Ciara Griffin

Irish Examiner - Weekend - - Upfront - In con­ver­sa­tion with Hi­lary Fen­nell

It’s great that the im­age of women in sport is fi­nally chang­ing. Things are go­ing in the right direc­tion with women ath­letes fi­nally on the front cover of mag­a­zines and papers and the mes­sage that’s get­ting out there loud and clear is that women can be strong and fit.

I plan my whole week around my train­ing. I do four ses­sions dur­ing the week and four at the week­end so it’s pretty hec­tic. Luck­ily, I love the gym. I know it sounds mad but I love the at­mos­phere there. I en­joy every­thing from do­ing weights to us­ing the rowing ma­chine. It’s like my fo­cus for every­thing. Most of my train­ing is in my lo­cal gym, R&R Fit­ness, in Castleis­land, Co Kerry — although some­times my fi­ancé, Damian, keeps me com­pany for the ses­sions. It’s nice to have some­one to train with be­cause you can get iso­lated on your own.

When I’m not play­ing rugby, I’m a teacher, I’m work­ing in a na­tional school in Limerick at the mo­ment, and I also give my fa­ther a hand on the farm.

I can’t think of any­thing that would be my idea of mis­ery. I don’t look at life in that way. I look at it like this: if I put my mind to it, I can do any­thing. I mightn’t like it, but there is noth­ing that I wouldn’t try. If I fail, I fail.

Sport and farm­ing have helped me to be­come re­silient and dis­ci­plined. Noth­ing’s ever go­ing to be per­fect. You of­ten have to go out in the freez­ing cold when you’re farm­ing, you may not want to, but you have to adapt and put up with it.

My great­est fault is try­ing to do too much and want­ing to get every­thing right. It ir­ri­tates me when things don’t go to plan but you can’t just pack it in - you have to keep go­ing and per­se­vere, no mat­ter what. Damian is good at help­ing me to see the big­ger pic­ture.

I am a per­son of few words. I like to go out and play. I think that’s what makes me a good leader: I only talk when I need to talk. And, I wouldn’t ex­pect my team mates to do any­thing that I wouldn’t do my­self.

If I could be some­one else for a day I’d be Serena Wil­liams. She has ac­com­plished so much, with such a lot of hard­ship in her life.

My big­gest chal­lenges so far have been my in­juries. My first year, I broke one leg, and a few months later, I broke the other one. Men­tally, I found that quite hard to cope with — but I found a way to keep train­ing. The air bike is a fan­tas­tic in­ven­tion.

I do be­lieve there is some kind of af­ter­life. My mother is very in­volved with our lo­cal church and I love the com­mu­nity spirit that goes with it. I cer­tainly be­lieve in holy water be­fore I go to a match. It’s a mind thing.

I think am­bi­tion is more im­por­tant than tal­ent. You can be the most tal­ented player in the world but if you’re not will­ing to get up in the morn­ings and train, you will get nowhere.

My best skill is be­ing a hard worker.

My favourite say­ing is that hard work will al­ways beat tal­ent if tal­ent isn’t will­ing to work hard enough.

The key to ex­er­cise is find­ing a form of ex­er­cise that you en­joy do­ing.

I do be­lieve in fate. What’s meant to be won’t pass you by.

The best ad­vice I ever got is not to be afraid to ask a ques­tion. If you are un­sure of a play — or if you’re not sure if you’ve done it right — don’t be afraid to ask. You learn from your mis­takes. And, go to other peo­ple for sup­port. Peo­ple are there around you for a rea­son, don’t take it all on your­self. This ad­vice ap­plies to life in gen­eral as much as it does to rugby.

So far life has taught me that not every­thing is go­ing to go your way all the time. It is how you re­act that mat­ters. That is when your char­ac­ter is re­vealed.

Ciara is work­ing with Aldi, of­fi­cial su­per­mar­ket of the IRFU, to pro­mote Aldi Play Rugby, a free ini­tia­tive for na­tional pri­mary schools to get kids in­volved in play­ing rugby in a fun and safe non-con­tact way. IRFU com­mu­nity rugby of­fi­cers visit schools, pro­vid­ing free equip­ment and coach­ing sup­port www.aldi.ie/playrugby

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