Rugby Feature Interview: Ben Mitchell (San Diego Legion) – The Evening Echo – April 27 2020

Cork rugby: Youghal’s Ben Mitchell isn’t giving up on his American dream

Following a two-year stint with Austin Elite, the Youghal native transferred to San Diego Legion in advance of the 2020 Major League Rugby season.

The campaign had been going according to plan for the Californians with five straight wins propelling them to the summit of the MLR Western Conference standings.

Unfortunately, this proved to be the finishing point in the calendar year for San Diego.

The season was initially postponed on March 12 due to COVID-19 before ultimately being cancelled seven days later.

Given it will be approximately nine months until San Diego’s next competitive outing, Mitchell is looking into the possibility of a temporary return to the All-Ireland League and his former club UCC.

“I’ve been talking with the coaches here a little bit the last couple of weeks and I’m definitely trying to play again before the next MLR season.

“Whether that will be maybe going back home and playing in the AIL for a couple of months or something like that,” Mitchell explained.

“It’s obviously a huge amount of time not to be playing. Just trying to get something organised at the moment for me to hopefully play some rugby before next January.”

Prior to his Stateside sojourn, Mitchell played a significant role in UCC’s rise through the domestic rugby ranks.

He was a pivotal member of the squad that gained promotion from Division 2A in April 2016 and also featured in the early rounds of their 2017/18 campaign – which ended with the Leesiders earning a spot in the following season’s top-flight.

Despite now being forced to track their progressing on the far side of the Atlantic, Mitchell maintains a powerful affinity to the college outfit.

“I have pretty strong feelings for the club. I spent five and a half years there in total. If there’s a chance I can go back there and play maybe in September, I’d love that.

“Try and help them out if they were willing to accommodate me for a few weeks or a couple of months.”

However, Mitchell’s current situation in the US would leave UCC – or any other club for that matter – with a limited timeframe in which to utilise the towering lock’s undoubted talents.

Whereas San Diego team-mates Jamie Dever and Paul Mullen have returned to their Mayo and Galway homes respectively, the economics and finance graduate has remained in his adopted nation.

This is due to his desire to play international rugby with the US Eagles, who he qualifies to play for under the residency rule from 2021 onwards.

In order to gain this particular status, Mitchell won’t be allowed to leave America for more than 60 days in a given year. While this wasn’t in his mind when he first joined forces with Austin in 2017, it is has since become a burning desire for the 26-year-old.

“It wasn’t something I was thinking about and then I had a pretty good season in the first year. People were starting to suggest the idea to me and I had a couple of mates who were involved with the Eagles.

“The more I thought about it, the more I was decided that I wanted to pursue that idea. Hopefully if I keep working hard over the next year or two, I’ll be wearing an Eagles jersey.”

Mitchell will be among familiar company if Eagles supremo Gary Gold does come calling. From the current San Diego squad, 14 of them have lined out for the US national team at some point – including the aforementioned Mullen.

Yet it is the presence of another name on the Legion roster that really underlines the ambition being shown by head coach Rob Hoadley.

A two-time World Cup winner with New Zealand – for whom he amassed an astonishing haul of 103 caps – Ma’a Nonu arrived at Torero Stadium in the summer after completing his third stint with the Blues.

Though he is fast approaching his 38th birthday, the powerhouse centre continues to pack a considerable punch.

Cool experience:

“It has been huge, a really cool experience. He does something in training every day and your jaw kind of drops,” Mitchell said of Nonu.

“You’re like ‘wow, that’s the calibre of player that he is’. It’s great to be around that every day and it sort of brings everyone’s standards up.

“Everyone is striving to be like that.”

The Legion faithful were only just beginning to get a taste of what Nonu could bring to the MLR and there will understandably be some concern over the future of their overseas recruits.

Mitchell has, however, received assurances from Hoadley and his coaching team that they will fight tooth and nail to return for the 2021 season with the same group intact.

“Just from talking to the coaches the last week or two, I know they’re definitely trying to bring back the majority of the squad from this year.

“Which is going to be huge going into next year. A big part of me coming over to San Diego this year from Austin was that it does have a reputation as the best professional environment in America,” Mitchell added.

“With my aspirations to play for the States in the next year or two, I thought this would be a good place to kick on and improve as a player.”

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Ian Nagle News Interview On Zebre & Cork Constitution: The Evening Echo – April 20 2020

Love for his home club runs deep for Ian

RUGBY

Daire Walsh

DESPITE being away from the club since 2014, Cork Constitution is never far from the mind of Buttevant native Ian Nagle.

Currently on a hiatus from Italian side Zebre as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, Nagle will be in his hometown for the foreseeable future.

He had expressed an interest in linking up with the Temple Hill outfit only for their own season to be cut short in recent weeks.

“If I came back here and rugby had continued as normal, and the restrictions had stayed in place in Italy, I was hoping to train with Cork Con if not play with them.

“I’d always keep an eye to see how the teams are progressing,” Nagle said.

“It was very sad to see, considering they had been unbeaten for the year, that they won’t get to play out the rest of the season.

“I was heartbroken for them, but fingers crossed they’ll do the same next year.”

Now 31 years of age, the former Munster, London Irish and Leinster lock hasn’t ruled out the prospect of returning to Irish domestic rugby somewhere down the line.

But for now his focus is entirely on getting the very most of his professional career.

“I’ve been playing rugby now for 20 years and when it gets to the stage where I’m finished professionally, I’ll weigh up the benefits to maybe playing domestically again.

“I also said I’d play a few games for Mallow as well at some stage. I might go back and do that, but that’s in the future to be honest.”

Though he is now back in the south, Nagle had to first come through two weeks of self-isolation at the north Dublin home of his Zebre team-mate Mick Kearney.

While this wasn’t a mandatory requirement, the second row pair felt it was best to err on the side of caution.

“When we arrived in Dublin Airport, there was a Covid-19 stand and we asked whether it was necessary or not for us to go into self-isolation.

“The feedback we got was that unless you have symptoms or you’ve been directly in contact with someone who has tested positive, then there’s no need,” Nagle recalls.

“It was a more a case that if we met people and they knew that we’d returned from northern Italy, that there’d be a perception we were being a bit irresponsible.

“The decision was to self-isolate for two weeks, just to be sure.

“Within those two weeks, the numbers in Ireland were beginning to double. In hindsight, it was a good decision to self-isolate.”

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Ian Nagle Feature Interview On Zebre & COVID-19: The Evening Echo – 20 April 2020

Former Munster player Ian Nagle hopes to return to action with Zebre in Italy

GIVEN the extent to which the Coronavirus disease has gripped the northern part of Italy in recent weeks, Ian Nagle has no hesitation in saying that rugby is at the back of people’s minds at the moment.

The Buttevant man’s debut campaign at the Parma-based Zebre has been halted due to the global outbreak of COVID-19 with no date currently in sight for a resumption in competitive action. While this level of uncertainty is a source of frustration for many, Nagle recognises there is a bigger picture at play.

“I think the players have really put rugby into perspective and that perspective is that it’s of absolutely no significance when compared to general health.

“It’s getting to a point now where salaries are going to be quite heavily affected. That obviously adds a whole variety of stresses for guys who have mortgages and young families,” Nagle said, speaking from his family home.

“We’ve been very lucky in that the president of Zebre rugby club is really doing everything he can to keep the players’ salaries going as best as he can. The number one thing on everyone’s mind is just keeping safe. Trying to get through this and then assessing the damage once we get through the other side.”

Despite returning from the region several weeks back, Nagle is nothing but positive when he reflects on his time in Italy thus far.

There was already a strong Irish presence at the club in the form of head coach and fellow Cork man Michael Bradley, who recruited both Nagle and Dubliner Mick Kearney from Leinster last summer.

His former Munster team-mate Ian Keatley has also joined forces with Ian McKinley at rival outfit Benetton and Nagle feels more Irish players should consider a move to the southern European nation.

“I’d say a lot of Irish players maybe haven’t considered Italian teams as much in the past. I would hope that trend might change because I think Italians and Italy as a culture is actually in some ways very similar to Irish culture.

“Brads has obviously brought myself and Mick on. Any players we have spoken to, who are maybe considering Italian clubs, we would vouch for it as a great experience and a club with hopefully a better future.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if more players were to join in the future or at least consider it.”

March 6 just past was a major date in the calendar for Nagle as it represented the 10th anniversary of his debut in the professional game – a 10-minute cameo for Munster in a Celtic League clash against Dragons.

He went on to amass 31 caps at his native province before taking a break from full-time rugby to attend Cambridge University.

He subsequently marked his comeback with a brief spell at London Irish, which preceded stints at Leinster, Ulster (loan) and now Zebre.

Though opportunities were limited at Munster, Mike Sherry’s recent appearance on the Duncan & Duncan podcast for The Irish Examiner hit home how fortunate he is to still be plying his trade in a ferociously competitive field.

“Mike was just talking about his injuries and how his career ended. The periods of frustration he had over a number of years where his injuries weren’t getting right.

“That partly resonates with me because before I took the break I went through a similar experience myself, where I couldn’t get right with injuries.

“To keep playing 10 years on is great. Mike actually sent me a photo. It was 13 years to the day, the anniversary of the Ireland U19s. Of that team, I think it’s myself and Tommy Seymour who are still playing.

“It’s mad to think out of a squad of 26 guys or whatever that there’s only two guys still playing. It just shows how much luck is involved to get to this point. I’m very grateful.”

With this in mind, the Glenstal Abbey alum is in no mood to rest on his laurels and has his sights set on turning around the fortunes of Zebre. Nagle’s contract extends beyond the present season and admits he’d like to get back to Parma as soon as humanly possible.

The 2019/20 campaign has been something of a struggle for Bradley’s troops as they currently sit second from bottom in Conference A of the PRO14.

Yet there was green shoots in their European Challenge Cup campaign, where they earned wins over Brive and Stade Francais as well as a credible draw with Pat Lam’s Bristol Bears.

With 15 players in Italy’s squad for the Six Nations Championship, Zebre were considerably stretched for several games and Bradley had to give youth its fling as a consequence.

Nagle is adamant this will make the Parma men a more formidable proposition from next season onwards.

“The current situation in Zebre really is that we have a core group of maybe 25 guys who have quite a lot of experience. When we get that group together, generally we’re very competitive. We’re either winning games or we’re within a score.

“Once we go below or outside of that core group, we get guys who maybe haven’t been exposed to PRO14 rugby yet or even professional rugby to some extent.

“Hopefully this year will stand them in good stead and next year when the guys are away on international blocks we can remain competitive during certain periods,” Nagle added.

Posted in European Rugby | Comments Off on Ian Nagle Feature Interview On Zebre & COVID-19: The Evening Echo – 20 April 2020

Ian Nagle Interview On Zebre & Dealing With COVID-19: The Irish Sun – April 18 2020

TOUGH RULE 

Italian-based rugby ace Ian Nagle says teammates can only walk their pets a distance of 100 metres due to Covid-19

IAN NAGLE admits he cannot wait to resume his career with Italian outfit Zebre, despite returning home to Ireland several weeks ago.

Following a three-year spell at Leinster — where he managed just 19 appearances under Leo Cullen — Nagle joined forces with the Parma-based PRO14 side last summer.

It is unclear when sport will be up and running again due to the coronavirus pandemic but the towering second row hopes it is soon.

The Cork native said: “I’d like to get back as soon as I can. It’s a bit of an unknown and how this season is going to play out is an unknown as well.

“The longer we go without games, the longer it will take to get guys up to match speed.

“I don’t think it’s possible to come back and play games within a week or two.

WILL NEED PRE-SEASON

“It’s going to need to be a mini-pre-season to some extent before games can be played.

“I really can’t wait to get back and training, which I’m sure is the case with most guys.”

When the PRO14 was suspended indefinitely on March 12, Zebre were second from bottom in Conference A with nine games to play.

Keeping the squad up to speed for a potential return to competitive fare has proven a challenge for head coach Michael Bradley and his backroom staff.

COUPED UP

Nagle has ample space at his home in Cork, but those in northern Italy — one of the worst-affected areas in Europe — do not have the same level of comfort.

The 31-year-old said: “The Zebre team are doing what they can. They’re sending out gym programmes, but a lot of the guys live in apartments or within the city so it’s very difficult for them.

“As it currently stands, you’re not allowed to leave your home unless it’s going to the shops.

“Or if you’ve a dog, you can walk your dog within 100 yards of your front door. That’s very tightly enforced.

ENFORCED SABBATICAL

“For guys who are in their apartments and don’t have any gym equipment, it’s very difficult to keep on top of their fitness.

“It’s just a case of accepting that this is going to be a lull period in terms of your physical fitness. Maybe it’s a time for an enforced sabbatical, for want of a better word.”

Nagle has enjoyed a varied career.

A product of the Munster academy, he rubbed shoulders with Paul O’Connell, Donncha O’Callaghan, Donnacha Ryan and Billy Holland in his native province before moving to Newcastle for a brief loan spell in 2014.

STEPS ALONG THE WAY

After taking a step back from full-time rugby for a couple of years, he re-emerged at London Irish in the English Premiership.

He signed with Leinster in 2016 and had another loan period at Ulster prior to sealing his move to Zebre, along with fellow lock Mick Kearney.

While he waxes lyrical about the work being done by the provinces, he feels they could still learn from English and Italian clubs.

Nagle said: “When you play for other clubs you see there are different ways of doing things.

“Myself and Mick are trying to instil some of the cultural facets of the Irish provinces that are really beneficial.

“Whereas there’s certain aspects of the Italian culture and the way the squad functions that maybe the provinces could benefit from too.

“I’d say a lot of Irish players maybe haven’t considered Italian teams in the past. I would hope that trend might change.

“We would vouch for it as a great experience. It wouldn’t surprise me if more players were to join or at least consider it.”

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Best Kildare XV Of The Professional Rugby Era: The Kildare Nationalist – April 14 2020

BEST KILDARE XV OF THE PROFESSIONAL ERA

SINCE rugby turned professional in 1995, the county of Kildare had been well represented by a host of players at both home and abroad. We have compiled a list of the best Lilywhites to have featured during the past quarter of a century.

15 Geordan Murphy

A native of Naas, Murphy earned 72 Ireland caps and two Lions caps during a stellar 16-year professional career. A winner of eight English Premiership titles with Leicester Tigers, he was part of the Ireland squad for their Grand Slam success of 2009.

14 Adam Byrne

Now 26 years of age, Kill’s Byrne made his Leinster debut as a teenager under Joe Schmidt in 2012. Has since recorded 20 tries in 57 provincial appearances and earned his sole Ireland cap to date in a November 2017 test against Argentina.

13 Fergus McFadden

Though he has featured primarily on the wing under Leo Cullen at Leinster, McFadden first came to prominence as a combative centre. A two-time Six Nations champion with Ireland, the Suncroft man has contributed 444 points in a trophy-laden spell at the eastern province.

12 Johne Murphy

After featuring alongside namesake Geordan at Leicester, the Rathangan native claimed a Celtic League in a five-year stint at Munster. Later assumed a player-coach role at Naas before eventually hanging up his boots last April.

11 Fionn Carr

The third Newbridge College graduate in the back line, Carr (Ardclough) enjoyed two spells each at Leinster and Connacht. Was the all-time top scorer for the latter until he was surpassed by Matt Healy.

10 Craig Ronaldson

A team-mate of Carr’s at Connacht, Ronaldson played a big role for the westerners during their PRO12 triumph in 2015/16. Having ended his time in Galway last summer, the Ballymore Eustace man is now in his second spell with All-Ireland League outfit Lansdowne.

9 Joey Carbery

While he may appear an odd choice at scrum-half, Carbery previously lined out there with Ardscoil na Trionoide. A succession of injuries has limited his appearances at Munster, but he remains the heir apparent to Jonathan Sexton on the international stage.

1 Jeremy Loughman

Like his fellow Athy native Carbery, Loughman has made the switch from Leinster to Munster. He has certainly reaped the benefits of this move, amassing 38 caps and two tries under Johann van Graan.

2 James Tracy

Despite the ferocious competition for places, Kill man Tracy remains a regular fixture in Leinster match day squads. A six-time international and a Champions Cup winner in 2018, the industrious hooker recently surpassed the 100 provincial caps mark.

3 Marty Moore

Although Lucan could lay as much claim to him as Celbridge, Moore’s rugby journey began at MU Barnhall in north Kildare. A back-to-back Six Nations winner in 2014 and 2015, the former Leinster and Wasps tighthead is now plying his trade at Ulster.

4 Bob Casey

Alongside Carbery and Loughman, Maynooth’s Casey is one of three players on this team to have earned Leinster Senior Cup honours with Blackrock College. After lining out for his home province, the 6’ 8” lock subsequently spent a memorable decade at London Irish.

5 Trevor Brennan

Though his career ended in controversial fashion, Brennan remains one of Ireland’s best imports to the Top 14. While his transfer to Toulouse effectively scuppered his international prospects – his 12th and final cap came in 2001 – it did garner two Heineken Cups for the Leixlip man.

6 Tadhg Beirne

After seeing his opportunities limited at Leinster, Beirne’s career was transformed during a two-year stint at the Scarlets. He later joined Munster in a bid to boost his international credentials and the Eadestown native was rewarded with a place in last year’s World Cup squad.

7 Will Connors

Whilst his professional career is only in its infancy, Connors has already made a sizeable impact. With 10 Leinster appearances and two tries to his name in the current term, the Donadea prospect is already on the cusp of a senior international call-up.

8 Jamie Heaslip

No ‘Best 15’ of the modern era would be complete without the presence of the bustling Naas No 8. An international centurion when his five Lions appearances are factored into the equation, Heaslip accrued 14 major honours during an extraordinary 13-year career.

By Daire Walsh

Posted in European Rugby, International Rugby | Comments Off on Best Kildare XV Of The Professional Rugby Era: The Kildare Nationalist – April 14 2020

Brian Hayes (Cork Constitution) News Piece: The Evening Echo – April 13 2020

Con just accept season is finished

AIL RUGBY

Daire Walsh

NOW that the dust has started to settle, Brian Hayes admits Cork Constitution have come to the terms with the abrupt end to their domestic season.

With the the Cork Charity Cup and the Munster Senior Cup already in the bag, the Temple Hill side were set to face Lansdowne in the Bateman Cup decider at Clonmel RFC last Saturday.

They had also recorded 14 straight victories in Division 1A of the All-Ireland League but the Coronavirus pandemic ultimately put paid to their hopes of securing back-to-back top flight titles.

“The initial couple of days we were all kind of taking aback, foolishly I suppose looking at how things turned out now.

Bubble

“You’re almost stuck in a bubble when it comes to sport that you think it’s the most important thing in the world in a lot of cases,” the 29 year-old second-row acknowledged.

“The more it has gone on, the more everyone had realised it is what it is and it’s the ‘move on to next year’ approach.

“In the grand scheme of things, if you start seeing sporting events happen again it will be a good sign that we are starting to return to normal from a societal point of view. I think it’s something to keep everyone looking forward.”

The Leeside outfit had been the standout team in the league and were 11 points clear of Munster rivals Garryowen with just four rounds left to play. Yet since the play-off format was reintroduced for the 2014/15 campaign, it has thrown up some interesting anomalies.

Despite finishing fourth in the league standings three years ago, Con went on to claim their fifth league title courtesy of knockout rounds successes over Lansdowne and Clontarf.

With this mind, Hayes said the club have no reason to feel aggrieved about the IRFU’s decision to declare the current season ‘null and void’.

“I saw there in the Belgian they awarded Club Brugge the league title and you see with Liverpool in the Premiership.

“With us, it’s completely different. You couldn’t have accepted any decision because the play-offs obviously add so much to it. Everything up to that point is really irrelevant as we proved a few years ago by coming fourth.

“It’s a great league to play in, but a big part of it is the final. That’s the best part of playing in it.

“You get to the final and you’ve the week off work with the lads. It wouldn’t have been any way the same,” Hayes added.

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Brian Hayes (Cork Constitution) Feature Interview: The Evening Echo – April 13 2020

Cork rugby veteran Brian Hayes has gone Dutch for the sporting lockdown

AT a time when so many Irish people have returned home to sit out the coronavirus outbreak, Cork Constitution lock, Brian Hayes has gone abroad.

A technology consultant with Accenture, in Dublin, the former Munster prodigy was asked by his employers to work remotely, to abide by social-distancing guidelines to combat the global pandemic.

Whereas Hayes’s Con team-mates are in lockdown in Ireland, Hayes decided to travel to the Netherlands, to Utrecht, the city that his girlfriend currently calls home.

“I’m working from over here now,” Hayes says. “I’m over here with her, working away and doing the usual. It’s not as strict over here,” Hayes says.

“Pubs and restaurants are closed, but there’s no real limitations. Just trying to keep somewhat fit; keep sane.

“Because, you can’t go from 100 to nothing,” Hayes says. “I think the same as everyone else: I’m just trying to make the most of it.

“In the strange circumstances, I don’t think anyone really has their head around the whole thing yet.

“Just keep as busy as possible and do as much to not lose the mind completely.

“It’s probably busier with the nature of the work I’m in. We’re fortunate. We see how many people have been impacted by this and are struggling.

“I can’t complain about having hard work at this time of year. I’m lucky if nothing else,” Hayes says.

In addition to Cork Con’s domestic campaigns being postponed — they remain in the hunt for All-Ireland League and Bateman Cup honours — Covid-19 also impacted on another important event in the club’s calendar.

On the day that they were due to face Clontarf at Temple Hill (Saturday, March 28), Con had arranged a reunion for their 2009/10 league-winning squad.

Unfortunately, this has also been postponed indefinitely, although there are still plans to hold it towards the end of the year.

Hayes was a fresh-faced 19-year-old when he appeared off the bench to help Con beat St Mary’s College in that season’s grand showpiece at Dubarry Park.

Since featuring in the starting line-up that day, Simon Zebo and Peter O’Mahony have gone on to stellar careers in the professional game.

However, Duncan Williams, Stephen Archer, Ian Nagle, and Hayes himself also progressed into the provincial ranks, having helped Con to their second league crown in just three seasons.

“Ian Nagle and Merle O’Connell were the two second-rows, so I was only a sub,” Hayes says.

“I was just out of school. It’s mad to think that was 10 years ago. That was a good team.

“The following year, on paper you would have said it was probably a little better, and we lost the final to Belvedere,” Hayes says.

“The lads kicked on, fair play to them, after that. I’d say, maybe 10 of the lads have played professionally for Munster at some stage, in that team.

“There was definitely a big turnout from that team,” Hayes says.

Shortly after his maiden league success, Hayes was handed a full Academy contract by Munster, an upgrade from his previous, Sub-Academy deal.

He made his first-team debut in a November 2010 triumph over a touring Australia XV, before making his PRO12 bow against the Dragons 10 days later.

However, this represented the sum total of his senior caps for the southern province and, in the summer of 2013, he signed terms with French D2 side, Aurillac, in a bid to secure more game time.

Hayes clocked up 39 appearances during his two-year stint overseas and while it proved to be an invaluable experience, he realised a different path awaited him upon his return to Ireland.

“Really enjoyed it. Living in the Roscommon of France, I used to call it. Because you only go there if you had a match!

“It was a really good culture and made really good friends, but the two years of playing second division rugby was enough,” Hayes says.

“I made the decision, when I wasn’t getting onto a higher level, that the best approach was to come home, do a masters, and get working.

“Still have my enjoyment playing with Con. I have a good balance now, where you get your competitive enjoyment playing with Con. It means more being at a club that you played with for so long.

“I’m happy I did it [going to France], but I’m happy I made the decision, when I did, to take the turn and go the other way,” Hayes says.

While the lack of organised, group training has been a difficult adjustment for so many sportspeople, it hasn’t been too much of a transition for Hayes.

Because work has so often taken him to Dublin in recent years, making it back down to Cork for midweek sessions isn’t always feasible.

Yet this hasn’t unduly affected his performances s and, as a sport, rugby is the one best-equipped for this shutdown scenario, Hayes says.

“When I can attend training, I would, but being in Dublin, it’s hard. Once you keep yourself in the required condition to perform, I don’t think you’re too out of the loop,” Hayes says.

“With all the training I’ve built up over the year and the relationship with Bickey [Con’s director of rugby, Brian Hickey] and so on, it hasn’t been too bad.

“They’ll probably say different, but sure, look,” Hayes says.

Posted in Senior Club Rugby | Comments Off on Brian Hayes (Cork Constitution) Feature Interview: The Evening Echo – April 13 2020

Women’s Sevens Rugby Interview: Emily Lane (News Piece) – The Evening Echo – April 7 2020

It’s hard trying to train on your own

RUGBY

Daire Walsh

FOLLOWING a difficult period of adjustment, Ireland women’s sevens star Emily Lane admits she is slowly coming to terms with the absence of sport as the coronavirus continues to spread across the globe.

The Mallow native was due to be in Hong Kong this week in preparation for the latest leg of the HSBC World Series, but the outbreak of COVID-19 ensures the squad will remain idle for the foreseeable future.

“We were supposed to be leaving [last] Sunday. It’s a bit mental really when you think about it like that. It’s hard now that we’re going into a block where we won’t be playing any rugby. It’s going to be hard going back then in the summertime. Hopefully we’ll be back in the summer for the Rugby Europe competitions,” Lane said.

“It’s crazy that we could have been on the other side of the world right now. It’s been hard trying to train on your own. It’s awful having to do running sessions alone in a terrible, grass field basically. I’ll be so grateful to get back to Dublin and get back playing with the girls in the HPC [High Performance Centre].”

“It’s tough, but we’re all keeping in contact. We’re doing video calls and we had a quiz, just trying to keep ourselves in the loop with everything we’re doing. I think I’m adjusting okay.”

Despite being out of competitive action since the beginning of February – a two-day tournament at the Bankwest Stadium in Sydney – Stan McDowell’s charges had already put in considerable groundwork for their proposed trip to East Asia.

“We were in France on a training trip when we started to hear that everything was getting a bit crazy. We came home at the start of March and were in training Thursday and Friday, but there was no mention of things closing at that point,” Lane recalls.

“A few of the girls were saying ‘bring home your boots, bring home everything. We might not be back up’. Then we got the email on Sunday night saying that HPC was closed, we wouldn’t be training anymore.”

In addition to maintain a certain level of fitness, Lane will also be factoring college work into the equation over the next couple of weeks.

While she is currently ‘slow tracking’ the third year of a biochemistry course in UCD, she is nevertheless mindful of her responsibilities.

“Unfortunately, I do have to keep up with my studies. Basically I’m doing third year over two years and I’ll probably do the same in fourth year. At least I have a lot less workload than some of my other team-mates. That’s helpful, but it’s hard being at home,” Lane added.

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Rory Feely Interview On St Patrick’s Athletic & Coronavirus – The Kildare Nationalist – April 7 2020

SOCCER: RORY FEELY INTERVIEW

Feely adapting to the new normal

By Daire Walsh

DESPITE being left idle for an extended spell due to the global outbreak of the coronavirus, Rory Feely is keeping himself busy ahead of a potential return to competitive soccer in the coming months.

The versatile defender is currently in the midst of his second stint with St Patrick’s Athletic, having departed Waterford FC following the conclusion of the 2019 Premier Division campaign. He has already clocked up three appearances for the Inchicore men in the current season, which has now been put on hold until June 19 at the very earliest.

“We’ve been given some fitness runs and that from our s&c coaches that we do in isolation. Most people would have some kind of green within the 2km limit, so they’ll be able to go do their runs,” Feely said, speaking from his family home in Athy.

“It’s mostly kind of homework, but we’ve been given stuff that’s altered for the current situation from our coaches.

“All we can do is train on our own as if we were full-time and make sure we’re ready for the provisional date in June for when it comes back. That there is no gaps in our performance as if it was during the season.”

Since completing a physical education and maths degree at DCU last summer, Feely has been able to concentrate fully on his burgeoning career in the League of Ireland.

The former Kildare minor footballer is grateful to have this sole focus for the road ahead, particularly with all that is currently taking place around him.

“With the college finished now, I’m thankfully able to devote my whole self just to the football for the next couple of years. Seeing where I can take it. I now have the education part finished, so I have that to fall back on if needs be.

“My main concentration at the moment is just the football. Thankfully there’s no college work, especially at this time, stressing me out.”

Feely returned to Richmond Park on the back of two highly productive seasons under Alan Reynolds in Waterford. Having garnered the Young Player of the Year at the end of his debut campaign (2018), he was handed the senior gong by the Blues Supporters Club 12 months later.

Though it was difficult for him to wave goodbye to the Deise outfit, the prospect of working with Saints boss Stephen O’Donnell – a six-time league winner during a stellar playing career – was too good to turn down.

“Obviously I really enjoyed my time with Waterford and there was no bad blood or that leaving. It was just this seemed to be the next step for me to progress my career. I had met with Stephen [O’Donnell] a couple of times before moving there and I really enjoyed what he was saying. His ambition kind of matched mine.

“I was happy to sign there and since I’ve gotten there it’s clear we’ve got the ambition, we’ve got the players.

“We were just unlucky with some results at the start, but overall I’m really enjoying it there. We look to have a really good squad and hopefully we can push on when this league gets started again,” he said.

Posted in Soccer Interview | Comments Off on Rory Feely Interview On St Patrick’s Athletic & Coronavirus – The Kildare Nationalist – April 7 2020

Women’s Sevens Rugby Interview: Emily Lane (Feature Piece) – The Evening Echo – April 7 2020

Mallow rugby ace is confident Ireland sevens team can kick up the gears

MALLOW youngster Emily Lane does not hide her frustration at how Ireland women’s sevens team have performed in their World Series campaign.

A senior international since August 2018 — she debuted in a Rugby Europe tournament in Kazan, Russia — Lane was part of the side that claimed fourth spot at the Sydney Sevens a year ago.

This season has been something of a struggle for Stan McDowell’s charges, with an eighth-place finish last October, in Glendale, the highlight of their campaign.

On their return to Australia, in February, they had to settle for 11th place for the third tournament in succession.

Lane can’t quite explain why they haven’t performed to the level expected, but is adamant the squad can turn things around.

“It’s been quite a disappointing season for us. We’ve had a lot of discussions about where we are in the table. It’s nowhere near where we want to be or where we expected to be,” Lane says.

“It has been quite tough, compared to last year. My first [World Series] cap was in Sydney and we came fourth, which was the highest we’d ever ranked,” Lane says.

“We’re not really sure what’s going wrong for us, but we’re just trying to get more consistency in our results and our performances, because we can go out and play unbelievable against a team one day and then, the next day, just completely go to shambles.

“This season it is disappointing, but I love to play and we love to get every opportunity to get out on the pitch and try to get better every time,” Lane says.

“Learn from everything we’ve done this season and try to bring the good things from previous seasons,” she says.

Despite their below-par form — not to mention the postponement of several tournaments, due to the global outbreak of the coronavirus — the UCD student’s passion for the sevens game remains undiminished.

She is a product of the underage sevens system, having played often for the U18 side, before progressing up the ladder. As a consequence of this early exposure, Lane’s transition to the senior ranks was seamless.

“There’s 10 or more that I’ve played with [at underage] that are now in the senior set-up. It’s so helpful, having players that you’ve played with before,” Lane says.

“When we first came in, it was kind of reassuring. It’s not like, ‘oh my God, these people are unbelievable. Why am I here?’

“When you know girls in there, it makes it easier to make that transition,” Lane says.

“Plus, the quality that you get from playing underage, it really helps. I had Stan McDowell as my coach underage the first year.

“The second year, he did a bit and Lucy Mulhall, our current [senior] captain, did coaching, as well. Which was amazing when I was 17, looking up to her.

“I still look up to her, but that was a great experience for me,” Lane says. In the past couple of years, a host of players have been capped at both 7s and 15s international level for Ireland.

From those who featured in the back-to-back trips to Hamilton and Sydney, at the start of this year, Katie Fitzhenry, Louise Galvin, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, and Hannah Tyrrell are all notable exponents of the latter code.

While Lane’s current preference is for the sevens game, she doesn’t rule out a future switch to 15s rugby.

“I don’t play any 15s. You don’t get much time when you’re on the sevens programme. We train four days a week.

“It’s hard. Some girls do play, but I’ve decided to focus all of my time on sevens. At the minute, I’m really enjoying sevens,” Lane says.

“I love how you get every aspect of the game. It’s so quick,” she says.

“If you make a mistake, who cares. You have to keep going. You can’t just stop and think about it.

“Whereas, I feel in 15s, it’s obviously a much slower game. I found, when I used to play, I’d get very nervous.

“I used to play 10 and, obviously, there’s a lot of responsibility when you’re playing out-half. I just prefer the free-flowing style of sevens, but I wouldn’t say no to playing 15s,” Lane says.

Though Lane is still a registered member of Mallow, the Keatleysclose club currently doesn’t have an adult women’s section.

Still, with girls teams at U14, U16, and U18, there is every chance this could change.

Additionally, another local — Anna Caplice — has delivered a string of outstanding displays for the Ireland 15s in recent times and secured an international ‘Player of the Year’ nomination in 2019.

She now lines out for English Premiership side Harlequins, having previously represented UL Bohemian, but continues to have a big impact in her hometown.

“She [Caplice] has a massive mural on one of the pubs in town. It’s really cool.

“It brings a lot more interest to the girls. I think the club in Mallow is really growing. I wouldn’t really get down there much,” Lane says.

“My younger sister played, but she did her ACL, so she’s not playing anymore. She hasn’t played in a while,” Lane says.

“People like Anna, it’s unreal to have her come from the same club as you.

“She’s an unbelievable player.

“She’s a person I’d definitely look up to,” Lane says.

Posted in Women's Rugby | Comments Off on Women’s Sevens Rugby Interview: Emily Lane (Feature Piece) – The Evening Echo – April 7 2020