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Three key players leading the exciting new generation of women's rugby in Ireland

PICTURE: Beibhinn Parsons, Dorothy Wall and Ciara Griffin.

Here we take a look at three of the key players who will be front and centre for Ireland over the coming years.

Ireland showed plenty of glimpses of their potential in the recent Six Nations campaign and with a plethora of exciting young talent emerging through the ranks, there is every reason to be excited about what the future holds.

Beibhinn Parsons

There were times when watching the Ballinasloe flyer during her breakthrough season in 2018 that you had to remind yourself, she was still in school. It has been a meteoric rise for Parsons, who has taken everything so comfortably in her stride that she comes across as mature beyond her years.
Still only 19, the electric winger announced her arrival on the international stage by blazing a trail in the Six Nations, where she has already scored five tries. Having successfully juggled her rugby commitments with the Leaving Cert, Parsons will hope to do the same in the seasons to come as he combines her biomedical studies.
Her blistering pace and dazzling footwork makes her a nightmare to defend against, as Wales found out to their detriments when Parsons ran in two tries last month. The Connacht star has benefited hugely from the fact that she played underage rugby with her local club in Galway, as her skill set is far more honed than many of her team-mates, especially those who came to the game late.
Capped at just 16, there has been a serious buzz about Parsons' ability for some time now and so far, she has handled the pressure that comes with that level of expectation. Amid the obvious excitement, however, is a recognition that she is still a teenager and as such, has plenty of growth left in her game.
Opposition teams are already starting to pay close attention to Ireland's newest household name, but the more game-time she gets at the highest level, the quicker Parsons will develop. With 11 caps amassed already, Parsons' stock will continue to rise, as Ireland supporters relish the chance to be able to watch one of the country's finest talents flourish into an even bigger star.

Dorothy Wall

Ireland doesn't produce too many players with the supreme athletic profile of the Tipperary native. A ferociously combative back-row, Wall possesses extreme raw power, which allows her to do things that many other players simply can't.
The recently turned 21-year-old comes from a strong sporting family with her father Anthony having played hurling and football for Tipperary, rugby for Clonmel, while her mother Sophia has a strong horse-riding background. Wall clearly inherited the sporting gene from her parents, as she was an all-rounder growing up before rugby took a hold.
Like Parsons, Wall played rugby from a young age, which has accelerated her rate of development, much to the benefit of the Ireland team. Wall's rugby journey began at Fethard RFC before she came on the Irish radar and joined the Sevens setup.
A no-nonsense, tough-tackling, hard-carrying flanker, Wall was one of Ireland's standout performers in the Six Nations, particularly in the opening win over Wales when she carried the ball 24 times for 116m and scored a try. The eight-times capped powerhouse would be the first to admit that she learned plenty of lessons in the game that followed against France, who marked Wall out as Ireland's danger woman.
Such has been the emphatic nature of her arrival in the Test arena, opposition teams now know that Wall is Ireland's primary ball carrier and as such, must be stopped at source. It will be fascinating to watch how the radiography student goes about combating that kind of special attention, but there is no doubt that she has the intelligence and skills to counteract that.
Wall may not grab as many of the headlines as a try-scoring winger like Parsons, yet she will invariably be the kind of player who gets through the grunt work up front to set the platform for the backs to thrive.

Ciara Griffin

Every successful team needs a wise head on young shoulders and in Ireland's case, Griffin embodies just that. The Kerry woman has become such an influential figure in the squad that it's easy to forget she was rejected at her first two Ireland trials.
Back then, Griffin refused to lie down and that innate desire to succeed has driven her on to exceptional heights. Taking on the advice that was given to her in the early days, the Kerry woman set about becoming fitter, faster and stronger. The results have since spoken for themselves.
Nicknamed 'Junior', Griffin was always drawn to the oval ball, but it wasn't until she was 16 that her local club in Castleisland formed a girls' team. By the 2016 Six Nations, Griffin had been capped and never looked back. Now 27, the school teacher who works in Tralee, has won 36 caps, yet it is her leadership that often stands out.
A hugely respected competitor, Griffin was named Ireland captain in 2018, a mere two years after she made her debut in the green jersey. That in itself spoke volumes for how much she is regarded by her team-mates and coaches alike. The versatile back-row has long been one of the first names on the team-sheet, with her teak-tough approach making her crucial to Ireland's overall game-plan.
Growing up on the family beef cattle farm, Griffin learned the true meaning of hard work from an early age and that never-say-die attitude has no doubt been harnessed from the endless hours spent farming. It hasn't been all plain sailing, however, as Griffin cruelly broke her leg during her first Ireland training session, which left her dream of becoming an international rugby player hanging by a thread.
But that steely determination kicked in again and she bounced back in remarkable fashion to become an even better player than she was before.
Written by: Cian Tracey, Rugby Writer, Irish Independent.

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