“Bono, Bono, Bono,” we chanted in unison, punching our hands in the air.
We were told we were going to be treated to a very special jersey presentation one match-week during the 2020 Six Nations.
We had all seen that Bono, of all people, had been to visit the men’s team in training camp that same day.
So when our management told us we should be very excited for today’s guest we laughed about the thought of Bono coming in to present us our jerseys.
As far as I know he’s not a women’s rugby fan.
We stopped the chanting when the coach stood up.
“It’s my pleasure to welcome here today, a very special visitor, Joanne.”
We started clapping slowly and looking at each other with slightly bemused faces.
“I dunno either.”
And in walked Joanne. Nervously and eagerly she took her place in front of the team, each of us trying to work out who Joanne was.
“Hi… hi… thanks so much for having me here… so... Yes… I should explain who I am,” she said almost apologetically to the team, as we nodded our heads in encouragement while she was making her introduction.
“My name is Joanne and I was a member of the first ever Irish women’s rugby team.”
The whole room lit up with awe and excitement.
She spent the next hour or so sharing her stories and telling tales of the first ever Irish women’s rugby team in Ireland.
She brought match programmes. Selection letters. Her first ever, absolutely gigantic, Irish jersey. We laughed.
We cried. It was an awesome evening listening to stories of the adventures of the first ever Irish women’s rugby players.
She told stories of travelling to matches, fundraising for kit, sleeping on each other's floors for camps, getting letters in the post telling you if you had been selected and then having to circle the big YES to let them know you would be attending.
They played their first international fixture on the 14 of February in 1993 away to Scotland and lost 10-0.
The journey of Irish rugby since then has been going from strength to strength.
Beating Scotland. Beating England. Beating France. Being the first Irish senior team to beat New Zealand. World Cup semi finals. Six Nations Championships. Grand Slam winners.
“We used to only get one jersey for the whole year and we used to have to wash and reuse our shorts and socks.”
We burst out laughing.
“Jaysus Joanne, not much has changed so.”
It was an ironic moment given that we had just been advised that we were running low on stock in the shorts and socks department in which case we had to return them after each match for that tournament.
Usually it’s not the case and players get new ones for each game.
Thankfully, by the return of international rugby in 2021, the policy on one jersey per season also changed.
Former men’s international player and women’s scrum coach Mike Ross raised the issue when he discovered that players only got one or sometimes two jerseys per tournament and none of them embroidered like you see in the men’s team.
If you ever had a request turned down for a women’s rugby jersey, it’s probably because she had only a few.
England march into town this weekend and the Irish players will have the fixture, date, and their cap number stitched into their jersey. What will the feelings be when they pack this jersey into their bag after the match?
England will arrive in Cork as the number one ranked team in the world.
They have been clinical and ruthless in almost every moment of this tournament so far, recording more than 50 points in every game. They kept the foot on the throat of the Welsh to keep them tryless even when they only had 13 players on the pitch.
With Le Crunch in Twickenham in two weekends time against a fierce French side, in front of the biggest crowd to ever attend a women’s rugby game, they will have all eyes on that game.
Their trip Leeside will be an “In. Win. Out” affair. No time for a trip to Rearden’s or Lennox’s.
Will the Irish girls look at the stitching on their jersey in 10 years time and think “That was an awesome day. That was the day we fought like dogs. That was the day we won every lineout and made every tackle. That was the day we pushed the best team in the world to the hilt?"
Will there be a musical performed in Cork Opera House in 20 years time akin to Munster’s victory over the All Blacks?
Maybe not. But the girls need and deserve our support now more than ever.
I urge the rugby fans of Cork to get out to Musgrave Park on Saturday for a 2.15pm kick off.