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Beibhinn Parsons organising her next steps after 'rollercoaster' year of Leaving Cert stress

The 18-year-old was due to skip the second half of the Six Nations, but its postponement means she is back in Ireland’s ranks.

Image: Ryan Bailey/INPHO

BEIBHINN PARSONS HAS already built up a habit of scoring vital tries for Ireland Women.

And often they have been scores that came from a long way out, when she has green grass around her, time and space to  think about the finishing touch.

Fortunately, sound advice from an early age has ensured the ‘Ash Splash’ has never crossed her mind when try-line fever comes on.

“My dad always says ‘if you don’t need to dive, don’t. If you can do it a safer way, do it,’” says the prodigiously talented 18-year-old.

“I wouldn’t ever want to knock on the ball… two hands (on the ball) to the floor is always my motto.”

beibhinn-parsons-celebrates-scoring-the-opening-try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Parsons’ rapid rise to become a full international at the age of just 16 isn’t just down to helpful hints at home of course. She is quick to retort a ‘why not rugby’ when asked why she brought her athleticism to the sport through the proving ground of Ballinasloe RFC. That institution will take immense credit for where she stands now, a star in the limelight as Canterbury launch the national team’s new kit.

“(Ballinasloe RFC) really pushed the boat out to start a girls’ side and it’s something I really appreciated. My coaches, Dermot Tierney and Declan Murphy, started up that whole bank of good players who are coming through in Irish Sevens.”

As she mentions the short form of the game, we’ll linger there for a bit.  It’s an all-too-rare avenue for a sportswoman to seek out a run as a professional on these shores. It’s a path Parsons is well equipped to follow. And she has already been in touch with director Anthony Eddy about where and when she might fit it in.

Mind you, after the year she’s had it might be no harm to tighten the focus in on one sport. Like her peers across the country, Parsons had to endure the enormous uncertainty and stress of the Leaving Cert debacle.

In an effort to focus on her studies in the spring, she had taken leave from the international squad after impressive outings in the opening wins over Scotland and Wales. The pandemic denied her the chance to sit the Leaving, but it has at least given her back the opportunity to compete in the final rounds of the Six Nations.

“It’s been rollercoaster to say the least,” says the Galway woman, “it’s been crazy thinking I’d miss out three Six Nations matches and now only missing out one. That’s a huge positive I’m taking.

“(The Leaving Cert situation) was difficult. We had to remain patient. First our orals were postponed, then cancelled. Then our Leaving Cert was postponed, then cancelled.”

A bullet dodged, some would say. Not for Parsons.

I absolutely wanted to sit the exams!  I was gutted that I couldn’t.  I feel I’m part of the 1% that actually wanted to sit them. I’d loved to have wrapped it up, put a bit of closure on it and get a result that you know you’d deserved.”

Whatever the manner of the outcome, Parsons is now a Biomedical student in UCD. Upping sticks to south Dublin also means she has signed up to play for Blackrock College RFC whenever her busy schedule and pandemic-related restrictions allow.

She is living on campus in Belfield, but the new normal is a long way removed from the old one for students experiencing their first year at third level. Her three housemates are about the extent of her social bubble at the minute. Entering training camps to mix with her fellow internationals must be a welcome chance to mix up the routine.

Beibhinn 1 Canterbury, the official kit partner to Irish Rugby, has officially launched the new Ireland Women’s Rugby Home jersey that will be worn throughout the 2020/21 season. It is a new era for Irish Rugby, and the latest technology is at the heart of the new Ireland Women’s Rugby Home jersey which can be purchased from Monday 19th October in selected Intersport Elvery’s stores nationwide, at IrishRugby.ie and at Canterbury.com.

Juggling her education with playing elite sport is nothing new for the flying wing, of course. At 16, she became the youngest ever Ireland international and the sight of her name on a team-sheet is already a huge boost for the prospects of Adam Griggs’ side. So the Kiwi and Parsons endeavour to get their schedules organised to set up a suitable timeline.

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“I won’t lie and say it’s easy. Of course it’s difficult but it just means I have to be organised. Last year was a huge year for me, doing my Leaving Cert. I just had to be organised and honest and say, ’here Griggsy, can we have a chat? Can I see how we’re going to manage this?’

“They were more than accommodating. We sat down and picked out training that I could go to, matches that I could go to and couldn’t go to. That’s just what had to be done. I’m getting used to juggling it.”

Beyond completing the Six Nations over the coming two weekends and testing herself against an expansive Italy side and France, this year’s overriding goal for Ireland remains December’s World Cup qualifying tournament.

November 20 will reveal exactly what they’re playing for as the pool draw for the 2021 tournament in New Zealand will take place. Whoever comes out of the hat, the chance to play in a country that has apparently succeeded in containing Covid-19 is an opportunity Ireland will be desperate to take. After a year full of postponements and cancellations, New Zealand in July 2021 feels like a plan you can pin hopes on.

“You can’t help but dream about something like that. For me that would be the pinnacle, it’s the peak of rugby in my eyes so of course you want to go there but you have to cross a good few bridges before you get there.

“We want three home wins in the Six Nations and that’s our focus before the World Cup qualifier.

“We won’t run before we can walk.”

And she won’t be caught celebrating a try before the ball is safely planted beyond the white line.

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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