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'My little sister flew home from Canada to surprise me. That was really special'

Nichola Fryday captained Ireland to a win for the first time in Cork yesterday.

Ireland were able to celebrate in Cork.
Ireland were able to celebrate in Cork.

SOON AFTER THE final whistle had sounded on Ireland’s first victory of the Six Nations, captain Nichola Fryday made a beeline for the main stand in Musgrave Park.

Having just captained her country to a win for the first time, the 26-year-old strode up the steps of the stand with tears in her eyes and made a beeline for one young woman in particular.

The emotion was written all over Fryday’s face as they shared a long, lingering hug.

Ireland and Fryday were clearly relieved and delighted to get off the mark in this Six Nations with a 29-8 victory over Italy, but there was more to this embrace. It was her younger sister, Jessica.

“My little sister has been living in Canada for the last year,” explained Fryday.

“She flew home to surprise me for that match.

“That was a really special moment and it was very unexpected.”

It was one of many touching moments in the aftermath of Ireland’s bonus-point win, with debutant Aoife Wafer presented with her first cap in memorable fashion out on the pitch.

“In our changing room above each of the jerseys is the word ‘clann,’ meaning family,” said Fryday.

“We’re a family, that’s the squad and the environment we’ve tried to build over the last few weeks. We’re extremely close-knit so when you’re in the trenches and fighting for a win like that with your family, it’s very important to you.”

nichola-fryday-celebrates-after-the-game-with-fans-with-a-selfie Fryday takes a selfie with Ireland fans. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

As Fryday was being reunited with her sister, many of her team-mates were chatting to and hugging their own loved ones or engaging with some of the very vocal crowd of 5,039 in Cork.

“It’s amazing to look up into the crowd and see hundreds of little boys and girls who have come to support us,” said Fryday of the turnout.

“When you’re on the pitch and you hear the roar of the crowd. it just lifts you as a player and pushes you on that extra little bit.

“For us to get down to Cork and move around the country, it’s great for the clubs. I was talking to Mallow and Clonakilty players and it’s great for those little girls and boys to get the opportunity to see us and watch us play.”

It obviously wouldn’t have been that kind of joyous occasion if Ireland hadn’t won. They did so in convincing and impressive style as they bounced back from their recent defeats to Wales and France, fixing several of the issues from those games.

There is still lots of scope for improvement and Ireland will feel they missed chances even after scoring five tries against a team that is heading to this year’s World Cup, but just winning was crucial.

“This was a really important game for us,” said Fryday. “It was kinda nearly a tournament decider I think. Both teams hadn’t had a win yet so for us to get that win today, we’re really happy.

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“I think it’s shown what we can do and we’re happy with the improvements we made from the last two weeks. We showed a lot better game management, we improved our set-piece, so for me there wasn’t really much more we could ask for.”

nichola-fryday-competes-in-the-air-with-giordana-duca Fryday wins a lineout for Ireland. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

Ireland aren’t heading to the World Cup this year and the reality is that their rebuild is very much still a work in progress.

The next challenge on their agenda is the biggest one so far, a visit to England in two weekends’ time to take on the best team in the world.

Ireland will be shorn of five or six players as several key figures depart for the Ireland 7s set-up ahead of the next World Series leg, but Fryday is determined that her team won’t look for excuses. 

“Look, it’s kinda similar to France. We are delighted to go up against the best team in the world. We’re not going to be going into it thinking about a loss.

“We want to implement our game plan and bring it to them. You could see in the first 20 minutes against Wales, they really put it to them.

“We just want to make sure we go out fighting.”

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Murray Kinsella

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