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'The three of them undoubtedly have the repertoire, the talent and the knowledge of the game'

Louise Galvin on the importance of the country’s first-ever women’s U20 team and its star-studded coaching ticket.

LOUISE GALVIN HAS always been one to look to the future, to inspire and to guide the next generation coming through.

So the recently-retired Ireland Sevens star is understandably delighted to see a women’s U20s team being brought together in Ireland.

u20 Triple threat of coaches: Jenny Murphy, Fiona Hayes and Alison Miller. Source: Inpho.

New ground was broken last month with the announcement that the first-ever national women’s U20 team will be set up by Rugby Academy Ireland [RAI] – a private Kildare-based academy for aspiring professionals.

The new team – which isn’t affiliated with the IRFU – will have a stellar line-up of coaches in former Ireland internationals Fiona Hayes, Alison Miller and Jenny Murphy, all having won at least one Six Nations title and played at a World Cup.

And this development comes as a welcome breakthrough, with the lack of U20s and the significant gap from underage to senior level a consistent theme in discussions around women’s rugby on these shores for years now.

“It’s huge,” multi-discipline athlete Galvin recently told The42. “I saw the girls clarified it isn’t ‘the Irish team,’ which is I suppose important too. But it’s brilliant, and especially those three girls because they have so recently just left the international scene, there’s a nice mix of backs and forwards.

“Both Ali and Jenny would have done the Sky Sports women in sport programme [alongside Galvin] which is about using your sporting skills when connecting with teenagers and that, it’s working towards that age group.

The three of them have brilliant personality skills, they undoubtedly have the repertoire and the talent and the knowledge of the game.

“Fair play to them because they’ve recognised where there is a serious gap in terms of progression and development. It’s very hard at times to go from underage teams directly to that senior grade, it’s a massive step-up.”

While Kerry native Galvin was scouted out to join the Ireland Sevens squad having excelled as an inter-county Gaelic footballer and an international basketball player, she’s well versed to discuss the transition.

And she thinks this U20s team is the perfect route for many aspiring youngsters to take, and a way of avoiding the massive issue of player drop-out.

“I think it’s a good idea to start introducing those girls that maybe aren’t developed enough at that age to go straight to the [senior] set-up,” she explains. 

We don’t want to lose them either because a little bit of input and they could be brilliant in another two or three years. Not everyone’s a Beibhinn Parsons that’s developed as well as she has at that age, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be Beibhinn Parsons at 20, 21 if they get that input at that crucial age bracket of 18, 19, 20.

“Fair play the girls, they’ve recognised that, they’re taking it on. I know down in Bohs, I’m only back in a few weeks but there’s a few girls straight away that I can see would develop really well under that programme.

“They probably aren’t at the level of being called into a senior international squad now, but a little bit more targeted feedback and training and Information, and they could be at that stage in another year or two.”

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Having pulled the curtain down on a glittering Sevens career a few weeks back, Galvin has been focusing on club rugby with UL Bohemians, where Hayes is the head coach having enjoyed sustained success there and Niamh Briggs is also involved in the all-female coaching ticket: “More than able, more than capable,” she says.

With the door currently open to Adam Griggs 15s set-up, Galvin has enjoyed returning to her Gaelic football roots in recent times too, while juggling it all with her day job as a physiotherapist. 

louise-galvin Louise Galvin was up for media duties as the nominees for the Zurich Irish Rugby Players Awards were announced. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Her recent Irish Women’s Sevens Player of the Year accolade comes as a fitting end to a colourful chapter in her sporting career, having pipped Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe and Kathy Baker to the prize.

And speaking after being nominated, you could see how much that meant — let alone winning.

“I’m more surprised than anyone else to be nominated,” she said at the time, paying credit to her two former team-mates, deflecting the praise from herself.

“Often times try-scorers stand out. Then across the field, you’re so reliant on the person inside and out of you. It’s just such a team sport, it’s hard to ever build up one person’s contribution over another. When the team performs well, it usually means everyone has performed well.

“Look, it’s been a funny year. We obviously finished less than halfway through the year, we weren’t aware we were going to be finishing, had some topsy-turvy performances. I’m just as surprised and I’m sure a lot of my other teammates are probably surprised that I am being nominated.

“It always is an honour because you’re being recognised by your peers. And that is most important thing because they’re the people that are on the field with you. Obviously, it’s important that your coaches acknowledge you because they select you, but in terms of these sorts of awards, it’s your peers that’s select it which is the people that really know what you’re doing on the field.

“It’s nice to maybe head off with a little nomination like that.”

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Emma Duffy

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