There aren’t many 23-year olds out there that can boast a sporting resumé like Ireland Women’s Sevens rugby star Aoife Doyle.
Hailing from Clareview in Limerick, a stone’s throw from Thomond Park, but now operating out of Dublin full-time, it’s been nothing short of a whirlwind ever since picking up a Six Nations medal with the Irish Women’s 15 a-side team in 2015.
Sevens is still a relatively young sport in Ireland. The women’s national team first qualified for the World Series in 2015/16 and have developed season after season since.
This year they have made their best start to a campaign to date, and have their sights set on qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
“That’s really our number one goal to qualify for the Olympics. The top four teams in the World Series automatically qualify and then after that you go to the Euros or the Olympic repechage.
“Obviously the World Series at the moment that’s what we have to build towards but if you come in the top four in the World Series, you’re going to go to the Olympics after that.”
Tokyo is a long way away yet and while the immediate goal is on the World Series, Doyle can’t help but dream about being part of Team Ireland at that opening ceremony.
“At the moment it’s basically all rugby for me. I just want to put everything in to this for the moment and hopefully to qualify for Tokyo, to go to the Olympics, that’s the peak for an athlete so that is a huge goal for me personally as well as the team.”
Nothing comes easy in this game however, especially Olympic qualification. Two of the six World Series events have been and gone with meetings in Sydney, Kitakyushu, Langford and Paris still to come but this is a team which feels they belong at this level.
“We’re coming off the back of a good year last year, where we started getting to quarter-finals consistently and this year we’ve gotten off to our best start so we’re hoping to consistently make the top-six this year.
“That’s really our goal. If not the top-four, we want to be in the top-six so every tournament we want to make the quarter-finals and push on from there. It’s going to be a good year this year I feel.”
Following on from her 2015 Six Nations success she made the transition over to the Sevens team on a full-time basis, parking her 15 a-side career in pursuit of a game which she hoped to make her livelihood, and oh, there was the small matter of a Leaving Cert at Laurel Hill Secondary School in the middle of it all.
“I was still in school when I started so after I got my first [sevens] cap in Atlanta, I went and did my Leaving Cert, so I was out of the scene for a couple of months and then I ended up moving back to Dublin when I finished school,” she began.
“I grew up playing camogie since I was about five and then I’ve been playing rugby since I was 11 so really from the start I’ve loved rugby. I started with 15’s and then I came through Sevens through underage so I just kind of fell in to that path.
“I only got to play 15’s for a year but we won the Six Nations that year and then because sevens became much more intense after that, it’s hard to balance the two of them so a lot of us just play sevens. I haven’t played 15’s since,” she added.
Making that initial decision to attempt to make it as a full-time athlete in such a new sport for many would have been daunting. For Doyle though, it was a chance to fulfill a lifetime ambition, one she was never going to pass up.
“I would have always, since I was a child wanted to be an athlete as my job and I never really thought it would be possible, especially with rugby because it wasn’t any way professional when I started playing it, so the minute the opportunity came to move to Dublin I took it straight away.
“It is a bit of a whirlwind. I struggled a lot with injury so I missed out on a full season in 2016 and now that I’m involved so much more and travelling so much more it really is amazing.”
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