The picture the IRFU didn’t want you to see

County jerseys highlight diversity in Irish women’s rugby team

The Irish women’s rugby team at Twickenham – wearing their respective county colours.

The Irish women’s rugby team at Twickenham – wearing their respective county colours.


Since beginning a series of columns for The Irish Times last month, Lynne Cantwell, Ireland’s most capped women’s rugby player, had nothing but triumphs to reflect on after a momentous 12 months for the national team, She has, though, also being giving a wonderful insight into the struggles the players have had to endure through the years to reach the level they have now attained.

All those efforts, of course, paid off beautifully last year when the team won the Grand Slam, and they opened the current Six Nations campaign with two more victories, a 59-0 drubbing of Scotland and a considerably tighter 14-6 defeat of Wales. All of which set up that Triple Crown match in Twickenham last weekend. It wasn’t to be.

“The game itself flew by,” wrote Cantwell on Thursday. “The overwhelming emotion was dictated by the scoreboard: 17-10. In the immediate aftermath nothing else mattered.”

After the initial disappointment, though, she was able to savour the experience. “One of the proudest moments as Ireland players was playing on the same stage as our male counterparts in the most famous rugby stadium in the world. It doesn’t lessen the disappointment of missing out on a Triple Crown, but it is something we can always say we were a part of. That matters.”

County jerseys
And, she wrote, what helped lighten the mood after the defeat was an idea that “our legendary secondrow Mary Louise Reilly” came up with. “She suggested we get a picture in Twickers with all our respective GAA county jerseys. When would we get such a chance again? We got to work organising this and, of course, Dan Sheridan [a photographer with Inpho] was there to take the shot. A few girls were missing due to random drug testing but it put a much needed smile across all our faces, snapping us out of the initial low of losing such a tight game.”

A beautiful, colourful photo it is too, the most striking aspect the display of the range of counties represented by this Irish team, when assumptions are often made that beyond Dublin 4, Cork, Limerick and Belfast rugby has little reach.

So, naturally enough, it was decided the photo would be perfect to accompany Cantwell’s column, seeing as she referred to it, the Irish Rugby Football Union was contacted to request a higher resolution for publication.

Are you sensing a “but”?

There’s a big one.

No can do, was the gist of the message, principally because the team is now sponsored by AON Insurance and the players in the photo were wearing GAA jerseys featuring sundry other sponsors. And because the photo was taken privately.

At which point our inner John McEnroe emerged, in a “you cannot be serious?” kind of way.

But Stephen McNamara, the IRFU’s director of communications, requested that the photo not be used, by now our heads sore from the scratching.

Newspapers have become accustomed to being requested to use photos featuring sponsors’ names, often in return for an interview with a sports star, but it’s rare enough to be asked not to use a particular image.

Last year, Bayern Munich fined their new signing Mario Gotze for, rather hilariously, wearing a Nike T-shirt to his official unveiling, when the club is sponsored and part-owned by adidas. They were, then, understandably peeved, but it’s unlikely that AON Insurance would be concerned about the names visible in the rugby team’s photo, among them “Hospice” on a Roscommon shirt and “Arnotts” on a dated Dublin jersey.

All a little silly, really. Especially at a time when women’s rugby, on the back of last year’s success, is making significant strides in attracting young girls in to the sport all around the country, and an image like this demonstrates that most of those young girls have very local heroines and role models.

Anyway, here it is: the photo they, eh, did not want you to see. Enjoy.

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