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Dublin: 9 °C Friday 6 December, 2019

'I send pictures to my Mum in Cameroon - 'oh my God, I'm representing Ireland''

Linda Djougang only started playing rugby four years ago but is now chasing her dreams on the pitch with Ireland.

LINDA DJOUGANG ALWAYS harboured ambitions and dreams of going to the Olympics. She was a promising young athlete across a number of disciplines and certainly had potential, but her sporting career took a different direction when she moved to Ireland as an eight-year-old.

Originally from Cameroon, she arrived in Rush, north Dublin with her father and aunt back in 2005 and while Djougang continued to prosper in track and field in secondary school, she would soon fall in love with rugby.

Linda Djougang Djougang pictured in Dublin this week. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Before taking up an internship at the end of her first year in Trinity College, Djougang did not know what a rugby ball even looked like, understandable really when football is like a second religion back home in Douala, Cameroon’s second largest city.

“There was a social tag rugby team in work and I wanted to get to know people more so signed up,” she explains. 

“I only played one game of tag rugby and then I got asked if I wanted to play real rugby and I was like ‘I thought that was real rugby?’. I played that day and from there, the Wanderers manager saw me. I was just running when I had the ball.”

Djougang instantly developed a passion for the game, signing up to play for Wanderers and such was her initial impact in club rugby, she received a call to attend Leinster trials at the end of her first season playing AIL. 

“Loads of clubs were asking me to join them,” she recalls. “But I knew I needed to move to a higher division team so I chose Old Belvedere, and they had Ailis Egan, Jenny Murphy and Maz Reilly. Good people to play with and learn off. My Mum always told me ‘if you want to be the best, you always have to follow what everyone is doing.’”

As Djougang continued to impress for Old Belvedere, she achieved her goal of representing Leinster in the inter-provincial series and her rapid progress then resulted in a first call-up to Adam Griggs’ Ireland squad last November. 

“It’s everything that you wanted,” she continues. “It’s everything that you trained for. The sacrifices. I was like ‘Yes, if I made it for Leinster, then I can make it for Ireland’.

“Then I was named in the Six Nations squad. I was jumping off the roof. It was unreal. I got into Ireland and everything was building up to this. This is where my journey begins, this is where the hard work really comes into play.

“Getting capped against England, that’s something I’d never really dreamt of. Even singing the national anthem and you’re the one wearing the green jersey. Singing it in Irish. It was amazing.”

Linda Djougang Djougang is on the bench for Sunday's game against Wales. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Although Djougang’s mother still lives in Cameroon, she is in regular contact and takes great pride in her achievements.

“It has been an incredible journey,” the loosehead prop, who is set to win her fourth cap against Wales on Sunday, adds. “I don’t want it to end, but at the same time when I finish it will be an amazing experience to even cherish. I do take pictures I send to her [her Mum], ‘oh my God, I’m representing Ireland.’

“Wearing that green jersey, you feel like they [the sacrifices] were so worth it. Even when we do jersey presentation. When they give you that jersey, I’m like ‘oh my God, this is mine’.’

“It has been an incredible journey and it’s only the beginning.” 

Bernard Jackman joins Murray Kinsella and Ryan Bailey on The42 Rugby Weekly as Ireland bid to spoil Wales’ Grand Slam party in Cardiff, and the U20s target their own piece of history.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Ryan Bailey

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