DEIRBHILE Nic A Bháird played a starring role in Munster’s 2023 Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial Championship success and is a more than worthy choice as a Women In Sport award winner.
Capturing one Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial title is difficult enough so claiming back-to-back championships represents a significant milestone.
That’s exactly what Munster achieved thanks to a 34-0 defeat of Ulster, 26-17 win over Leinster and 50-24 triumph away to Ulster earlier this year.
Cork native and Irish international Deirbhile Nic A Bháird was a major factor in her province’s second consecutive interprovincial success.
Picking up two Vodafone Player of the Match awards from Munster’s three fixtures, the Old Belvedere club player was quick to heap praise on her Munster teammates.
“It was a really exciting championship and it is almost a pity that there were only three games,” Deirbhile Nic A Bháird explained. “We have been lucky to have created such a good pathway, in terms of allowing younger players come through, with this Munster senior setup.
“Some of the girls who would have been considered younger players a couple of years ago have now received a good few interprovincial caps.
“These new Munster players, thanks to a couple of AIL seasons under their belt, are developing into leaders out on the pitch.
“The inter-pros are a really special time of the year. There was a good mix of younger talents as well as a couple of older heads like myself involved this year. All that energy within the dressing room helped spur Munster on.”
Fostering a togetherness and a steely determination to be successful at interprovincial level takes time.
Hearing from outside influences also proved a big factor in Munster’s 2023 title win according to the province’s Back-Row.
“There is massive pride in playing for Munster and I don’t think it has ever or will ever wane,” Nic A Bháird commented.
“It is a huge honour to represent Munster. This year, Niamh Briggs and her management team organised some incredible people to come in and speak to us.
“Having jersey presentations before our matches was another big thing. All those little details added to the buzz and pressure around playing inter-pro.
From underage to adult, Munster Women’s rugby has never been more popular.
TG4’s decision to screen every interprovincial match of the 2023 championship was another positive development.
Increased print media and online coverage meant Deirbhile Nic A Bháird and her teammates exploits were exposed to a wider audience.
“Over the years, I think the focus has shifted towards this time of the rugby season,” the Munster back-row said.
“There was a brilliant audience for this year’s interprovincials. I got so many texts from people that were not able to make our Munster matches but were all watching online.
“Others got in touch with my parents, who couldn’t make the games themselves, just to talk about our games.
“In previous years, very few people might have known what was happening. That’s why there was a brilliant buzz around this year’s Vodafone Women’s interprovincial championship.
“We fed off of that even though some of the younger players had never experienced that kind of media attention before. All that attention spurred us on to play some really good rugby though.
“I might be a bit biased, as they give me a bit of work every now and again, but I love TG4! Their coverage was brilliant. That meant I got a bit of stick for receiving two Player of the Match awards. Some of the girls reckon it was rigged," she laughs.
“Just being able to watch back the entire Munster match afterwards was a huge positive. I don’t think there is even a recording of my first Munster interprovincial appearance. Things have come on leaps and bounds.”
Central to Munster’s success was a strong team ethic developed under Head Coach Niamh Briggs.
Having such a respected figure like Briggs, a former international player now in a coaching role, on the training pitch helped bring the best out of Nic A Bháird and her fellow Munster players.
“Niamh has so much experience both as a player and now as a coach, she commands a huge amount of respect.
“For some of us, Niamh was once a teammate over the years. I think there is a kind of specialness to that. Maybe there’s a downside to that too because she knows us too well!
“Niamh was adamant about doing the basics well. Very often, the basics is about finding space and putting somebody into it. The type of training we did under Niamh and her backroom team reflected how we wanted to play. It was brilliant.”
Nic A Bháird's Player of the Match performances in Munster’s successful Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial campaign earned an international call-up for the TikTok 6 Nations Championship.
Currently enjoying some of her best performances in the red of Munster and green of Ireland, the future is bright for the Leesider.