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Dublin: 4°C Wednesday 3 March 2021

Globe-trotting Considine a rugby convert no more

The Clare woman first sampled 15-a-side international rugby in 2017 and went travelling after that year’s World Cup. She has returned all the better for the experience.

BACK THEN, I was Eimear Considine the footballer…  I had two different identities but now I am happy to be Eimear Considine the rugby player.”

No matter how quick, how meteoric a rise may be for a player who switches sports, there will remain an innate difficulty involved.

The base-level confidence borne from of years of practice, experience and intrinsic understanding -a thousand hours and all that – is invaluable in any sport.

Considine’s athleticism in Gaelic football action for Clare ensured she was marked out as a talent to be tested with the oval ball. Entering rugby through the Sevens programme, she earned 15-a-side honours just as the build-up to the 2017 World Cup intensified and, together with Alison Miller, she became  a front-line wing for the hosts in that tournament.

When things are not going well for a team, though, the wing can be a lonely place. And Considine was not immune from the errors which dogged Ireland on their way to a dispiriting eighth-place finish.

There is one sure-fire way to take the mind out of the low points of August 2017, however.

Get out. Get away. See the world. Broaden the mind.

Fortunately, Considine had already planned to do exactly that and she was wheels-up on 1 September.

“I went off to Australia for a year. I came back and I joked that ‘I was one of the old ones!’ I was like, ‘What happened in a year?’”

New head coach Adam Griggs entered with a remit to be a new broom, while a handful of established talents had signalled the World Cup would be their last outing on the international stage. Meanwhile, the Clare woman was making sure youth was not wasted on her as she embarked on time in Australia, New Zealand, Asia and New York.

She worked plenty to pay her way during the career break. The investments into her sporting life was not halted either, but now it was pressure-free and wholly enjoyable  again. She played Sevens, some AFL and in America she joined forces with her sister – Ailish – now a rookie recruit for Adelaide Crows – to form a midfield partnership and help the Na Fianna club lift a New York title.

But that ‘international rugby player’ tag wasn’t to be shaken off.

Eimear Considine celebrates her try The Clare woman celebrates one of two tries against Italy. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

“I think you need to step away to get your love back again,” says Considine, with the guts of a season behind her.

“I love being back in. You miss it. As much as you hate getting up at 5am for the gym, you hate that your evenings and weekends are gone, you miss it.

I was ringing the girls from Australia and they were like, ‘stop missing home! Stop ringing us!”

The pangs for rugby culminated during the Six Nations, with the dreaded ‘content not available in your region’ message, dodgy Wifi and dodgier streams contriving to underline how far removed she was from the setup.

“You love rugby and you love who you’re playing it with. That was the hardest part, missing everybody.

“They had something really good last year and I missed out on that. You fall back in love with the sport, with the routine and you get used to it again when you’re not told what to wear, what colour t-shirt to wear. It is hard to adjust your life to it.”

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Eimear Considine Eimear Considine in Dublin ahead of Ireland's Six Nations clash with France. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Within a day of her return to Ireland after almost 12 months on the go, Considine was back with Munster and she has adjusted just fine resuming 15-a-side rugby union.

The 27-year-old has delivered some exceptional performances this season, not least her two-try yield during the otherwise disappointing loss to Italy a fortnight ago.

“Any day you lose, it doesn’t matter how many tries you score,” laments the UL Bohs wing, “it was disappointing coming away from Italy.

“It is bittersweet. You’re so happy to score the tries, but at the end of the day we didn’t get the performance or the result we wanted. The one with Nicole (Fowley) was straight off the training pitch, we had practiced it a hundred times and it was great to see that put into action.”

Hannah O’Connor and Eimear Considine Back in action with Munster this season. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Whether it comes through training or in competitive action, more reps mean more experience. And, coupled with the fillip of a fresh start following her travels, Considine is heading in to Saturday’s clash with France in Donnybrook (kick-off 19.00) a far more confident and has a skill-set that is a world away from the raw convert who made her full debut against France two short years ago.

Back when she was still ‘Eimear Considine the football player.’

“I had only played three inter-pro games and I came on at half-time against Scotland. I was getting my first start against France… looking back on it now, not that I cringe at it, but Jesus, I really didn’t know the game.”

That experience of swimming against the tide has hardened her for her comeback season in both red and green. The lessons are there to be passed on to her sister Ailish down in Adelaide too as she copes with her own transition to a quite different oval-ball game.

“I think you go from something that you are really good at naturally. I know where to be on a football pitch automatically but with rugby, it’s all learned.

“I suppose that’s starting to come to the fore now that I instinctively know where to be and what to do or else I know what Plan B is if the ball isn’t coming to me.

“It takes time. I was even on the phone to my sister this morning, she’s in Australia playing AFL, saying ‘look, it’s not going to happen in season one.’

She’s doing well over there but it’s frustrating transferring over to a new sport and I feel like we have that in common now. We understand that you are going to be really good at one sport and you have to really work on the other sport.”

“I suppose it was that summer of World Cup training that I actually got to learn to game. At the time, I came into camp in January having never played 15s before. I had to learn as I was doing it and I feel now that I have a lot more confidence. I’m really enjoying it.

“I was so scared of making mistakes in that first year that I was being careful with everything. I was doing everything good enough to stay where I was but now I am not afraid to make mistakes and try things.

“If it works out, it works out and if it doesn’t, it’s a lesson learned.”

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Sean Farrell

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