Burt rugby star Sadhbh McGrath tackling school and scrums ahead of Interprovincials!
The bubby Donegal prop is still only 18 but signed a central (professional) contract with the IRFU four weeks ago and is already deep in training for the 2023-24 Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial Championships, which kick off with a home game against defending champions Munster on Saturday (City of Armagh RFC, 3pm). There’s also the small matter of getting those Leaving Cert results on August 25th and, five days later, celebrating her 19th birthday. McGrath, remarkably, made her Six Nations debut against Wales five months ago while still in secondary school.
“I was so busy I really didn’t have time to sit and think about it and it’s still the same,” she says, “To be honest I kind of enjoyed having school, it was a way to switch off the rugby and still be with my school friends and, because I was away for a few weeks at a time with Ireland, I wasn’t as stressed over the Leaving Cert as them.”
Sadhbh did bring the books to Ireland camps but pleads the ‘Fifth’ on whether she actually opened them. So, did she ever use the, ‘Sorry I couldn’t do my homework as I was away with Ireland’ excuse?
“I definitely did! I tried to wing it a few times,” she laughs. “Honestly, my teachers at Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana were unreal. Anything I needed while I was away they sent it through. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
McGrath hopes to go to Maynooth University and juggle study with rugby but has no time to fret over exam results right now. She’s based in the IRFU’s Higher Performance Centre in Abbottstown, Dublin but will dovetail with Ulster throughout the coming month, a team that is particularly close to her heart as representative rugby kickstarted her meteoric rise to the Irish front row.
“I played Ulster U18s this time last year and then Ulster senior for the first time in January. Those games were definitely where I was seen. I was playing with girls I played underage with and having a great time. If I’m enjoying myself I feel like I play my best.”
McGrath actually first played Gaelic football and camogie, initially in Tulla, Co. Clare before her family moved to Donegal when she was nine. Coaches at City of Derry persuaded her to try out for Ulster U16s and a former Donegal rugby great inspired her.
“Nora Stapleton is from very close to me and I always knew she made it big. That was in the back of my mind. It’s not where you’re from, just what you’re willing to give.
“I didn’t expect there to be so many opportunities in rugby but once I was playing U18s for Ulster it was like this is where I want to go now. At the start I didn’t really get the scrums,” she admits of her testing technical position.