'A whirlwind of emotions. It's unexpected' - from Irish rugby retirement to dream Dublin return

Hannah Tyrrell topped off an ‘incredible’ few weeks with a Division 1 league medal in Croke Park.

IRISH RUGBY’S LOSS to Dublin football’s gain, the last few weeks of Hannah Tyrrell’s life have been like no other.

cork-v-dublin-lidl-ladies-national-football-league-division-1-final Hannah Tyrrell with the Division 1 league crown. Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

In brief, there’s been a Six Nations campaign, an inter-county recall, an international retirement and an unforgettable league run with the all-conquering Dublin footballers.

A Division 1 medal in Croke Park last night topped off a dream return to the Sky Blues, Tyrrell scoring a remarkable 3-29 across five wins.

Letting it all sink in in the Hogan Stand after the decider victory over Cork, the 30-year-old reflected on a crazy few weeks.

“It’s been incredible, very much a whirlwind of emotions for me and something I didn’t expect to happen so soon,” she smiled.

“Mick [Bohan, Dublin manager] and the girls have welcomed me in and been very, very supportive. I’m very lucky that things went our way and results went our way, and here we are today.”

Asked to expand on that emotional whirlwind and to sum up her feelings by The42, Tyrrell continued: “It’s unexpected… that’s probably the biggest thing.

“I never expected to be here today. The rugby coming to an end and my retirement was just a commitment issue unfortunately, with the World Cup being postponed, and then an opportunity came about from Mick and the girls bringing me into the squad. It was something that I didn’t ever think would happen so quickly. It was a dream of mine.

“I had a free summer, Mick and them had a place for me in the squad, and I’m very lucky to be wearing the jersey and getting better each day with these girls. I’m hoping there’s an incredible few months ahead.”

The opportunity to return to the Dublin fold was one she was never going to turn down, having last been involved during the 2014 league campaign before she landed a professional Sevens contract with Irish Rugby.

Tyrrell hails from Gaelic games roots, having enjoyed underage All-Ireland success as a Dublin goalkeeper, and club glory with her native Round Towers, Clondalkin.

hannah-tyrrell Lining out in this year's Six Nations. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Through her time focusing on the oval ball — she impressed at out-half for Ireland of late, earning 20 XVs caps and playing at the 2017 World Cup, while also featuring 103 times on the World Rugby Sevens Series — her beloved Gaelic football stayed on her mind.

“Look, it was always my dream. If it wasn’t this year, I would have hoped it would be next year or any time after my rugby retirement. I never thought my rugby career would go on for so long, but here we are.

“I don’t have a lot of words… it’s just incredible and very much unexpected. I’ll go home now and reflect on how amazing this has been. League titles don’t come around too often, as we know. We all came here for the big one, but this is a big win for us and a big stepping stone.”

A night full of surprises, many will be shocked to learn that the league title was just Dublin’s second, though they are four-in-a-row All-Ireland champions.

Another big surprise was the fact it was Tyrrell’s first outing on the hallowed turf of Croke Park. A regular fan at the venue, often with her Irish team-mates to support the Dubs on All-Ireland final day given there was no clash with their own matches, it was a memorable bow as she posted seven points.

“I always dreamt of being back on the pitch. This is my first night playing in Croke Park ever. It’s great to have a good experience and come away with a win. It’s mad…”

The whole thing certainly is.

She’s slotted in like she was never way, and taken to it all again like a duck to water.

Tyrrell modestly questions that, speaking of initial adjustments and how it’s all down to the unparalleled help of her team-mates. But there’s no hiding her enjoyment.

“It’s been fun. The biggest thing… it’s just been so much fun. I love playing GAA, I’ve played it for so long. As I said, I never meant to be away for so long, the rugby just took off for me and I’m very, very lucky to be welcomed back into the fold. I’ve had the best couple of weeks with the girls, and I’m hoping that there’s a couple more coming!”

hannah-tyrell-and-erika-oshea Facing Erika O'Shea last night. Brian Reilly-Troy / INPHO Brian Reilly-Troy / INPHO / INPHO

After another “tremendous fight” with Cork, that’s the focus: getting back to Croke Park for the bigger stage of an All-Ireland final.

Their flawless league campaign and silverware sets them up nicely for championship – which, to those on the outside looking in, is the Drive for Five.

“Look, we all came here to win an All-Ireland at the end of the year and there’s a lot of games to get there,” Tyrrell concludes. “This will give us a lot of confidence going into the championship, but we have our sights set firmly on that first game against Tyrone.

“We can’t look further than that, we don’t know what’s going to happen then, but we go back training, we go back to the drawing board and we go again.”

As  she always has, and undoubtedly always will. 

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