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It's time to turn the lights out on Ashbourne says former Ireland women's captain

Fiona Coghlan wants the team to move to a venue in Dublin that will cater for bigger crowds.

Ex-Ireland women's rugby captain Fiona Coghlan.
Ex-Ireland women's rugby captain Fiona Coghlan.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

MILLTOWN HOUSE IN Ashbourne has been the spiritual home of the Irish women’s rugby team for quite a while, but Fiona Coghlan believes it’s time for a change.

Coghlan, who retired last year after leading Ireland to fourth place at the World Cup, believes a move to a venue in Dublin is necessary for the growth of the women’s game here.

Ireland’s Six Nations defeat to France in Ashbourne last Friday night was interrupted by a floodlight failure, and the game drew a disappointing reported attendance of 1,000.

While Coghlan is grateful for the platform provided by Ashbourne during times when the team had few alternatives, she told The42 that relocating to the capital now makes sense.

“I think the games should be moved from Ashbourne,” said Coghlan. “Not because the lights went out on Friday, but the team has kind of outgrown it.

“All respect to Ashbourne, they took the women’s game when no one else wanted it and helped us grow. But I think if we want to bring the women’s game to the next level, we need it in a venue that can accommodate bigger crowds and hopefully get those bigger crowds in.”

Ireland will play their second and final home game of this Six Nations campaign against England at Ashbourne on Friday, 27 February. Despite playing Italy at the Aviva Stadium in 2014, there’s been no Lansdowne Road date for the team this year.

Coghlan said: “It’s not financially viable to play at the Aviva week-in-week-out, although it would be great every so often just to raise the bar.

“To maximize numbers, and I don’t mean to centralise things, but from my experience – and it’s similar in Scotland and Wales too – the games ideally need to be in Dublin. It gives you the chance to bring in people going to the men’s games on the same weekend as well.

“The RDS might be too big to use regularly but Donnybrook would be another option. There’s been talk of Tallaght Stadium as well. The girls will play wherever it is, but they want as many fans as possible to have the opportunity to come and watch.”

Fiona Coghlan Fiona Coghlan at the launch of Topaz 'Cash for Clubs'. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

There’s no chance of a repeat of 2013′s Grand Slam heroics for Ireland this year after last weekend’s disappointment against the French, but Ireland aren’t giving up on the championship and Coghlan expects them to bounce back against England a week on Friday.

“Like Ireland, England are going through a lot of change at the moment. A lot of their Sevens girls are away so it will be interesting to see if they’re brought back in for the Ireland game, but either way the Irish pack is better than the English pack as it stands and they don’t have anyone coming back in to that.

“Against France we didn’t really go through the phases and suck in the French defence, who I thought were quite vulnerable at times. They’ll be looking to rectify that against England. Ireland are definitely the best team on paper, they just need to prove that on the pitch.”

Coghlan added: “You need to be a winning team if you want people to support you. That’s pressure on the girls and I think they’ll relish that.”

Fiona Coghlan was at the Aviva Stadium to launch Topaz ‘Cash for Clubs’, which will give local clubs throughout Ireland the chance to bag cash prizes worth up to €200,000.

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Paul Dollery

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