'Ireland hosting a World 7s Series event isn't beyond the realms of possibility'

Louise Galvin feels the seven-player code is on the cusp of something big.

THE WORLD RUGBY Sevens Series and Dublin appear tailor-made for each other.

It would need to be a summertime event to increase the chances of the sun showing up, but it is not difficult to imagine the fun-loving Series stopping off in the Irish capital and being welcomed with open arms by an equally fun-loving home crowd.

Sevens certainly has a way to go to become part of the sporting furniture on these shores, but there is a growing curiosity in the seven-player code.  

Louise Galvin Louise Galvin has been appointed to Rugby Players Ireland's executive board. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Louise Galvin, part of the Ireland Women’s Sevens squad since 2015, feels that another few big achievements in the coming months could push the piqued interest levels to a head.

The Ireland Men’s Sevens team recently qualified as a core team on the World Series and they will have an opportunity to secure Olympic qualification this summer.

The women’s side – who are already on the Series – have an even greater chance of qualifying into the 2020 Tokyo Games and Galvin senses that Irish sevens rugby is on the cusp of something big. 

“I still think it’s a bit of a sleeping giant in this country,” says Galvin, who has just been appointed to the executive board of Rugby Players Ireland.

“Sevens is not a sport I knew a lot about before I started playing but once you get into it, you’re hooked. It’s so entertaining and so exciting to play… well, it’s horrific to play but there’s some sort of a drug-like adrenaline buzz with it. I really think Ireland could look towards hosting something.

“If we have two teams on the Series, I think down the line Ireland hosting a World Sevens Series event isn’t beyond the realms of possibility. It’s something that the Irish public would really enjoy because we’re a rugby-loving nation and a craic-loving nation.”

Galvin and her Ireland team-mates finished seventh at last weekend’s Japan leg of the World Series – having earned a first-ever semi-final in Sydney in February – leaving them sixth in the overall rankings with two legs left in Canada and France.

At the end of June, Ireland face into the Rugby Europe Grand Prix in France, before they get their shot at qualifying for the Olympics in Kazan, Russia from 13 to 14 July.

Ireland’s Aoife Doyle Stacey Flood and Eve Higgins celebrate at the end of the game Ireland celebrate a win at last year's World Cup in San Francisco. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Only the winner of that qualification tournament advances to the Olympics, although the second and third-place finishers move onto a final repechage qualifier in 2020.

Encouragingly, a further two teams will qualify from that repechage into the Olympics, leaving Ireland with a strong chance of claiming an Olympic spot – whether it comes in July or next year.

“The Olympics would be huge because it’s a point of difference,” says Galvin.

“The Olympics captures the nation’s attention and if we have a team involved that people could follow, the Wicklow crowd getting behind Lucy Mulhall, the Dubs getting behind Hannah Tyrrell and the Tipp crowd getting behind Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe, it would just build from that.

“Once we get into it, fingers crossed, there’s absolutely every possibility of medalling. That’s just dream stuff.”

Reflecting the fact that Ireland are so keen to be part of the Olympics next year is the fact that the IRFU employs Galvin and 11 other players on ‘full-time’ sevens contracts.

There have been some questions around what ‘full-time’ actually means, given that Galvin – a physiotherapist – and others have continued working in other jobs on a part-time basis. 

While Galvin says training commitments haven’t changed much since she and her team-mates got full-time deals – “you can only train so many hours a day” – the move has been welcomed by players.

Louise Galvin with her family after the game Galvin has also played for Ireland in 15s. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We’re official employees of the IRFU. What’s particularly nice about it as well – for an institution that sometimes maybe cops a bit of bad press about male and female and gender equality – is that our men’s squad are on the exact same contracts as us.

“We train together, we share the same staff, eat the same food. We work really well together; if players are injured they’re doing skills together. One of the men’s squad could be doing kick-offs and I’ll be catching, we’re not kept apart.

“That kind of inclusivity has maybe helped foster some of the success amongst the squads in the last few months and the IRFU have to be commended on that as well.”

Galvin feels that full-time contracts also show the public that sevens rugby is a genuine pathway, although she is hopeful that the value of the deals will grow in the coming seasons.

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“Obviously, the men’s 15s are the squad that makes the predominant amount of cash and unfortunately the [sevens] contracts don’t allow you to save for a wedding or that sort of thing. Some players choose to work part-time and some don’t.

“I choose to do that because I want to keep my professional competencies up and earn that extra bit of cash,” continues Galvin, who stresses that rugby is “absolutely the number one priority” for her.

“Hopefully, the contracts will grow so that people don’t have to work part-time or worry about getting off a plane at 8 o’clock on a Monday evening after a leg of the Series and be working on Tuesday morning on a rest day and then working on their weekend off.

“That’s a choice but ideally the contracts will grow along with the performances, aligned with Olympic qualification and even things like the men getting on the Series and the whole sport growing.”

Ciara Griffin, Rob Kearney, Greg O'Shea and Louise Galvin Ciara Griffin, Rob Kearney and Greg O'Shea are also part of the RPI executive board. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Balancing rugby and physiotherapy, as well as her life outside work, can be a challenge but Galvin points to the good work Rugby Players Ireland do in this regard.

Having served as a player rep for the past 18 months, Galvin is delighted to have joined the executive board along with men’s 7s international Greg O’Shea, Women’s 15s captain Ciara Griffin and Maura Quinn.

“Rugby Players Ireland get that you want to be the best athlete you can be, but also that you need to continue a parallel life because it’s not going to be forever,” says Galvin.

“On a day when three females are elected, it’s nice to think you might be breaking a glass ceiling that is there. We’re not here to fill any gender quotas. We’re here to fulfil our role and we’re here on merit. We’re looking forward to it.”

Gavan Casey and Murray Kinsella are joined by Andy Dunne to get stuck into last weekend’s Champions Cup semi-finals.:

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