Did the women’s team not get the message about our rugby revolution?

Half time in Cardiff could not come soon enough when Ireland were 26-0 down to Wales

The half-time ad was, well, unfortunate. Donal Lenihan’s dulcet tones filled the air, him waxing lyrical about the rude health of his beloved game and such like.

“There’s a revolution happening in Irish rugby now,” he said, “it’s elevated the sport to a different level … we’re now in a position where we can dare to dream.”

And it being one of those gender-inclusive ads, images of our women’s team were liberally sprinkled throughout.

By then, though, said women were 26-0 down to Wales, half-time in Cardiff not coming soon enough.


Just two years before, Ireland had mullered the Welsh 45-0 in the same city. And now this.

So, a week after the senior and under-20 men won the Grand Slam, Irish rugby daring to make its dreams come true, we witnessed carnage inflicted upon the women’s side of the operation.

Hugh Cahill and Fiona Coghlan groaned and gulped their way through the bulk of that first half, during which Wales had toyed with our bunch. Women against girls, so to speak. The scrums akin to elephants taking on ants.

No more than ourselves, Lindsay Peat had not been quite sure what to expect from the team in this Six Nations campaign, the on-and-mainly-off-the-field shenanigans of the last few years leaving her at a loss to figure out where they were at.

“It’s like the opening chapter of a novel and we don’t know if we’re going to have a happy ending or a gruesome nightmare,” she said.

Alas, the latter.

“It’s a sink or swim situation,” Paula Fitzpatrick agreed.

Alas, the former.

“It could have been worse,” said Daire O’Brien at the break, his efforts to lift our spirits somewhat failing. He was right, though, if Wales had taken half their chances, we’d have been looking at an annihilation of even more annihilating proportions.

The rousing second half display, when they were probably facing a 60-plus point trashing, kind of made you sadder. If they surrendered and submitted to such a fate, you could just write the whole thing off. Instead they showed guts, heart and resolve, and never gave up. So, that made you feel for them even more.

But Coghlan is always ruthlessly excellent in these situations, never overlooking the wider issues in the running of the Irish women’s game, but never absolving the players of their own responsibilities in these decidedly grim situations, when too many are eager to exempt them from all blame, like they’re irreproachable toddlers.

“They need to look to make lots of improvement very, very quickly,” Coghlan said. “We can’t talk about transition any more, this is their job to play and they need to be better than that.”

Groundhog Day, then, you get the sinking feeling that these conversations will still be had when we are all in or around 112, the Irish women’s game possibly waiting until then to experience the revolution.

Maybe if we put Caoimhe Dempsey in charge, our fortunes would change.

The Wicklow woman was the president of Cambridge for this year’s Boat Race, the only member of her crew to have triumphed before in the two-horse race that is the contest with Oxford.

It is a contest that, of course, would leave you feeling even more inadequate than usual, it featuring people who are not only athletically excellent, but academically too.

Take Oxford’s Laurel Kaye. She’s doing a DPhil in Astrophysics. Like, what?

Any way, Caoimhe and Cambridge prevailed – and hats off here to Andrew Cotter for never once referring to her as Ka-im-he – winning their sixth Boat Race in a row.

When asked by the BBC about the (alleged) skulduggery at Hammersmith Bridge, when the umpire roared a highly stern warning about the boats coming perilously close, Ka-im-he smiled, in a kind of a “that’s Boat Race-ing for ya” sort of way. Unrepentant, like. Whatever it takes.

Ka-im-he is currently completing her PhD in Psychology. When she’s done, Irish rugby should snap her up. She would have the Irish women’s team turning the opening chapter in to a happy ending rather than a gruesome nightmare.