Gavin O’Connor talks to Tralee Rugby Club’s Zoe Grattage as she prepares to head to England for a test match this weekend…
A TRALEE and Munster player is heading to England this weekend with the Ireland women’s rugby team to take part in an international test against the old foe.
Zoe Grattage, from the Kerries will be hoping to run out in the green for the first time when Ireland take on England at Harlequins famous Twickenham Stoop on Sunday.
Though Zoe’s colours are now nailed to the mast it wasn’t always that way.
Up until the age of 13, Zoe, lived in England. It was only when mother, Breda, originally from Banna, decided they had spent enough time in England did they come back.
Dad Trevor, from Mansfield, is now faced with a dilemma of supporting his adopted country over the one of his birth. Though Zoe still retains a slight English twang she has no such dilemmas.
“Dad, said ‘you’re going to have to start learning both national anthems now and maybe stitch a rose on the jersey!’ but no that won’t be happening at all,” said Zoe Grattage.
The 25-year-old began her rugby career while studying in UCC, where she graduated in Public Health last September. She then went onto play for Highfield in Cork, before moving back to Tralee this September to play for her hometown club.
Back in September, Zoe, was talent spotted by Irish coach, Tom Tierney, while playing for Munster in the inter-pro championship which Munster won against Leinster in Thomand Park.
The Garveys Tralee employee was then called up to take part in two Ireland training sessions in Belfast. A phone call from coach Tierney awaited, to find out if she had impressed and made 23 woman squad.
“I worked as hard as I could so I had to be ready for good news and bad news, thankfully it was good news,” she said.
Tom Tierney is a nine time capped Ireland international and former Munster and Leicester player.
A Munster regular for the last three years, Zoe suffered an MCL injury last year which put her leg in bracket for six weeks. “I was like Robocop, going around the place! Thankfully it’s the only injury I’ve had playing rugby,” she said.
“It’s only the last few years where I’ve taken the bull by the horns with my nutrition and thinking about myself and where I want to be with rugby. If you want to make the next step you have to make commitments. This morning I was up at five and in the gym by six, that’s just what you do. Some people hate the gym, I love it.”
The match will be a clash of two Northern Hemisphere heavyweights, 2014 world champions England, versus Six Nations winners Ireland. This will be the first time Zoe has played outside of Ireland.
“The way everything is done is very professional, there is always someone to go to. There are so many girls there with years of experience and they always approachable.”
“In the first (Ireland) camp, I had nerves that I suppose anyone would get, but everyone was so welcoming and made me think, ‘you know what, I do deserve to be here’ and to just go with it.”
On Ireland duty is not an unusual setting for a player with strong Tralee ties. Zoe follows in the footsteps of, Siobhan Fleming and Ciara Griffin. And making the trip over with Zoe will be Tralee native, Ruth O’Reilly.
“All summer I was travelling with Ciara (Griffin) and Siobhan (Fleming) to play with Munster. It’s great to have that connection so I can get a few hinters.”
“Hopefully I can get the start, but if not, if I get a run, I’ll try to put my stamp on the game.”
England v Ireland, kicks off Saturday at 3:00pm