Wexford’s Katie Fitzhenry is confident that Ireland can progress from their group at this weekend’s global women’s rugby sevens tournament in UCD.
A top-two finish for Anthony Eddy’s side in the 12-team tournament would ensure a place on the 2016 World Series, which Fitzhenry believes is vital to Ireland’s chances of qualifying for the Rio Olympics next summer.
A total of 18 games will be played on Saturday, and 16 on Sunday, with Ireland facing South Africa, Mexico and Hong Kong in Pool C on Saturday.
“South Africa were on World Series last year so they’re the ones to beat in the pool, but I’ve full confidence that our pool shouldn’t be a problem if we play the way we can,” said Fitzhenry.
“We won’t find out until next June if we qualify for Rio, but if we can get back onto the World Series, we’ll have game time every month rather than every couple of months, which would be huge.
“We’ll be playing against top teams in the world and that can only push us to get better coming up to the qualifying tournament for Rio in June next year.”
The 26-year-old Wexford woman — a winner of an intermediate All-Ireland club football medal with Thomas Davis’ of Dublin — is one of 19 players centrally contracted on the IRFU’s Women’s Sevens High Performance Programme. Part-time she manages two stores of the Tropical Juice brand in Newbridge and Liffey Valley. However, in the afternoon she trains with 1.30pm to 7pm, Monday to Friday, with the Irish squad.
The Leinster hooker is also one of the first athletes to sign up to the Dual Career Development course launched by Griffith College in consultation with the Irish Institute of Sport, which identified the needs of high performance and professional sportspeople in the area of professional dual career development and transition management.
“I went part-time a year-and-a-half ago to commit to IRFU’s programme and my boss has been very good to me considering I’ve taken eight-10 weeks off this week for tournaments.
Having booked a place at next year’s World Olympic Repechage tournament with a superb second place finish at the Rugby Europe competition in Lisbon, Fitzhenry is hopeful Ireland will continue their winning ways this weekend.
Gates open at 11am, with Ireland in action against Mexico first at 12.50pm, against Hong Kong at 3.22pm and group favourites South Africa at 6.28pm.
Tickets, available from Ticketmaster, are €5 for adults, while children go free.
Valerie Power (Shannon); Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird (Highfield), Niamh Kavanagh (UL Bohs), Nicola Scully (Highfield), Laura O’Mahony (Tralee); Niamh Briggs (UL Bohs), Ellen Murphy (Highfield); Fiona Reidy (UL Bohs), Amy Desmond (Highfield), Leah Lyon (Highfield); Gerda Coyne (Highfield), Elaine Anthony (Highfield); Siobhán Fleming (Tralee), Ciara Griffin (Tralee), Heather O’Brien (Highfield). Replacements:
Zoe Grattage (Highfield), Maura Collins (Abbeyfeale), Niamh English (Highfield), Róisín Ormond (Highfield), Chloe Pearse (Shannon), Mona Fehily (Highfield), Jayne Pennefather (Highfield), Edel Murphy (UL Bohs).
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