We caught up with two of Ulster Women’s latest recruits Brigid Reynolds and Hilary Quinn. American Brigid has been playing for Cavan for two season with Kiwi Hilary joining the team in January of this year.
Cavan Ladies are in their second season of competitive rugby. They had one season in Development and struggled during their first season in the competitive league due to the loss of several players.
This season has brought some stability and thanks to the work of fitness coach James Loughnane and coaches Johnny Loughnane, John Conarty and Salesi Tuipulotu the club has been rewarded with Brigid and Hilary both getting their first cap for Ulster in the match against Leinster, a huge achievement for an AIL 2N team.
Cavan PRO Grainne McDermott says the girls have had a big impact on the rest of the Ladies team:
They are great girls on & off the pitch, great friends and very encouraging to the rest of the team. I think joining Ulster has helped both them and Cavan Ladies tremendously in how we play rugby.
Our team, and Club itself, are very proud for both of them and hope that their achievement will encourage more women to play. We wish them and Ulster every success in their games.
We interviewed the girls just before their Ulster debut’s
So what brought you to Cavan?
Hilary: I live in Leitrim. I came over in January to do child minding. I was at university in New Zealand last year and did a diploma in Business Management and when I finished it was enough of study let’s go travelling and I ended up in Ireland.
I’ve a year long visa and I’m going to re-apply in January and hopefully I’ll be successful. Or (jokingly) I could marry an Irish man.
[The girls have a general chat about suitable young men for Hilary!]
Brigid: Yes, any men out there, if you’re young and available Hilary is too! She’s a good cook I’ll vouch for that!
I got married two and a half years ago to an Irish guy. I met him at college, studying at the University of Notre Dame. We met there, stayed together, got married and moved here.
What made you take up Rugby?
Brigid: I played volleyball and track and field at college. I did the shot put and the discus and I focused on a lot of weights. Afterwards I coached volleyball and track. My brothers played (American) football and I would have watched their games and I always enjoyed the contact side.
When I moved here I didn’t have a job and I didn’t know anyone outside of my husbands friends and I thought I should join a sports club given my background.
Our neighbour had a daughter the same age as me and she invited me along to rugby training . When I arrived the coach (Jonny) took a look at me and said “you could be the answer to my prayers” and laughed a lot.
It became a game I really liked, I really enjoyed, and I thought I was well suited to it.
Hilary: I played in school in New Zealand. My brother was big into rugby and encouraged me and I played in a team when I was 13 – 14 until my last year at high school.
The woman’s game is getting more recognised in New Zealand and it’s becoming more appropriate to play though in some places it’s still looked upon as not ladylike but it is getting bigger.
We (New Zealand) won the Woman’s World Cup four times in a row but in New Zealand until recently you wouldn’t know it, but it is starting to get recognised more.
When I got here in January I started playing rugby to get out of the house. I look after five kids under five and it was something to do, a way to meet people. Sport is a great way to meet people in a new country, especially when you’re young.
I was 18, I was here on my own and I was kinda like what am I gonna do and rugby was the answer.
How would you describe your game?
Brigid: Constantly changing, constantly learning. I’m still very new, I’ve only been playing for 2 years and I feel like I learn something every time.
Ulster have been great for teaching me, I’ve learned a ton just from the start of the Ulster training season. I think I still have a long way to go in terms of learning the nuances of the game, knowing where to be at important times, that kind of stuff. So I guess you could say my games morphing and changing all the time.
Hilary: As Brigid said, coming up to Ulster training has been such a learning curve. Even the 5 – 6 weeks when we were just trialling for the squad we learnt so much during that time and we were able to take it back to Cavan and put it back into our club which made a difference there as well.
I’d describe my game as being on a great learning curve and I think even the more experienced player can still learn, no matter how many years of experience they have.
What’s your thoughts on Cavan?
Brigid: I think we have a core group of very devoted, very supportive players, but we, like a few other teams in Ulster, really struggle for numbers and struggle to attract more people who are going to come and stay and learn their position.
So you find yourself walking up to practice or walking up to a game and you don’t know what position you’re going to play in. We do struggle for numbers but it’s getting better and the more wins you get the better it becomes.
[General chat about league position and this seasons improvement.]
Hilary: It’s a real confidence thing. You think I’m going to go to the game, we could win and we’re going somewhere. It makes a lot of difference and we’ve been better this year.
What are your ambitions in rugby.
Hilary: Not to get hurt! (Laughs!) Really I want to have fun and meet new people and with Ulster we’ve met a lot of new people from different parts of the country at different stages of their life which has been good.
One of my ambitions would be to see Cavan improve. In three years time I’d love to see Cavan as a strong team who are not struggling for numbers, who have a good core team. They’ve been a very good club to both of us and it means a lot.
[General chat about possibility of international call up.]
Brigid: Personally I’d like to get out and play for Ulster first. Neither Hilary or myself have played AIL D1 rugby yet and it’s a different game we’re both aware of that. At the moment I think I am still a half step behind the game and I would die of shock if I got a call up to Ireland anytime in the next 10 years (laughs) but I wouldn’t turn it down! I think both of us have come far enough with our commitment to Cavan and Ulster that we wouldn’t say no!
Finally, what do your family and friends think of you playing rugby?
Brigid: My parents wouldn’t know the first thing about rugby. I was showing them the FRU website pictures and my mother sent me an email, “Why are there girls being lifted off there feet? I just don’t understand what’s going on!” [Laughs.]
My husband is extremely supportive. He’s played American Football here and rugby here and he really supports me and wants to see me do well. He keeps the household under control.
My brothers back home are also very supportive. They’re all American football fans and they really appreciate the physicality of rugby.
Hilary: My family in New Zealand like to see me play. They would probably have preferred to see me play in New Zealand as opposed to Ireland though. [Laughs.]
My family in Ireland (that I work for) are really supportive as well. I’m away 3 – 4 nights a week with rugby, and for a time Gaelic, and now I’m away with Ulster at weekends, but they’ve been very understanding and a great help.