Wednesday 21 March 2018

Fitzpatrick: We need to play close to perfect to win

Ireland captain Paula Fitzpatrick. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Ireland captain Paula Fitzpatrick. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Back in 2013 when Ireland's women were preparing to take the final step on their Grand Slam journey, the hard work was largely seen as having already been done.

But, as the rain bucketed down and the pitch cut up, Ireland just about managed to get over the line against a dogged Italian side, and the rest is history.

Fast forward four years and while this is very much a new-look team, plenty of familiar faces remain as Ireland aim to repeat the trick against England in Donnybrook tonight (8.00).

In total, there are seven players left from that famous afternoon in Milan but the task that lies ahead this evening is on an altogether difference scale as the world champions arrive in Dublin chasing a Grand Slam of their own.


After a first-half wobble in their opening game against France, England have been hugely impressive since, but they didn't have it all their own way against Italy.

Ireland, on the other hand, have had to come through four tough encounters which they will hope stands to them.

For captain Paula Fitzpatrick, this is a chance to lead her team to glory and write themselves into the history books but she is not underestimating the challenge that awaits.

"I think many cup finals have been won without the perfect game so I don't think we need to be perfect but we need to be very, very, very close and we need to stop England from being perfect as well so it will be more about mindset," the No 8 insisted.

"I think Irish people in general like to be underdogs. So no it's not a bad position to be in. But I don't think we are way off by any stretch of the imagination.

"Back in November we lost to them by two points so it's not a huge gap between the sides and I think bringing them to Donnybrook, Paddy's night, a huge crowd - that will hopefully give us an advantage as well."

Much has been made of the fact that Ireland will go up against a professional English outfit but inside the squad, it isn't being mentioned at all.

Tom Tierney's side may have only had their first pitch session on Wednesday morning but they pride themselves on their professional attitude when they are both in and out of camp, as Fitzpatrick explains:

"I think the girls know what's coming. Yes, while they are professional in terms of pay to play and they can focus wholly on it, we would like to think of ourselves in terms of that standard as well in terms of the way we train and the attitude we have.

"Not necessarily the financial aspect but in terms of the mindset. I think you have to believe in yourself that you have the capabilities to win it. Otherwise what is the point in showing up?"

A positive start, particularly up front, will be crucial and if Ireland can pull off what would be an upset, it would rank as one of the greatest results in their history.

Verdict: England

Ireland Women - K Flood; H Tyrrell, J Murphy, S Naoupu, A Miller; N Stapleton, L Muldoon, L Peat, L Lyons, A Egan; S Spence, M-L Reilly; C Griffin, C Molloy, P Fitzpatrick (capt). Reps: C O'Connor, I Van Staden, R O'Reilly, C Cooney, N Fryday, M Healy, N Caughey, M Coyne.

England Women - D Waterman; A Wilson Hardy, E Scarratt, A Reed, K Wilson; E Scott, LT Mason; R Clark, A Cokayne, J Lucas; T Taylor, H Millar-Mills; A Matthews, M Packer, S Hunter (capt). Reps: V Fleetwood, V Cornborough, L Keates, P Cleall, I Noel-Smith, B Blackburn, R Burford, L Thompson.

Ref - A Nievas (Spain)

Ireland v England, Live, RTE 2, 8.00

Irish Independent

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