Return of 'world-class' Molloy adds experience to Ireland's exciting young squad

Emerging stars like Beibhinn Parsons and Dorothy Wall showed their promise earlier this year.

AS IRELAND WOMEN impressed in their three Six Nations games earlier this year, it was difficult for supporters not to be excited by the youngsters who showed promise.

18-year-old wing Beibhinn Parsons’ rise continued, 20-year-old back row Dorothy Wall was dynamic off the bench, powerful 20-year-old lock Judy Bobbett made her first two starts in Test rugby, and 19-year-old hooker Victoria Dabanovich-O’Mahony demonstrated her potential with three replacements appearances.

These talented youngsters look set to play Test rugby for the next decade and beyond, but experience is also vital at the highest level of the game. 

As such, the likes of captain Ciara Griffin, centre Sene Naoupu, and loosehead prop Lindsay Peat provide crucial know-how in this Ireland squad. 

claire-molloy-with-giordana-duca Claire Molloy is back in the Ireland squad. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

And as they get set for the resumption of their Six Nations campaign against Italy on Saturday at Energia Park [KO 6.30pm, RTÉ 2] behind closed doors, Ireland have also welcomed back outstanding flanker Claire Molloy and her 68 caps of experience.

The 32-year-old had spent 12 months on sabbatical from international rugby but she’s back in the mix as Adam Griggs’ side look to continue an encouraging campaign that has so far seen them beat Wales and Scotland at home before losing away to England.

While Ireland have unfortunately lost back row Edel McMahon – who was excellent earlier this year – to injury, Molloy is a superb addition.

“Claire Molloy is world-class at openside flanker,” says Naoupu. “To have that quality and experience in any team is valuable. 

“At the same time, Edel has suffered an unfortunate injury so she’s rehabbing really well.

“To have the likes of Claire Molloy and some of the 7s girls brought into our camp, girls who have performed along the development pathway too, it’s all really positive for competition for places, which is a good thing for Ireland.”

Griggs will also have to contend without first-choice lock Aoife McDermott, who is missing through injury, but there is optimism in the Ireland squad about the direction they’re moving in.

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There is now some uncertainty around the crucial World Cup Qualifier competition in December due to postponed games elsewhere in Europe, but Ireland have their two remaining Six Nations games against Italy and France to deal with first.

brian-odriscoll-and-sene-naoupu Naoupu teamed up with Guinness in support of the new Irish Women’s Rugby jersey. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

There are three uncapped players still hoping for debuts in Railway Union prop Katie O’Dwyer, former Ireland U18 7s international Shannon Touhey, and promising 21-year-old hooker Neve Jones, who won the All-Ireland League Rising Star award this year.

Given how attractive Ireland’s style of play was to watch earlier this year, it will be intriguing to see how they come out of the blocks on Saturday against Italy after such a long time without rugby. Watching the continuing development of young stars like Parsons, who has three tries in seven caps so far, is another point of major interest.

“She, along with many others in the squad, has the work ethic that is demanded of an international player,” says Naoupu of Ballinasloe’s Parsons.

“She’s very professional and diligent with her training and recovery, all those off-field activities. She’s a hard worker and she certainly works for those performances on the pitch.”

Another young player to watch is 21-year-old centre Enya Breen, who was injured during the Six Nations earlier this year but will be hoping to add to her three caps in the coming weeks.

“She has been training fantastically,” says Naoupu. “She’s an exciting outside centre and I’m enjoying training with her.”

As with everyone else, it will be very tough for Ireland coming out of this strange period of lockdown and then their return to training at weekend camps in recent months.

“We’re very vigilant with how we manage ourselves outside of camp and then in the bubble in camp,” says Naoupu.

“That’s not just with Covid, but training and recovery. When we come into camp, we have a limited time to get through that so this has all prepared us to be more efficient.”

Guinness teamed up with Sene Naoupu and Brian O’Driscoll to announce a partnership with Canterbury, Intersport Elverys, and the IRFU in support of the sale of the newly-released Irish Women’s Rugby team jerseys across its retail sites; the Guinness Webstore and Guinness Open Gate Brewery from 21 October while stocks last. 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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