Tuesday 17 September 2019

Fitzhenry determined to help keep Ireland's challenge on course

Ireland’s Katie Fitzhenry at a press conference in the Talbot
Hotel, Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland’s Katie Fitzhenry at a press conference in the Talbot Hotel, Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

In the space of a week, at the end of January, Katie Fitzhenry went from playing in 30-degree heat in Sydney to freezing conditions in Dublin - such is life when you are double-jobbing between sevens and 15s.

Sevens has been firmly put on the back burner for now, as Fitzhenry shifts her focus to Ireland's Six Nations campaign, and her return against Italy a fortnight ago brought a new edge to the back-line.

Contracted to the full-time sevens programme, the Wexford native is readjusting to the bigger code and the challenges that come with that.

The squad reconvened in Dublin yesterday morning and went through their one pitch session of the week in Donnybrook, before the captain's run today.

It's a limited time-frame in which to fine-tune the game-plan ahead of the clash against Wales tomorrow, and that poses difficulties.

"No, I don't really think of it like that I suppose," Fitzhenry explains.

"It'd be great obviously to have more sessions with the team within the week but that's not how it is or how it can be at the minute, so for me it's good to just come and get this session done at a high intensity.

"We're all working well together and as long as that happens we're in a good place going forward.

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"Obviously I came in quite late to the set-up so training weeks and stuff have changed for me. Things have been slightly different but juggling it has been fine.

"At the end of the day, we both play rugby in the sevens and 15s, so for me it's been quite an easy transition.

"The space seems to narrow up a lot in the 15s, but you get used to that fairly rapidly when you're going to get hit."

Growing up in Wexford, GAA dominated the agenda.

The 28-year old played inter-county at underage level, but rugby slowly began to take a hold.

The centre started out playing tag rugby in school, and from there helped set up Wexford Wanderers RFC's women's team. Fitzhenry hasn't looked back since.

"It kind of took over around the same time I stopped playing camogie," she recalls.

"What happened was, basically, I was from a town team and we couldn't get people going training. The team folded and I kind of just switched straight into rugby then at the time.

"It just escalated from there. I went back to play GAA with Thomas Davis when I moved to Dublin, which was great.

"I played both camogie and football with them, but once the rugby started kicking then, I didn't really have any temptation to go back.

"I played camogie back home with the Harriers and I actually played with Thomas Davis up here (Dublin) just for a year.

"Back in, it would have been probably 2014, we won the junior All-Ireland, which was great, because I'd never played football before. I was wing-back."

After a poor start away in France, Ireland bounced back well against Italy but they will have to be better again as Wales arrive in Donnybrook tomorrow (3.0).


A heavy defeat to England last time out has the visitors looking for a strong response of their own, but Fitzhenry insists that Ireland are going into the game full of confidence.

"I think progression is probably the main thing here," she adds.

"We progressed from the France game and into the Italy game, and hopefully we can progress again this weekend.

"Those small steps make huge differences at times. The team is really gelling well together and hopefully we can make some of those wrongs from the last time into some rights."

Verdict: Ireland

Ireland - K Flood; M Williams, K Fitzhenry, S Naoupu, C McLaughlin; N Briggs, A Hughes; L Peat, C O'Connor, L Lyons; O Fitzsimons, N Fryday; C Griffin (capt), C Molloy, P Fitzpatrick. Reps: C Moloney, L Feely, F Reidy, A McDermott, E McMahon, N Cronin, M Claffey, H Tyrrell.

Wales - L Neumann; H Bluck, K Lake, R De Flippo, J Kavanagh-Williams; E Snowsill, R Parker; C Thomas, C Phillips (capt), A Evans; S Lillicrap, M Clay; A Butchers, B Lewis, S Harries. Reps: K Jones, C Hope, N John, N E Davies, J Knight, R Wilkins, H Jones.

Ireland Women v Wales, Donnybrook, tomorrow, 3.0, live, RTÉ2

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