Swapping Gaelic Football for rugby meant a steep learning curve but she is thriving now

Ireland full-back Eimear Considine cracking new sporting code

The memory still makes Eimear Considine cringe. Playing for Ireland in a sevens match against the USA in San Diego, she gave away a penalty and remained standing close to her opponent, trying to put her off.

“She started giving out to me,” says Considine. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t understand I had to be ten metres back.”

It may sound strange for someone to be playing international rugby and not be familiar with the laws, but this was Considine’s first-ever game.

A talented Gaelic Football and camogie player, she was 23 when approached by the Ireland Sevens set-up in 2014 – via a LinkedIn email – to see if she would take part in a trial. The IRFU were recruiting players from different sports as the country targeted a place at the 2016 Olympics.

“I did some fitness testing and worked one-on-one with coaches – tackling, passing,” she says. “I joined up with a few girls from other sports doing skills and drills, then we were put in with the senior girls’ training. Someone got injured, there was space on the plane to San Diego and I was playing my first game against the USA. It all happened in the space of three months!

“Rugby came at a good time. I was living in Dublin but playing Gaelic Football and camogie for my county, Clare. I was sick of the travel and the commitment of being involved with two sports.

“Rugby was in Dublin so I thought I’d give it a try, a new challenge. There was the international draw, too. My sport would never allow me to qualify for the Olympics. I never expected to get so far.”

Ireland didn’t make it to Rio but she did get to play sevens all over the world. Then Munster called her up for the InterProvincial Championship, even though she’d never played 15s. Within a year, she was playing at a World Cup.

“It was like starting all over again,” says Considine. “They’re completely different games, sevens and 15s. I’d only played three-and-a-half games before my first Ireland cap in the Six Nations and then I was playing in the World Cup. It’s crazy.

“I’m 28 now and the younger girls say, ‘You’re so experienced’, but I’ve only played two seasons of 15s as I went travelling for a year after the World Cup.”

Considine has now clearly found her feet at Test level. She featured in Ireland’s back three for every game of last year’s Six Nations and was Player of the Match in November against Wales – an impressive feat when on the losing side. She worked as a pundit for eir Sport during last year’s men’s World Cup too.

The regular day job is teaching PE and Irish at St Mary’s in Glasnevin, and she says the school are “amazing” when it comes to time off for rugby. She feels teaching complements her rugby, allowing her to switch off from the pressures of international sport.

“The joke at work is what life will I have this weekend – famous life or teacher life! I have two separate lives and it’s good to be able to box off rugby on a Monday once I step into school. The only thing I’d like more of is time.”

This year could be busier than ever, though. She has a holiday booked to Australia in April to visit her sister, Ailish, who plays AFL for Adelaide Crows, but before and after that there is plenty on the rugby agenda.

Ireland’s Six Nations campaign has been disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak, their fourth-round game against Italy postponed after wins over Scotland and Wales and a defeat by England. The big goal this year, though, is September’s European qualifying tournament for the 2021 World Cup.

“Qualifying for the World Cup and then performing in that World Cup because at the last one we didn’t perform to our best. Those are three big aims for every girl in the squad. We want to put Ireland rugby back on the map.”

This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of Rugby World magazine.

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