and I help her and that push from your peers can only help you get better.

“So yes, I am learning on the job but it’s so exciting that I am learning. Like, when something comes off, you go, ‘We practised that in training yesterday’ and you’re seeing it happen on the field.

“Obviously some things weren’t coming off last weekend. But on a good day, half of those would have been tries. We just kind of beat ourselves.

“We’ve gone back to the training ground and fixed a lot of our errors, righted a lot of our wrongs. So hopefully we can show people what we’re capable of.

“We’re looking forward to it because we know we didn’t have a performance we know we have against Spain.”

Italy v Ireland, Live RTE Player 2.0


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