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Irish rugby's loss is Dublin football's gain as 'fine athlete' Tyrrell lights up the league

Hannah Tyrrell has made an outstanding return to inter-county football.

WHEN DUBLIN NAMED their first team of 2021, number 17 certainly caught the eye.

Hannah Tyrrell (Na Fianna)

hannah-tyrell Hannah Tyrrell (centre) facing Cork at the weekend. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

Best known for her stunning exploits with Irish rugby teams of late, the 30-year-old was back in the Sky Blues ladies football set-up.

Her inclusion on the bench brought great excitement ahead of the four-in-a-row All-Ireland champions’ Division 1 league opener against Waterford at Parnell Park.

Would there be a cameo in match one, or would Mick Bohan opt to hold her in reserve for further down the line?

That team was named 10 days ago. Since then, Tyrrell has played every minute for Dublin, scored 3-12 across two games — landing a Player of the Match award in the second — and retired from international rugby. A whirlwind few days, to say the least.

Fresh off a Six Nations campaign with Adam Griggs’ Ireland where she impressed at 10, Tyrrell has taken to inter-county football once again like a duck to water.

Last summer, she starred for Na Fianna in the Dublin senior football championship, helping them to the semi-final. Self-admittedly, it was an unexpected return to the sport with her adopted club, six years after her last competitive appearance.

“That wasn’t something I really planned on doing,” as Tyrrell, formerly of Round Towers, Clondalkin, told the Echo newspaper last October.

When rugby was still announcing it wasn’t coming back, and GAA was starting up, I joined my local club around the corner. To be moving to a new club was tough, but I really enjoyed it.

“We had a really good run and it was just a real nice distraction after all the solitary training I’d been doing.”

That club campaign seems to have been the spark that lit the flame once again, while her attacking displays for the Mobhi Road outfit appeared to catch the eye of Bohan.

Having retired from Sevens duty last August, Tyrrell threw her lot in with 15s in terms of international rugby thereafter. The Leinster star soon established herself as Ireland’s first-choice out-half, starting there against Italy in the autumn, front and centre of Griggs’ plans through postponements and uncertainty.

She was the starting 10 in April’s Six Nations opener, impressing against Wales and capping her performance with a late try and the Player of the Match award, just days after her wedding was postponed. She kept the jersey for the France game before being replaced by Stacey Flood late on, the substitute-then-turning-starter for the finale against Italy.

Tyrrell came on in the 60th minute that day in Donnybrook, but we know now that that was her last appearance in the green jersey, returning to her Sky Blue roots since.

Her last season with Dublin was 2014, involved for the league before withdrawing from the squad when she landed a professional Sevens contract.

hannah-tyrrell-breaks-away-to-score-as-try Facing Wales in April. Source: Robbie Stephenson/INPHO

Looking back through the years, her inter-county career has certainly been a colourful one — and hasn’t all played in the forward line. In 2006, Tyrrell was goalkeeper of the county’s U16 All-Ireland winning team. Described in the match report as ‘truly outstanding,’ Tyrrell saved two Cork penalties in the final and was named Player of the Match. In 2008, she helped the Jackies to the national minor crown.

She repeated the Player of the Match award in the final feat in the 2010 All-Ireland senior B championship, and went on to establish herself as Cliodhna O’Connor’s understudy. At club level, however, her attacking prowess shone through, scoring 1-3 on route to another Player of the Match-winning decider display as Round Towers won the 2011 Dublin intermediate championship.

Before switching her focus to the oval ball, Tyrrell was also a talented soccer player, lining out for St Catherine’s in two FAI Cup finals, and Shamrock Rovers in the inaugural Women’s National League [WNL] season of 2011/12.

An outstanding multi-talented athlete, she is now bringing all that she has garnered through the years to the Dublin set-up, and is adding something new to the all-conquering champions.

She hit the ground running on her competitive return against the Déise, repaying Bohan’s trust to have her in from the start as a late change with 1-5, all from play. Four of those points came in the first half, as she marked her return to the biggest stage in style.

“I have never worked with Hannah Tyrell before, but she has been with us now for a month,” Bohan said after that routine 6-15 to 2-12 win.

“She has had a fabulous approach to the whole thing and obviously, she is a fine athlete, and 1-5 is not a bad contribution for her return.”

2-7 against arch-rivals Cork wasn’t too shabby on Saturday either; 2-2 of that coming in a devastating three-minute spell in the second half, with one of the goals simply top-drawer:

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After two games, it’s fair to say that she clearly adds another dynamic to an already fierce Dublin attack; the standout option for a direct ball into the full-forward line should they use an alternative to their hugely successful running game.

Tyrrell is another deadly accurate free-taker in the hugely-competitive fold, too, four of her points against the Rebels at Páirc Uí Chaoimh coming from long-range frees.

Her sublime individual second-half performance against the 2020 All-Ireland finalists was key to Dublin’s one-point win in the end, and saw her… yes, you guessed it, add another Player of the Match award to her ever-burgeoning cabinet.

In her winning interview with TG4, she hailed the “resilience” and “fightback” of her team-mates, noting how “it was a big squad effort to get us over the line and get that win.”

When her rugby skills were mentioned — presenter Máire Ní Bhraonáin pointing to them when referencing the direct ball in — Tyrrell shook them off with a laugh.

“I don’t know if the rugby skills helped but look, the pitch is massive here and I think the space helps in the attack. We were able to spread the ball wide and use our big girls inside, and thankfully it paid off for us.

“We’re just growing with every single game, trying to get better and improve on little things game by game.

“Hopefully, come championship, we’ll be raring to go and we’ll have good craic.”

With the addition of Hannah Tyrrell, there’s no doubt they will, as the Drive for Five roars on.

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

About the author:

Emma Duffy

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