Thursday 19 September 2019

Katie's dream comes true

Wexford centre features in two World Cup rugby wins

Katie Fitzhenry of Ireland is tackled by Australia's Mahalia Murphy during Wednesday's exciting win
Katie Fitzhenry of Ireland is tackled by Australia's Mahalia Murphy during Wednesday's exciting win

Brendan Furlong

It was a dream come true for Katie Fitzhenry when she made her debut in the Women's World Rugby Cup in the Belfield Bowl on Wednesday.

The former Wexford Vixens player, now lining out with the Blackrock club in Dublin, was introduced as a 47th-minute substitute for the Injured Jenny Murphy in Ireland's narrow 19-17 victory over Australia.

The Wexford town native was rewarded for her consistency with the Irish sevens squad in major tournaments abroad over recent months, a factor that earned her the call from team manager, Tom Tierney, to the World Cup squad.

It was her World Cup debut and fifth cap, coming in front of a packed Belfield Bowl which in itself brought real pressure on the Irish ladies, who had to withstand a storming finish from the visitors to register a victory. To put matters in context, it was Ireland's first victory over an Australian side.

While Irish supporters came along expecting a comfortable victory, it was not to be, as the Australians fronted up to the challenge, looking for periods of the game as if they would cause an upset.

Once she got her hands on the ball for the first time, Fitzhenry settled into her centre role, linking well with her three-quarter colleagues, while also providing a strong challenge in the loose and rucks.

Given her fine outing, she was retained in the centre for the Japan game on Sunday, another that went right down to the wire before the home nation emerged with a 24-14 victory.

Enniscorthy's Jeamie Deacon was also a replacement in this game.

As they did against Australia, Ireland showed real character to hold on to their lead, having trailed 14-0 at the interval.

Ireland coach Tom Tierney admitted they did not perform against Japan, but Katie is still looking forward to the French challenge this Thursday evening.

'We're mightily relieved to get over the two games. Two wins were important, but it was tough, it was important to take the points from the opening two games.

'We have a lot of work ahead of us this week as the French will be even more competitive. It's another huge challenge but it would be nice to emerge from the pool with a one hundred per cent record,' she said.

'I was thrilled to get on against Australia with family and friends in attendance. It was a deream come true to play in the World Cup having made the squad when I feared earlier injuries would have gone against me.

'We've work to do but we are looking forward to the French game. It will be a huge physical test.

'It's only a short reprieve but we've learned to cope with the run of games,' she said.

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