Monday 23 September 2019

Hughes finds her feet after missing out on the World Cup

Ireland's Alisa Hughes. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ireland's Alisa Hughes. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

When Alisa Hughes was overlooked for Ireland's World Cup squad last year, she knew it was time to go back to the drawing board.

In her own words, she was in peak condition, yet former head coach Tom Tierney who lost his job following the disastrous campaign on home soil, decided to look elsewhere.

Nicole Cronin finished the World Cup as Ireland's first choice scrum-half after a couple of impressive displays but since taking over from Tierney, Adam Griggs has favoured Hughes.

The Tullamore native gets the nod from the start in tomorrow's clash against USA at Donnybrook (1.0) and having overcome the initial heartache at missing out on the World Cup, Hughes is more determined than ever to take every opportunity that is presented to her.

"I played a couple of matches in that 2017 Six Nations, then I didn't make the World Cup squad so I had to put on my fighting boots and come back again," Hughes explains.

"I made it back into the squad then for the 2018 Six Nations and very much involved since.

"First off, when you don't make a World Cup squad, there's a huge amount of disappointment that you have to try and mentally prepare yourself.

"Once you get your head right, I think everything on top of that… I played the game because I love it. It's fairly easy then to go off and work on the rugby side of things, once you've your head straight.

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Gutted "(I was) Absolutely gutted. I probably was my fittest and my strongest at that stage. I suppose at the time my rugby probably wasn't up to scratch.

"That's why I had to go away and actually focus on what type of rugby player I wanted to be and how I wanted to be, say, as a nine in itself. How I wanted to play as a nine. Tried to focus on what I was good at and what I needed to improve."

Hughes comes from a camogie background. Growing up, she always dreamed of playing at Croke Park so when she ticked that off the list and rugby came calling, she switched her focus.

"This is my sixth season, I think," she says. "I helped set-up the Tullamore ladies rugby club.

"I got so fed up, because there was no club near us. I played my first year with Tullamore and obviously had hopes of trying to make a World Cup, so moved up to Railway Union then, who have been fantastic since.

"I didn't play any rugby before that. All my brothers played and I've been involved in Tullamore, but I never actually played. Mum would never let me play with the boys.

"My brother Adam (taught me to pass). He was a scrum-half with Tullamore. He used to fling a ball at me and that's how I learned to catch a ball. Then he got so fed up that I couldn't pass it back, so he taught me how to pass it back!

"I've a couple of All-Irelands. I've a minor All-Ireland and an Intermediate All-Ireland. A couple of trips to Croke Park, it was nice.

"In my head at the time, and it still is, playing intermediate camogie then being able to play at senior level, that's something you dream of as a kid.

"That's what I grew up dreaming of. To be able to turn around and do the same then with rugby is unreal. You can't describe it.

"You can't compare them, you can't describe it either."

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