Ireland’s disastrous World Cup campaign ended on a sour note, a third successive defeat at the tournament condemning the hosts to an eighth-place finish — a result that would have been unthinkable three weeks ago.
It came as no surprise when head coach Tom Tierney confirmed afterwards he will not be seeking a new contract after three years in charge.
He admitted he was “disappointed” with injured player O’Reilly’s claims he had lost the dressing-room earlier this year when three players, Hannah Tyrrell, Alison Miller, and Sene Naoupu were redirected to the Sevens’ circuit in Las Vegas on the week of the Six Nations game against France.
Tierney suggested O’Reilly’s article in The Irish Times, in which she also criticised the IRFU’s lack of support for the women’s game, was poor timing for the players in advance of a game they had to win to secure automatic qualification for the 2021 World Cup.
Peat, however, said it had no impact on what was another hugely underwhelming display by Ireland.
“We are on a media ban from 12 o’clock the day before a game so I actually haven’t seen any media.
“And my family obviously haven’t seen it — otherwise they’d have given me a text.
“I deleted Twitter off my phone and I tend to stay away from all that, because I get into my own head at the best of times and have to keep myself calm. I’d be interested to see the article when I’m back home.
“Our focus today was on getting a win, ending on a high and getting automatic qualification for the next World Cup and I stand here heartbroken that we couldn’t get that and not give those fans a big thank you with a performance and result.
“We’re hurting and just want to say ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ to everyone.”
Saturday’s game at Kingspan Stadium was a dour struggle, five of the six tries scored by both teams grunting efforts by the forwards, usually off driving mauls.
Paula Fitzpatrick scored her fourth try of the tournament from one such move after 12 minutes, giving Ireland a bright start.
But their familiar first-half failings came back to haunt them, Wales hitting back to lead 10-7 at half-time with tries from Sioned Harries and Carys Phillips putting them 22-7 in front.
Peat gave Ireland brief hope with an inspirational lunge for the line in the 64th minute but there was too much ground to make up and Wales nailed a fourth try soon after.
Given Ireland’s modest size and physique compared to the elite nations — a key area needed for improvement Tierney consistently flagged up in this tournament — it seemed strange they played with so little width.
When they moved the ball wide, they looked dangerous, with Katie Fitzhenry’s late try the only score by an under-employed back-line.
“Unfortunately it summed up our tournament, we fought to the end but it hasn’t been good enough,” Peat admitted.
“When we couldn’t produce to our own high standards, we thought too much about that instead of relaxing and playing.”
Some players will inevitably retire but Peat, a former All-Ireland winner with Dublin, is still relatively new to the sport and wants to play on.
“Some players are still undecided, but I will only be a full two years playing in September and I’m up against girls who are playing six, seven years and have so much to teach me.”
That will be the challenge for someone else, with Tierney moving on but declining to confirm if he has been offered a role with the Ireland U19s.
“It’s just a private thing at the minute but no, I won’t be under pressure,” he added. “I’m very proud of the job that I’ve done.
“Obviously it hasn’t ended the way we’d have liked, but I’m very proud of the girls who have come through in my time.”
Hannah Tyrrell, Eimear Considine, Katie Fitzhenry, Jeamie Deacon, Alison Miller, Nora Stapleton (Sene Naoupu ’54), Nicole Cronin (Larissa Muldoon ’54): Lindsay Peat, Cliodhna Moloney, Ailis Egan (Ciara O’Connor ’23 (Leah Lyons ’56)); Ciara Cooney (Sophie Spence ’47), Marie-Louise Reilly; Paula Fitzpatrick Capt, Ciara Griffin (Ilse Van Staden ’71) , Heather O’Brien (Ashleigh Baxter ’54).
Elinor Snowsill, Elen Evans, Gemma Rowland (India Berbillion ’80), Hannah Jones, Jasmine Joyce, Robyn Wilkins, Keira Bevan: Caryl Thomas, Carys Phillips Capt. Amy Evans, Siwan Lillicrap (Shona Powell-Hughes ’65), Mel Clay, Elisha Butchers (Cerys Hale ’62), Rachel Taylor, Sioned Harries.
Claire Hodnett (England)
Q: How did it all go so wrong for Ireland?
They had high hopes but so many missed tackles, handling errors and fundamental mistakes meant they were never competitive at this World Cup. Yards conceded after tackles were made was also a massive problem in the consecutive defeats against France, Australia, and Wales.
The harder they tried, the less things seemed to come off and while they consistently claimed the pressure of being tournament hosts wasn’t a factor, perhaps the level of scrutiny the team faced was at a level some players were unfamiliar and uncomfortable with.
Professionalism has to be the long-term goal for the women’s game in Ireland but it seems a long way down the track.
England have led the way, even though RFU funding is being channelled into the Sevens’ programme after this tournament.
New Zealand won the World Cup despite not being full-time but it’s hard to see how constant fluctuation between Sevens and ‘15s’ is conducive to the growth of the bigger game. Ireland are now where they wanted, in the IRFU’s High Performance Unit, but funds will have to be pumped into the grassroots to develop the game. Greater player numbers are needed.
Definitely. All teams seemed happy with how they were looked after in Dublin and Belfast with slick organisation and careful planning behind the scenes.
Whether it will be enough to help swing the 2023 World Cup bid for the men’s tournament remains to be seen. World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont was giving little away on his frequent visits to Ireland in recent weeks but praised the IRFU’s hosting of the tournament.