Young son inspires Lindsay Peat’s push for rugby glory

Incredibly versatile sportswoman now targeting the next World Cup with Ireland

Lindsay Peat is talking about attaching 2.5kg weight plates around the waist while doing full body pull-ups when the subject turns to motivation. What on earth keeps driving her to do this?

At 36, with an 18-month-old son, Barra, some might say she’s already done it all. An All-Ireland football winner with Dublin, an Irish basketball captain and an underage soccer international, Peat then defied even her own expectations to become a central player on the Irish women’s rugby team over the last two seasons.

There is the World Cup, for starters, staged between UCD and Belfast this August and where the Irish women intend on cashing in on every single inch of that home advantage. Peat intends on doing everything she can to make the Irish squad, and is now almost a full-time amateur, cutting her job with the HSE down to two days a week.

Although there is now a deeper motivation too, and with that she points to a tattoo inside her left forearm.


It is inscribed with the birth date of Barra, in Roman numerals, above which are three arrows, crossing each other, while pointing upwards: the arrows represent herself, Barra, and her wife Claire, and the journey they are now on together through life.

“After Barra was born, three months premature, that put a lot of things in perspective,” she says. “He’s the inspiration now. He was in hospital, an incubator for weeks, went through blood transfusions, then viral meningitis, and is now thriving.

“So if this little thing of three-and-a half-pounds can get through that, I can get through a bit of weight training, and running. And that [tattoo] is just a little reminder.”

Anyone who actually knows Peat will tell you she has always spoken straight from the heart like this, and it is thoroughly refreshing.

Barra (the Irish translation of Barry) was born in November 2015, just six months after the marriage referendum was passed, and just over two weeks after Peat made her international debut for Ireland, at The Stoop. That also happened to be only her eighth ever game of rugby, even though her performances in the front row at the Six Nations this spring would suggest she’s a proper veteran of the game.

Learning curve

“It still sounds ridiculous to say that, and it is still a huge learning curve. Rugby is such a vast game, all the laws, learning all the new referees as well. That’s actually one thing I learnt this year, to try not to open my mouth to referees as much.

“And when I first spoke to my wife about it, she was like ‘it’s Ireland calling, you don’t say no’. You have to give it the chance, and I’m definitely a different player to last year, and it’s still only my second season. And I only get the one chance to play in the World Cup. So, you have to give it everything.

“And everything is done together. Claire and I sit down, look at the diary two weeks in advance, and fill it in. It comes with a few banging of heads, but it has to be done. But the family support has been great, her dad coming down, help out where they can.”

Peat is speaking at an AIG Heroes event at the Bluebell Community Centre in west Dublin, which brings in role models from across a variety of sports to help build confidence among young people – and it would be hard to find a more positive role model than her.

The Artane woman can certainly speak about success and failure, including the near miss to Cork in 2014 women’s All-Ireland final, having won the title in 2010: “After losing to Cork by a point, three years ago, and if you’d told me that 18 months later I’d be playing rugby, I’d say no way, I’d have laughed. I was heading for retirement.

“I was still living on the northside then, was back in college, but then moved to Dundrum. I remember watching the 2014 World Cup, taking it in [the Irish women famously beating New Zealand], and I’m so into sport I’d try anything. But loyal as well, it was basketball or GAA and that was my focus.

“It was through Graham Byrne, who was our strength and conditioning coach in basketball, and was involved with Railway Union [in Sandymount], he just recommended I come down. I decided I can’t be idle, let’s give it a go.”

Despite her near instant impact on the game, there is no guarantee she will make Irish coach Tom Tierney’s squad for the World Cup. Team camps begin this weekend, and it’s a tough road ahead, another part of the motivation being the knowledge that England, World Cup favourites, are now preparing full-time at their training base in Loughborough.

Extended squad

“At the minute we’re very much immersed in pre-season. We’ve just finished three gym sessions a week, reduced that to two, because we start camp this weekend, which will mean two-day weekends, and three pitch sessions. So it’s pretty busy at the minute.

“There’s still a large, extended squad. We were probably one of the only nations which hadn’t merged our Sevens in, but they’re in there now, going forward. He [Tierney] will cut it for a 28-woman squad for the matches with Japan [in June], and then we’ll look at finishing that off at the end of July.”

“It’s about trying to get ourselves as fit as we can. England were probably back the week after they won the Grand Slam. I decided I’d follow them on Instagram, stalk them a little, and yeah they were straight back into it, in Loughborough, by the looks of it. Fitness testing, all that.

“But there is no excuse if you’re trying to make the World Cup squad. As hard as it is, you only have to picture that trophy, the tournament, and think of the buzz that’s going to be in UCD in August. So it’s survival of the fittest now.

“When I started I was nearly 90kg, I’m at 82kg now, and that’s more muscle mass. We get constant body fat checks, and that’s a huge change. I’m trying to be as powerful a player as I can, and that’s a huge transfer of power, from fat to muscle.”

Japan are also in their World Cup Group, along with Australia and France, and there’s no guarantee either that Ireland will emerge: only the top team will.

“Absolutely, we don’t have the easiest group. France are big, but we’ve beaten them in Donnybrook. I’d rather a tough group, to be more accustomed going into the bigger guns in the knockout, hopefully. You wouldn’t want to sail through, and it’s tough it’s only one, but if we’re good enough we’ll come through that group.”

And there’s nothing she’d like more than another crack at England, who ended their Grand Slam hopes in Donnybrook in March, Ireland’s defensive game eventually wilting under the ceaseless pressure.

“No team, whether they’re professional or not, can play defence for 60 minutes. No team, whether that’s Saracens and Clermont this weekend. So we have to change that, we have to be more offensive. Going into half-time, we could have been 7-5 up, 5-5 even, and that would have been a different mindset.

“But let’s be honest, England last year, compared to the England this year, I think we would have wiped the floor with them. Maybe not wipe the floor, because that sounds very disrespectful, but I think personally we definitely would have beaten them.

“This year, you could just feel they were a different animal. Harriet Millar-Mills has been a good player, but had a really good championship, and that’s just more training at a more intense level. But we’re pushing as hard as we can, to be as fit as we can, going into August.”

With some extra motivation to boot.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics