After our unbelievable success with “Four to Follow” in the men’s game we’re turning our attention to the future stars in the Women’s game in Ulster. We’ll bring you a potential star in the women’s game after each of this month’s Inter Provincials, and to kick things off we chat to Letterkenny lovely Dearbhla McFadden.
Natural sportswoman Dearbhla has had an amazing start in her rugby career having only taken up the sport in March of this year. Measuring only 5’2″ the twenty two year old brings a remarkably rugged style of play to her game and, thanks to the Women’s Regional Development scheme in Donegal, Dearbhla has already been fast tracked into the Ulster Women’s Squad and is hopeful of a start in the upcoming series.
We caught up with Dearbhla at a recent Ulster Squad training session and asked her how she got started in the game.
You’ve only been playing rugby since March 2010 and you are obviously a keen sports woman so what other sports did you participate in up to then?
I’ve always been involved with sport, I began playing football from primary school, right through secondary school. I also played club and Ulster football and had Ireland trials at under age.
After a few years I decided to take up long distance running and took part in half marathons, during this time I started playing rugby and decided to give it my full commitment!
What made you switch to rugby?
The Letterkenny girls got me involved, asked me to give it a go and see what I thought. From speaking with them I knew rugby would be something I’d enjoy because of the contact part of it, a challenge. So I decided to go out training on the Thursday and had my first game on the Sunday. I got sent off, as the ref thought I was too experienced to make the mistake I did, which was killing the ball near to our own try line. The ref spoke to me after, and I knew then I wanted to learn more and take up rugby properly.
Who/what were your influences?
I went to watch my first rugby game with Letterkenny, it was Ulster v Ospreys and I couldn’t take my eyes off the game, asking the guys with me questions about every players position and their roles within the team. After that I couldn’t wait to start playing full contact rugby.
How have you enjoyed your first experiences of the game?
I’ve enjoyed every minute of it thus far. Training wise it has been very different, and I’ve an awful lot to learn, which is hard, because I want to know everything at once. The coaching that I’ve experienced at different levels has been brilliant, nobody has failed to answer any of the many questions I ask.
Describe how you went from novice in March to Ulster Squad in November. What has the journey been like? Who has helped along the way?
I think because of the constant training I kept up throughout the summer. I trained under John Llwellian on an RDS squad which consisted mainly of boys and I continued to watch a lot of rugby trying to learn. I also took part in tag throughout the summer to help with passing and develop my footwork. It has been great from playing only a few games to training with the ulster team.
Letterkenny have been great, everyone at the club is very supportive of others development, which is something I never experienced when involved in other sports. John and Clodagh Llwellian have undoubtedly helped me the most, as they got me involved from the beginning.
You’ve been described as a rugged, hard tackler; what other aspects do you bring to the team?
I’d hope to bring enthusiasm to the team, I’m keen to learn and want to be involved with the squad of girls that are the Ulster Team.
It’s been a meteoric rise so far, do you have further ambitions in rugby?
Of course, I’d like to go as far as I could with rugby. I’ve a long way to go, but I’m certain the coaching I’m getting at both club and Ulster level will offer me the best chances to develop, its up to me then to take them and try make the most of my ability. It’s a steep learning curve and I’m very much only beginning to learn.
Letterkenny have a thriving men’s game, how is the women’s game taking off in Donegal?
Since I’ve taken up rugby, another girls team (has started in Donegal. Throughout the summer, tag has encouraged more girls to try training full contact. Also Sorghums local college in Letterkenny, we see alot of girls joining the club, having previously experienced rugby in their home county which is good for our club. Under age in schools has also taken off, with some of the girls coaching in schools.
What do your family/friends think of you playing rugby?
Everyone seems pretty impressed because of my size, they find it a bit hard to believe I’d be capable of makin hits, but everyones been very encouraging, always asking how I’m getting on and show genuine interest.
You’ll be able to follow Dearbhla’s progress and the rest of Women’s Rugby on our dedicated Women’s site. Click hereto view.