Women’s hockey players Lisa Jacob and Audrey O’Flynn lurred to rugby
Sportswomen from other codes offered the chance to take up sevens, which will feature in the 2016 Olympics
Both players have switched codes, signing sevens contracts with the IRFU. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
It would, to put it mildly, have seemed highly unlikely not so long ago that Irish women’s hockey would lose players to rugby, but in the case of two internationals with over 300 caps between them, that’s precisely what has happened. First Wexford’s Lisa Jacob and now Cork’s Audrey O’Flynn, who both played their club hockey with Hermes, have switched codes, signing sevens contracts with the IRFU.
News of O’Flynn’s switch was revealed this week by Alan Good at SouthernFriedHockey.com. As soon as it appeared, she said, “I started getting lots of messages from people saying how brave I was – and I was thinking ‘oh Jesus, what have I done?’”
She had been mulling over the decision for almost a year, having become disillusioned with the sport she simply wasn’t enjoying any more. And the demands of playing at international level, she said, had become too much: she made her debut in 2010 against Belgium, her last game against the same opposition, in October, was her 120th cap. Throw in the training camps, fitness sessions, travelling, and so on, along with studying to be a primary school teacher, and it was draining.
Until now, her only rugby experience was of the Tag variety, and taking on her brothers in the garden, but she’s one of a group of sportswomen from other codes offered the chance to take up sevens, which will feature in the 2016 Olympics. “Irish rugby is on the look-out for new talent, they have a programme set up now based on an Australian model bringing in athletes from different sports. They feel skills in certain sports are transferable, and in hockey you’d certainly need speed, agility and fitness, all of which are key in rugby sevens.”
“Everything has changed now, I’m really enjoying myself,” she said. “I look forward to the sessions – which is something I didn’t have for a long time in hockey. But I haven’t even thought about Olympic qualification.”