Thursday 19 July 2018

Ireland rally after bumpy start to make it two from two... now bring on the French!

Listowel rugby players Caolainn Healy (18), Rebecca Reilly (16), and Claire Beasley (16). Photo: Caroline Quinn
Listowel rugby players Caolainn Healy (18), Rebecca Reilly (16), and Claire Beasley (16). Photo: Caroline Quinn

Alan O'Keeffe

"That wasn't particularly pretty," Killian Byrne (44) said as he left the UCD Bowl. "But a win is a win - roll on France on Thursday."

It was certainly a bumpy start, but Irish fans drew a sigh of relief when they finally got the better of a spirited Japanese team in the Women's Rugby World Cup clash in Dublin.

After trailing 14-0 against the visiting side, the Irish women's resurgence led to a 22-14 victory for the home team to bring hope of further success for the girls in green.

"The Japanese really gave us a scare," said Tom O'Connell, who travelled from Dunboyne, Co Meath, to the stadium at UCD Belfield with daughters Amy (8) and Ava (5).

"I think we can go the whole way now and win the World Cup," he said.

Ireland's men's rugby squad manager Joe Schmidt was clearly very impressed with the game.

Ireland fans Eimear Loughnane (2) and her big sister Aoife (5), from Artane, Dublin, at the match between Ireland and Japan in UCD. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Ireland fans Eimear Loughnane (2) and her big sister Aoife (5), from Artane, Dublin, at the match between Ireland and Japan in UCD. Photo: Caroline Quinn

He emerged from the stadium with the legions of Irish fans, remarking: "It was a great game. I really enjoyed it."

The Elliott family from Swords, Co Dublin, had a win-win attitude as husband James (37) wore his green jersey while his wife Eri (43), a native of Tokyo, wore her Japanese colours.

Their children Amy (8) and Kai (6) loved the game and would have been happy which ever team won, they said.

"I'm a big supporter of the men's international side and it was my first women's game but I'll definitely go to more women's games," said James.

UCD student and Japan fan Seousa Koh (20). Photo: Caroline Quinn
UCD student and Japan fan Seousa Koh (20). Photo: Caroline Quinn

"I'm very proud of how Japan played," said Eri.

Japanese supporters Mayu Suzuki (18), Kanin Fukuju (19) and Yuma Takahashi (18), all from the city of Nagoya and studying at Dublin City University, were all attending their first game of women's rugby.

"It was very scary, very physical, but very exciting," said Yuma.

Hugo O'Donnell (52), from Blackrock, Dublin, attended with his Japanese wife Nobuko Ijichi and said he was happy to shout for Japan.

"I think women's rugby is better to watch than the men's because it's more fluid and more dynamic," he said.

Akane Kagawa (43), Japan's team manager, said: "The Irish were in a panic in the first half. We're very proud of how we performed. It's been a great tournament here in Ireland. The Irish are so warm and kind and hospitable."

Mags Darcy (29), who is the star goalkeeper for the Wexford camogie team, said: "I came to support the girls in green. It's always great to support an Irish team, no matter what the code."

The fan zone at Belfield was a veritable United Nations of supporters with members of most national squads watching the action on a big screen.

Hong Kong winger Laurel Chor (27) was watching with her parents David and Gloria and sister Lillian. She was still recovering from the 121-0 defeat at the hands of New Zealand.

Lillian's father David said: "It was great coming to Ireland. Our team have won great experience and participation is the most important thing."

He said his daughter's lifelong karate activity meant he did not have to worry too much when she was knocked over by the big New Zealanders.

Irish Independent

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