| 6°C Dublin

Code-breaker Considine rises to oval-ball challenge


Eimear Considine: ‘Regardless of the result, playing in a World Cup, a home one, was amazing’. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Eimear Considine: ‘Regardless of the result, playing in a World Cup, a home one, was amazing’. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Eimear Considine: ‘Regardless of the result, playing in a World Cup, a home one, was amazing’. Photo: Gerry Mooney

When it comes to working full-time and representing your country at international level, there is never enough hours in the day.

Eimear Considine knows all about that. She is busy preparing for a Six Nations championship but she is also teaching PE and Irish at St Mary's in Glasnevin. The 27-year-old has a full-time job and dedicates every other waking hour to her sport. That means getting gym sessions in before the school bell rings and running sessions in after school ends.

Her weekends are usually spent playing matches or in camp honing the skills that make her one of the best players in the country.

The demands of both careers means she has to resourceful with her time. A double PE class with her sixth year girls can be useful for her recovery or mobility as she can partake in the session too. Every minute counts.

It helps that her boyfriend, Dean Ryan, also plays sport at the top level - he is a footballer with Clare so he understands the dedication and commitment needed to excel. He looks after all the cooking and food prep and ensures that there are no unhealthy snacks around.

Considine's journey to international rugby wasn't a straightforward one. She hails from Kilmihil in Clare, a typical west of Ireland village. GAA is a way of life, and in Kilmihil Gaelic football is king.

Considine grew up doing athletics and playing football and camogie. Along with her sister Ailish, who now plays women's AFL with the Adelaide Crows, they were dual players for the Banner County. But playing inter-county football and camogie was challenging, especially as Considine was working in Dublin.

"I used to drive down to Clare on a Friday evening, get out of the car, go training. Then Saturday would be a camogie game, Sunday a football game and then back to work on Monday. I did it for three years and it was fine because I had the summers off but it got to the stage where it was too much and I wasn't enjoying it anymore."

A message on social media site LinkedIn from Stan McDowell, a coach with the Ireland Sevens team, presented Considine with a new opportunity and she grabbed it with both hands.

"They were recruiting for the Olympics and I was drawn to that," explains Considine. "I nearly missed the message because I never check LinkedIn.

"I remember watching the 15s girls when they won the Grand Slam in that horrible mud, I was sitting at the kitchen table and I said I'd never play that game. I actually said those words. I had seen it as a very physical game, I didn't know the rules, I didn't know the skill, I didn't know what went on in scrums, I didn't know the plays.

"A lot of people would be like that. They wouldn't enjoy rugby as much as I do now. I see the plays and I know what they are doing and why they make certain moves. I appreciate it a lot more now than I did."

Considine was 23 then, and open to a new challenge. There were a few other athletes from other sports selected for Sevens trials, but she made the cut and a few months later joined the Ireland squad.

"I was totally out of my depth at the start. I hadn't a clue what was going on but I think I hid it well. Anthony Eddy was just after joining and he brought the whole squad to San Diego for a training tournament. Canada and the USA were there. I cringe now when I look back, I didn't know what offside was or how to tackle. I know you have to start somewhere but starting against the USA and Canada wasn't ideal.

"It was great to develop those skills in Sevens because in 15s on the wing you don't get an opportunity to pass that often, or you make tackles but it's in a small space compared to Sevens where there is so much space."

It was a whirlwind for Considine and it was also very difficult to juggle. The demands took their toll and after two years she called time on her Sevens career.

"I think, looking back, I had a bit of burnout. I took a bit of a break. That year Clare got to the All-Ireland final and lost to Kildare but only by a few points. I don't think my mother has forgiven me for not going back to football that year but I just wasn't in the right mindset to go play so I just took the summer off and did nothing."

Considine wasn't left idle for long, as that autumn she was invited to play interprovincial rugby for Munster. She had never played 15s rugby but was open to giving it a try. She played the games for Munster and did well enough for Tom Tierney to call her into the Ireland squad.

She had yet to play a club game of rugby but it was World Cup year and an opportunity she couldn't turn down. Ireland beat Australia and Japan in their pool games but they lost to France and failed to advance to the knockout stages.

"It was disappointing, we were at home and there was a lot of hype around us. It didn't go the way everyone had hoped. Regardless of the result, playing in a World Cup, a home one, was amazing."

In the aftermath of the World Cup there was significant fallout over the team's questionable preparation in the lead-up to the competition. Several players voiced their disappointment with the set-up and a review was commissioned by the IRFU.

"I didn't know any different. It was my first year in an Ireland squad so I didn't have the negativity that some of the other girls might have had. They knew what it took to win a Six Nations, to come third in a World Cup, they knew what we were lacking and I didn't. It was good that we had the review after, we ended up getting a full-time coach, having the autumn internationals, there is a lot more to go but we are getting there.

"I think our club structure has a lot to work on. There is one club in Munster in the AIL, one in Connacht and one in Ulster. If you want to play for Ireland then the Ireland manager will tell you to play AIL and that is a lot of commitment if you have to move to play AIL. In Dublin then it is top-heavy. I think the structure will be reviewed and looked at."

With England now full-time Considine is concerned that other nations will improve at a higher rate than Ireland. But that is out of her control.

Where this Irish team is at will be clearer after the Six Nations. For now all the Clare woman can do is her best and she certainly never gives less than that.

Sunday Indo Sport