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Dublin: 13 °C Tuesday 11 August, 2020
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'I don’t think you ever lose the girl that was there on her first day'

Before Ireland Women kick off their 7s World Series campaign, we caught up with Lucy Mulhall to chat about the value of experience, youth and arduous altitude training.

Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

SCIENTIFICALLY-MINDED, FOREVER asking questions and trying to figure out a tweak to improve matters, Lucy Mulhall will lead Ireland into a new Sevens season across the Atlantic today.

The Wicklow woman captained the side as they lost out to England in the Olympic qualifying tournament in July and is now counting up her fifth years of experience, she is intent on making it count with further improvement and greater consistency on the World Series circuit.

That all begins today in Glendale, Colorado at, 5,000 feet above sea level it’s a challenge that has taken a little extra preparation work for Stan McDowell’s side.

In June, the Sevens setup moved from locations around Lansdowne Road to take up residence in the IRFU’s sparkling new €6 million facility in Abbottstown. The National Sports Campus location has allowed the union to, quite literally, bring many strands of the Sevens programme under one roof with coaches, support staff, gym and both teams now on one site.

While there is no shortage of playing fields with three outdoor and one three-quarter length indoor pitch, Mulhall and her team-mates made a detour to an altitude training facility off the M50′s junction six.

“‘The torture chamber,’ is a good way of describing it,” laughs Mulhall.

“It’s been good for us. They managed to sort it out for us last year. We found it so beneficial and it’s brilliant they’ve been able to offer it to us again.

You’re literally in this dark room with bikes, treadmills and rowers. The heat goes up to 30 degrees or more and they reduce the level of oxygen.”

“Based on last year, we know that if you go through the suffering before a tournament, it makes you so much more confident out on the field.

“You have that awareness that you can go into that red zone – It’s all about zones in there – you get your heart-rate to 90% – the fact that 12 of us can go in there, sit on bikes and all be in that red zone all together, it’s weirdly bonding as a team.

“Because you know that you’re with team-mates who’ll go that extra inch for you out on the field. We seen it last year, we’ll work for each other all the time.”

“Where we have to improve is our skill execution and composure while in that red zone and working our hardest. I don’t think you can ever question our work-rate or our intention, but our execution might not always be there.”

Experience can only help on that score. Experience both of playing Sevens at World Series level year on year and also innate rugby experience.

While there was an early drive to recruit crossover athletes like Mulhall from other sports and swapped from the 15-a-side game, the senior side is now also being bolstered with fruits of the under-age structure.

“Other than that, they’d be coming in without experience of 7s. 15s will give you the skill-set, but now we have girls coming through that have played Sevens.

“Management cross over (under age to senior), so they’ve kept the same plays, standards and culture from the U18s on upwards. It’s really beneficial.

“Every year the U18s come in and we’re shocked by how good they are and how much they add to our squad. They’ve definitely been the main feed for our squad over the last couple of years.”

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Having made her debut as captain in the 2015 Olympic qualifier, Mulhall is among a crop of practical veterans of Ireland’s young Sevens setup as she enters her fifth season.

“I used to be the young one on the trip,” says the just-turned 26-year-old.

“It’s amazing. I don’t think you ever lose the girl that was there on her first day with no clue what a rugby ball was.

irelands-lucy-mulhall Mulhall makes a cut at the World Cup in San Francisco last year. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

“I still feel like I’m learning the sport. I think rugby’s one of those sports anyway, because it’s quite technical, so you’re always learning and evolving. I still feel like I’m a newbie to the sport.

“It’s been exciting to see so many of the younger girls… I was privileged to coach the U18s for a season. To see in the last two years I’m playing alongside so many of them. It’s crazy.”

And although the former county footballer, who has devoted her off-field time to studying science and maths, is a core leader in the group, that desire to keep learning, keep improving is not diminishes.

My mind will never let me want to stop improving and getting better. That’s what’s kept me in college all these years as well.

“I find it good for me to constantly keep wanting to build my off-field as well as the on-field. So, when the time comes that I step away from rugby it’s – as difficult as it’s going to be not walking into a high performance unit every day – at least I’ve a plan set.

“It’s really important for some of the younger girls coming through. So if I can set the example of keeping your education going while you’re in the programme I think that’s something massive for those younger girls.”

On the learning goes.

Today’s Ireland Women fixtures, Glendale 7s Pool B (Irish times)

(To be broadcast live on World Rugby’s YouTube feed.)

Ireland v France -  17.37 
Ireland v USA -  20.43 
Ireland v Brazil -  23.05  

Ireland squad

Kathy Baker (Blackrock College/ Leinster)
Megan Burns (Tullamore/Leinster)
Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe (Railway Union/Munster)
Anna Doyle (Tullow/ Leinster)
Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock/ Leinster)
Stacey Flood (Railway Union/ Leinster)
Louise Galvin (UL Bohemian/Munster)
Katie Heffernan (Mullingar/Railway Union/Leinster)
Eve Higgins (Railway Union/Leinster)
Emily Lane (Mallow/Munster)
Lucy Mulhall (Rathdrum)
Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird (Old Belvedere/Munster)
Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster)

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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