Saturday 21 September 2019

No regrets for McDermott after switching from basketball to rugby

Aoife McDermott has made the move from basketball to rugby (stock picture)
Aoife McDermott has made the move from basketball to rugby (stock picture)
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Two years ago, Aoife McDermott was a first-choice Irish international. That status hasn't changed, but she is now playing a very different sport.

The Sligo native's basketball days are behind her since her head was turned to rugby by Ireland centre Jenny Murphy.

The oval ball was not something she had ever given any great thought, but she decided it was time for a fresh challenge.

McDermott is not the only player in the current Ireland squad to have swapped basketball for rugby as prop Lindsay Peat and winger Louise Galvin have done likewise.

"The last time I played was in 2016 in the European Championships for small countries," McDermott said.

"I came home with a silver medal from that, which was nice. Well, it was a bit disappointing in hindsight.

"The day of my first cap for Ireland with the rugby, Nichola Fryday fell ill so I came into the starting XV. And I remember all the girls going, 'You've done this before, it's not your first time', so it was good.

"It was a very scary decision. I remember heading down to Railway for my first training and not knowing anyone. I was literally walking away from the starting five of an Irish basketball team after a European Championships to see if this was going to work out or not so it was terrifying.

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"I don't regret it. I had done as much as I could with the basketball and had achieved as much as I could. I just needed something new and I had seen Lindsay Peat and Louise Galvin cross over.

"I would have played with Louise in UL for years and had a lot of success at club level with Louise. Then because of that success, we would have beaten Lindsay a few times, which I like to reminder her about. It doesn't go down too well!"

Recalling how she got into rugby, McDermott, who will start at lock against USA on Sunday, explained why she had Murphy to thank.

"It was a bit mad, it was through Jenny Murphy. I used to work with Sky Sports Living for Sport with Jenny, just chatting and she said, 'Would you ever give rugby a go?' I said I'd love to,' and she said she would get her coach to give me a call.

"Anthony Eddy (women's director) rang me and invited me down to a sevens training session. I literally thought it was going to be a club coach so I got some shock when the phone rang. I went down to the sevens but I hadn't a clue. The girls were like, 'We ruck over' and I was thinking, 'A ruck? What's that?' 

"They were talking about pods of three but I hadn't a clue. So Anthony very kindly suggested that I go to a club and learn the basics, the rules, things like that. I went down to Railway and it went from there."

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