Ireland’s forever Olympians have medals on their mind

Béibhinn Parsons and Megan Burns pictured at Dublin Airport on the team's return from the World Rugby Sevens Series. Photo: Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

David Kelly

Once an Olympian, always an Olympian. Katie. Kellie. Sonia.

Ireland’s famous female sports stars need no further embellishment. Now they could be joined by 12 more.

From Béibhinn to Lucy, Emily to Eve, Amee-Leigh to Stacey, Ireland’s Sevens rugby team will head for Paris 2024 with a podium finish on their minds and pulsing passion in their hearts.

Past triumphs of others will stimulate them, their own future deeds inspire so many others. “Ah stop I remember exactly where I was,” smiles Lucan’s Eve Higgins, as she is prompted to recall Katie Taylor’s totemic London gold.

“I was in a pub in Wexford. Hardly standing room. And that brought a tear to my eye. They are memories that are just ingrained on your brain.

“Because the Olympics is so prestigious, it’s every four years, it doesn’t come around too often. That we can have 12 people next year who can call themselves Olympians is such a special thing, and so special for rugby in Ireland.”

Mallow native Emily Lane listens to the list of glittering names into which she will be placed forever, from Maeve Kyle to Annalise Murphy, and reels. “Oh my God!”

She too can recall 2012. “A pub in Kerry. All packed into this tiny place with all my friends trying to get a glimpse at this tiny box in the corner. The feeling in that room was amazing.

“And now to think that we could be part of something like that is so special; we feel so privileged to be even considered amongst Irish Olympians.”

With privilege comes pressure to perform. Few would have noticed their Sunday breakfast date with destiny a decade in the making; next summer, they will be submerged by the briefest wave of intense passion.

“We can enjoy it now, take a breath and really embrace the feeling of qualification,” adds Lane.

“But when we return to training in two weeks, it will be about just one thing.

“Getting better, improving every day so we can go into an Olympics, and fight as hard as we can to get that medal.”