300Georgia Codyre recently captained the Ballinasloe U15 girls to victory in the U15 girls cup played in the Sportsground. She comes from a very rugby orientated family with her father and two brothers having representated Connacht at various levels. Below is an interview with her about where it all began, how it felt to play in the Sportsground and what her hopes are for the future.

Q: Explain how you came to play rugby for Ballinasloe, where it all began, your experience as the only girl playing on a boys’ team, and what you liked about it.

Georgia: Well, it was a long time ago . Maybe, 7 or 8 years ago which means I was around 6 or 7. I still remember it. My older brother, Jack, wasn’t very good at GAA or any other sports my mother, Marie, who I can not thank enough, tried to get us involved in and God knows there were many. So when all else failed my mam decided to bring Jack to the Ballinasloe rugby club. My dad had played rugby for Connacht when he was younger but due to injury, was forced into early retirement, or so he likes to say. Jack took to rugby very quickly and found a great love for the sport. My mam decided to bring my two other brothers and I in to the clubhouse for the mini’s rugby training. As we were triplets, my mam put us all into the same sports so she never made a big deal about me being a girl or anything like that.

At first I didn’t take much notice to being the only girl on the team but as time went by the boys got bigger, their talent exceeded and I found myself on the sideline most of the time. I am not bitter about this, the boys were better, I realise now. I had to make a speech in the Sportsground when we won. I thanked the coaches, the supporters, the teams etc. but one man I forgot to thank was Damien Feeney. He trained me from the beginning and thought me everything. He didn’t treat me any different to the boys and for which I am grateful. Damien came to the final, although he had no relation on the team, showing his support none the less. I enjoyed playing with the boys. I’d like to think that it made me tough. Of course, being from a house full of boys I was used to being pushed around. I’m still friends with some of the boys I played with. My brother, Barry, is still playing on the team and I go as a supporter to as many of the matches as I can.

Q: How did the girl’s youths rugby team come to be in Ballinasloe?

G: I was at the clubhouse in Ballinasloe one day. Attending one of Jack’s many matches when a man who I had known for years approached me. He told me he wanted to start a girls rugby team and I thought he was insane. He asked me to get a list of names from the girls in school of those who would be interested in playing. I went to school and got a few names not expecting much. Aisling Murphy showed a lot of interest on the matter and told me her dad was interested in coaching us. I had never met her dad before, I didn’t even know he had an interest in rugby! After a few days Aisling came up to me and announced, “My dad went to the Connacht Board! He’s our coach now and we’re going to be starting around the beginning of September.” Just like that! I thank God for Declan Murphy, Aisling’s father, because lets just say that man never asked for the list of names a second time! Another man to be grateful for is Stephen Reilly, who is an amazing coach and I was very surprised at how willing he was to give up his time to train us and go to the matches.

GeoQ: What was the clubs reaction to having a girls’ team? Were there any barriers?

G: They were extremely enthusiastic! Jackie Treacy, the clubhouse caretaker, used to come out and watch us train. There were posters about it in school and everything!

Q: What does playing rugby mean to you? Is the transition hard from playing gaelic football to rugby?

G: Playing rugby brings me back to the Saturday mornings of my childhood, except maybe a bit more intense now. I’ve never experienced the transition from Gaelic football to rugby. Mine was actually the opposite! I started football when I was nine or ten. I remember my football coach giving out to me about the way I was catching the ball – ‘like a rugby ball’ she used to say. As far as I know, all the girls I play with started football/camogie or some sort of sport before rugby. They picked up the game so fast though! It was astounding! My mother and I used to talk about it on the way home from training. I don’t think they found it very hard.

Q: You recently played in the Sportsground. What was the experience like for you, and what did it mean to you?

G: Playing in the Sportsground is a big deal in my eyes. I had played there a few times when I was younger but the novelty never wears off. I was nervous about the final, to say the least. I wasn’t sleeping very well. When I arrived the nerves went and I was just focusing on what I needed to do. To be honest, I was quite emotional on the day, I’m sure the girls will tell you. Especially when we won, I suppose I was overwhelmed by it all. I’ll never forget what it felt like lifting that cup with my team, family and friends watching. Hopefully that won’t be my last time!

Q: What are your ambitions in rugby? Do you see yourself playing for Connacht/Ireland one day?

G: I try not to think about playing for Connacht/Ireland too much. When I was younger I never thought about playing for Ireland. I didn’t even know there was a women’s team! With both my brothers, Barry and Jack, playing on Connacht teams and Jack having been capped for Ireland, the bar is set pretty high in my house. At the moment I’m just trying to improve my game in the best way I can. I’m known as ‘Jack Codyre’s sister’ so one day it would be nice for Jack to be known as ‘Georgia Codyre’s brother.’ 

Q: What would you say to a girl who has never played rugby before and is thinking of giving it a try?

G: Go for it! Our team won the Connacht Junior U15’s Cup with only three players who had played rugby before – only two of us had ever played contact rugby! When I stopped playing with the boys I thought I’d never play again. I’m sure some of the girls never thought they’d play rugby in a million years! Let alone win a cup final and that’s the thing about rugby, you never know what to expect. 


Gillian McDarby appointed IRFU Head of Women’s Performance & Pathways