“Not many people can say that we have trained or even met their sporting heroes, but I’ve done both and it’s a great feeling.”
Leah Reilly from Rathkenny, Co. Meath, is a first year student in BSc in Pharmaceutical Science at DkIT and a Rugby Sports ScholarShe played for Navan RFC for a year before transferring to DCU RFC last year, where her preferred position is inside centre. Leah also plays as part of the Rugby team at DkIT, where she trains once a week.
Speaking about her training in programme in DCU, Leah commented;
From a Club who only formed this season, we have gotten a lot of grief and we were very underestimated as a team this season, so trainings were taken very seriously in order to prove that a club who only formed this year were well capable of performing at Division 1.”
Leah started her sporting journey first with Gaelic Football;
Originally I played Gaelic Football, through the years playing for Meath right up until Minor Level, until I was unfairly mistreated with a few other girls on the team, because of this I left playing for Meath. I thought about playing rugby because I loved the physicality of the sport but never brought myself to actually try it out, until my father mentioned it to me and said it would be a good sport suited to me. So I went to my first training session and got thrown straight in tackling by my good coach Paul Power from Navan RFC. From the first hit I got I knew it was the sport for me.”
Speaking about whether GAA is a more popular sport than Rugby with girls, Leah noted;
Majority of girls these days play either GAA or just don’t play sports at all. GAA is supposed to be a non-contact sport, yes there is some kind of contact in Gaelic but nowhere near as much as Rugby, and I feel girls are more afraid to get hurt, I was once but soon overcame that fear. I would hope to think that this will soon change, because Rugby is such a fun sport and it has so many opportunities that you wouldn’t even think of. Rugby is such an open sport, there is a position for every type of girl, Rugby isn’t like running or athletics, you don’t need a certain physique to play.”
Leah was given the opportunity to play for Ireland after a short period of playing Rugby;
My greatest achievement to date is playing Rugby for Ireland. The progression route to playing for Ireland for me was very short. In order to get the best opportunities to play for Ireland, there’s different stages that need to be taken. First I was playing for Navan RFC and I got called to play for the NorthEast Squad. This led to playing blitz against all of the other regions in Leinster. While playing these matches, without the players knowing, Leinster Selectors came to this blitz and analysed all potential players. On the first blitz there were 10 selectors - each selector would place a tick beside your name if you are up to standard to play for Leinster. Of 150 players, I was the only person to receive 10 ticks beside my name. This led me to playing for Leinster 7s & 15s. After 3 months of training with Leinster, came the day for the blitz, without us being told Irish selectors were there to select players for the Irish 7s squad. About a week later, whoever was selected would receive an email to say there were selected. I received an email and later that week went into my first camp with Ireland and my journey started from there.”
Some of the biggest perks of playing sport at an elite level are the travel opportunities that it can bring.
From starting playing with Ireland 7s, I have travelled 4/5 times with Ireland. My first trip was to France. My second trip should have been to Wales but I had a knee injury at the time and was unable to travel until my MRI came clear. The day before my third trip my MRI came back clear and I was allowed to travel to Poland, were I received my first Cap for Ireland in November.
That was the end to what I thought would be last time I would play for Ireland, But a few days later after arriving home from Poland I received a call from Eddy the Irish Senior Sevens manager to come on board with the women to France for a training week. So I flew out to France a few days later to play against France and Poland in friendly matches, later to receive a call that my next trip would be to Dubai in December of last year.
From just training with Ireland and getting the experience is amazing, and I hope young girls and women get the chance to experience it like I have so far, but the most amazing experience is being in the changing room before the match and putting the jersey on over your head, there’s so much pride in wearing an Irish jersey, it really is an amazing feeling.”
Leah chose DkIT because she had friends who had studied here before and they only had good things to say. She also she knew it had great sports facilities. Speaking about the sporting facilities at DkIT, Leah noted;
DkIT Sport is one of the best sports facilities in the North East. The Main facility that is relevant to rugby is of course the rugby pitches, if the weather is bad outside the DkIT indoor pitches come into very good use, esecially on cold winter nights. With the help of Eugene, the High performance centre in DkIT centre is used to help us maximise our strengths and weaknesses and when he’s not around, we can use the gym to keep up on our own growth. The Physiotherapy room is an Essential.”
Leah’s main sporting idols are Ireland Rugby Captain, Lucy Muhall and Ireland’s Rugby Sevens Star, Amee-Leigh Murphy;
I’ve always looked up to the girls and now that I played for Ireland and have trained with them a few times, it’s easy to say that there are very inspirational, their amazing people, very friendly and helped me a lot when I was first struggling in trainings. Not many people can say that we have trained or even met their sporting heroes, but I’ve done both and it’s a great feeling.”
For anyone considering a Sports Scholarship at DkIT, Leah says;
I encourage them to be prepared to put in the study alongside their sport. My advice is focus on getting your course work done and start studying earlier than others because you may need extra to fit in your sport in the lead up to exam period.”
Leah is currently in her first year of the 3 year Level 7 BSc in Pharmaceutical Science. Speaking about her course, she says;
First year is all based on the concepts of science so it's really useful to learn once you get the work because it does build up. Initially I didn’t want to do science at all, because it wasn’t the path I wanted to do down, but now that I’m doing it, it really is a beneficial course. I don’t have a favourite class module but I love biology labs, there very interesting and I never get bored. If you have a love for science and learning there I would 100% recommend this course.”