Pau fiasco was a turning point, says Fiona Coghlan

A former Irish captain, who demanded high standards and wasn’t content for things to be run in a haphazard fashion — Roy Keane wasn’t the only panellist to fit this description at the Bord Gáis Energy ‘Winning in Business’ forum.

Pau fiasco was a turning point, says Fiona Coghlan

Where Saipan is the shorthand for organisational failure with the men’s soccer team, for the Ireland women’s rugby team, Pau, the venue for the 2012 Six Nations clash away to France serves as year zero.

Having flown to Paris, Ireland got caught in Friday evening rush-hour traffic and so had to take an overnight train to Bordeaux, with sleep not all that plentiful ahead of an early kick-off.

That they only lost 8-7 to their hosts was little short or miraculous, but Fiona Coghlan wanted to ensure that it was the exception rather than the rule.

“We lost by a point but we played fantastically well and it was galvanising moment for the team,” she said.

“You focus on controlling the controllables, we couldn’t control the fact that we had had no sleep so we just got on with it.

“We came back the following year and some girls were saying, ‘Why aren’t they covering our games, they only cover the bad ones’, and I said that we needed to put ourselves up there and I suppose that’s where it all started.”

Just over a year later, Coghlan lifted the Six Nations trophy as Ireland claimed the title, laying the groundwork for recent success.

“At the start, it was about sorting out our own house first and making sure that the standards were high enough within the squad,” she said.

“The next step was about being as proactive as possible and coming up with solutions to problems. Then, after that, it was challenging. It wasn’t about money, the reason we were doing it was to be the best that we could be.

“Sometimes, the idea of money and things being too expensive arose, but you’d say that there were other ways around it, you couldn’t use money as an excuse.

“One of the reasons I retired was because of the domestic game, I thought that we couldn’t progress any further because of the way the structures were.

“Thankfully, after that — I don’t know was it me going — they went high-performance and more structures were put in place to make the team the best it could be.”

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