DOB: 19th October 1972
HEIGHT: 5’ 10”
POSITION: No 8, Flanker
HONOURS: 15 Ireland, 3 Ulster, 4 Oxford Blues, Irish Exiles Capt, London Wasps and City of Derry
Diane has returned to rugby after a (long) break and is currently captain of City of Derry Ladies and the Ulster Provincial side.
When and why you started playing rugby?
I started playing at Oxford – this was the first opportunity I ever got to play. It was 1991 (yes, way back in last century) and the men’s World Cup was being played. I think I had played a couple of games before the Ireland/Australia quarter final and I was hooked already but Gordon Hamilton’s try was simply inspirational and will always stick out in my mind. I had always watched it but it was simply terrific to be able to play.
Most memorable match that you have played in and why was it memorable?
My last ever Varsity match which was at Grange Road and refereed by Tony Spreadbury. I was Captain of Oxford and had played in the previous three which we had won. In fact we were going into the match as favourites to win the fifth match in a row.
Sue Day (former England Captain and one of the finest athletes ever) was playing in the centre for us. I have to say that although the standard of rugby was by no means of the highest caliber (mainly due to nerves), the pressure was just immense: the memories of any Varsity competition will always stick in the competitors’ heads (and the spectators’ heads!) long after they leave.
We led 12-5 at half-time but Cambridge were throwing everything at us. I scored our third and final try at around the 70th minute. I remember getting up still kind of half-stunned and turning round to witness one of our wingers doing this funny jump, legs and arms everywhere. It made me burst out laughing – unfortunately for her it was caught on video…she knows who she is!
Least memorable match. Do you have a match that you’d like to forget?
City of Derry Ladies played Old Belvedere in the Division 2 play off final at Dubarry Park in April just gone. The match was delayed by over three hours because the referee had declared the pitch unplayable. The local fire brigade helped out by supplying five full tanks of water and we finally kicked off.
Despite our coach’s best efforts, our warm up was lackluster as was out performance in the match. We actually led at half-time but then the wheels came off. Nora Stapleton was excellent for Old Belvedere and they thoroughly deserved to win. I bet we had a better journey home though in our specially-made City of Derry “Sandbadger” outfits!
Toughest opponent. Who and why?
England at London Irish, March 1996. They were the reigning World Champions and it could be said that Ireland were still an “emerging nation” then. We were beaten, battered and trounced by lots and lots and lots (um…63!) to 8. But the biggest roar was when Deirdre Fitzgerald scored for us on the wing.
Gill Burns who was No 8 and Captain of England that day was respected by all who knew her and feared by all her opponents. England were just head and shoulders above us at that stage. Mentally they were extremely tough and very well-disciplined. I learned so much from that one game, and it was after that that the 8-9 partnership with Raeltine Shrieves (also at Wasps) developed very well.
Worst roommate. Any amusing story about rooming with anyone when away with Ireland?
I have to say that it must be Mel Nash, who played prop for Wasps and Ireland (she is now in Australia). We had gone out to play Holland and I was at Bar School in the middle of the final set of exams (Barrister training, not beer serving training, that is). Usually Raeltine and I roomed together but I was looking forward to the break (Raels never stopped talking, even in her sleep).
Anyway, we played Holland, put in a good performance and beat them and then duly went on the lash in central Amsterdam. Most of us came back at about 3 or 4 am because we were catching flights at 8 am. Mel came back at 6 am, just as I was waking up.
She came in, sat on my bed, started talking to me and then promptly boaked (vomited doesn’t do the story justice) on me, my bed, my bag (i.e. none of her own stuff). She was a complete mess so I got up, gathered her up and helped her into the bathroom. I sat her down (fully clothed) in the shower, turned it on and left her there. I think it was pretty cold – she was shouting only a little! Unfortunately (for her) I had to leave then!
Longest in the changing room. Who out of all you team mates takes longest getting ready after a game?
I think I do take a while but that is usually because being the mummy type I am making sure that everyone has socks, shorts etc. However, at City of Derry, it has got to be Rachel Lennox (fixing her hair) or Louise Clarke or Noreen Nethercott – these two usually arrive late, so end up being last out.
Noreen is going back to Enniskillen next season, so Skinettes, take my advice and buy her a great big alarm clock!