Ciara Griffin will retire after Saturday's game. Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

'I've given my life to this game... it's time to put my family first for a change'

Ireland captain Ciara Griffin will retire from Test rugby this weekend at the age of 27.

SOME PLAYERS POSITIVELY exude passion for playing for their country. Ciara Griffin has been one of them.

Since debuting in 2016, the Kerrywoman has been an emblem of pride in the green jersey. She has worn her heart on her sleeve throughout 40 caps for Ireland so far, but this Saturday will be her final appearance for her country.

The Ireland captain today announced her shock retirement from Test rugby at the age of just 27.

Appointed as Ireland captain in 2018 at the age of just 24, Griffin has been a consistently superb performer for Ireland. Known as ‘Junior’ by her team-mates, she will be badly missed in the years ahead as Irish women’s rugby enters rebuild mode in the wake of the recent failure to qualify for next year’s World Cup.

Griffin says she still hasn’t decided if she will play on with Munster and UL Bohemians but this weekend’s clash with Japan at the RDS will be her final international match.

“It’s something I haven’t come to lightly, something I’ve been thinking about for a while,” explained Griffin of her decision this evening.

“Obviously, after the events of Parma and the qualification process, it gave me time to reflect at home with my family.

“I thought about where I want to go next. I’ve given my life to this game. I’ve literally given everything to it, so it’s time to focus on the next chapter and put my family first for a change as well. I’m going to focus on my next steps.”

Women’s rugby is an amateur sport in Ireland and the sacrifices that players like Griffin make are remarkable.

ciara-griffin-celebrates-winning Griffin after last weekend's win over the US. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Asked to outline just what it takes, Griffin’s emotion was clear.

“It is a sacrifice but it’s a choice at the end of the day,” she said. “It’s simple things, saying no to different events or not being around…”

She pauses as the tears come, takes a deep breath, and continues.

“I’m bound to cry at some point I suppose, but it’s been a tough year with everything.

“It’s just time now to put my family first. It’s a sacrifice but I’ve loved every minute and I think I’m leaving it in a place that I know I’ve put everything I could into it.”

Griffin, who started playing rugby with Castleisland RFC, is entirely at peace with the decision and says she won’t have any second thoughts about this big call having discussed it over and over again with her husband, Damien.

“I’ve been having this conversation for the last five or six weeks, to be honest, my poor husband has had the ear talked off him,” said Griffin.

“He’s been giving me loads of different scenarios or what-ifs and other things but it’s the right decision for me where I am at the moment, and I’m just thankful for everything I have been given.

“People have not so much talked me out of it but reassured me that it is the right choice for me, the right time for me and, to be honest, throughout those conversations it was clear to me.”

Griffin recalls being a “nervous wreck” before her debut against Wales in the 2016 Six Nations. She says playing in the 2017 World Cup was the fulfillment of “a childhood dream” even if the tournament didn’t go well.

The captaincy has been a huge honour and she has made lifelong friends in rugby. Griffin also pinpoints last weekend’s emotional win over the US as one of her highlights, coming as it did after a very tough week off the pitch.

“It showed the resilience in the group and the connectivity and closeness of the group,” said Griffin. “Seeing the crowd back…”

ciara-griffin-scores-their-third-try Griffin scores a try for Ireland back in 2016. Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

She hopes for something similar this weekend against Japan as she bids farewell on a day that is certainly a final chapter for this Ireland team collectively. 

Looking into the future, Griffin insists she is optimistic for Irish women’s rugby despite the current signs of turmoil off the pitch. She’s hopeful the two current reviews will result in positive change and she’s excited to watch new players come through for Ireland.

She hopes to be remembered as a player who put the green jersey first, led by example, did her talking on the pitch, and played with a smile on her face. That’s what she plans to do for a final time on Saturday.

And after that, she’s excited about the next chapter.

“I want to do a few courses, not for sport but for agriculture,” said Griffin.

“That’s where my focus is going to be the next few weeks, progressing my career personally in education and in farming.

“And I’m recently married as well so I’d like to be seeing my husband a lot more and be with my friends and family.”

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