CITY of Derry Rugby club welcomed another international player to its ranks last Sunday when rising star of the front row Stacey Lea Kennedy came of the bench to earn her first cap in Ireland’s 26-5 win in Rovigo.
It was a massive achievement for the local woman who is rightly proud to make her international debut.
“I really don’t think words could really describe how it felt. It was emotional and surreal at the same time, it didn’t feel like it was happening to me. You had the red carpet and the local Mayor and a brass band playing and a crowd of 3,000 people watching. It only really hits you when you are standing out on the field in your green jersey listening to ‘Ireland’s Call.’ When the last line came I nearly broke down,” said Stacey who plays here rugby at hooker.
The City of Derry player who hails from the Lisdillon area near Ardmore admitted that she was happy just to have been involved in the squad and was stunned when coach Philip Doyle gave her the signal to replace starting hooker Gillian Bourke with sic minutes of normal time remaining.
“I was already getting warmed up because you have to be ready in case you are called upon and the signal came for me to go on. There were only five or six minutes left and I was just hoping I’d get a chance to get involved. There was a knock on just as they were bringing me on so I was desperate to get on as I knew they would be setting for the scrum. When I came on and went to scrum down the other girls all told me to relax and just do what I normally do.
“One the ‘engage’ came I just started to shout heave and drove as hard as I could, we pushed the Italian pack off the ball and I got a good clean strike. There was another scrum before the end so I got two chances to show what I could do in the set-piece and the coaches got the chance to look at me and see that I could handle scrummaging at this level. I didn’t get the chance to do any lineout throwing which as an aspect of my game that I am having to work on as I wasn’t originally a hooker. But hopefully I get the chance to do that in the future,” she said.
Stacey’s rise to the international level has been a rapid one as she only took rugby up four years ago.
“I’ve been involved in rugby for four years although I was injured for a year so I’ve really on three years playing experience. It was something I got into after coming home from working abroad. I saw an ad in the paper from City of Derry looking for players I went down and I really enjoyed. I made it into the Ulster Squad in the first season and played against an army side but didn’t make the Interpro games, things have just taken off from there. It takes a huge commitment, my life revolves around rugby. I was married in July and to be honest with all the training I’ve not seen that much of my husband but he has been very supportive. My work has also been supportive. I work at First Source in Springtown and they have sponsored me and been very flexible in regard to allowing me to attend training sessions.”
And Stacey will have little chance to reflect on here achievement this week as she’ll be back at Ireland training tomorrow ahead of Friday night’s game against France in Ashbourne.
“France will be very tough, they beat Scotland 53-3 last weekend. I’ll be at work on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week and then Thursday I’ll be back at training and the game on Friday night, hopefully I’ll get another chance to show what I can do.”