Fiona Coghlan is a former Ireland women’s rugby union international. Coghlan represented Ireland at the 2006, 2010 and 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cups. She also captained the Ireland team that won the 2013 Women’s Six Nations Championship. In 2013 Coghlan was named The Irish Times/Irish Sports Council Sportswoman of the Year after captaining Ireland to their first ever Six Nations, Grand Slam and Triple Crown titles. Coghlan was a member of the first Ireland teams to defeat France, England and New Zealand. She was the Ireland captain on the latter two occasions. In addition to captaining Ireland, Coghlan also captained her club team, UL Bohemians, her provincial team, Leinster and was captain of the first ever Barbarians women’s team.
20×20: Questions with Fiona Coghlan
1. What’s your first memory of sport as a child?
Watching Wimbledon every year as my Mam loved it and I would watch it with her. I thought Steffi Graf was unbelievable and she was one of the few sportswomen that were visible on TV at that stage & definitely I tried to emulate playing “Wimbledon” on the road!!!!
2. How did you first become involved in sport?
I originally played short tennis after school. One weekend away when I was about 7 my parents sent me horse riding to try and get an hours peace. I had the time of my life and when we came back from holidays I insisted on taking up horse riding, which then consumed much of my free time for a number of years.
3. What sports did you try as a child?
Tennis, horseriding then when I joined secondary school I got exposed to team sports and got involved in Basketball, Hockey, Badminton in school. When I was 16, Clontarf GAA club set up their first Ladies team and I joined, tried my hand at a bit of Camogie too.
4. What decided you to settle on your chosen sport?
I went to college in UL and wanted a new challenge and signed up for rugby. I went out to the first training session and was put with the forwards, there was a lot of standing around so I didn’t think it was for me. A week later I got a phonecall to play a game & so down I went & I haven’t looked back since.
5. Who has had the most impact on your sporting career?
My parents have always supported me and given me the opportunities to get involved in whatever sport took my fancy. In rugby it would be my first coach Ian Costello and then the likes of Philip “Goose” Doyle.
6. What female do you most admire in the world of sport?
What Katie Taylor has done for Women’s sport and Irish sport has been unbelievable & it’s even more impressive that she has done it on her own with no team-mates as I relied on my team-mates for so much through the years.
7. Outside of sport what do you do in your leisure time?
I love meeting up with people, coffee, walk, drink, just spending time chatting. I now have a “yes” attitude with regards to new things now. While playing rugby I was constantly saying “no” to everything outside rugby so now if someone asked me to something new I try to say “yes” as often as possible. I still watch a lot of sport away from playing.
8. What is the last movie you went to see? What is your favourite movie of all time?
Not really a movie person, the last one was “A Star is Born” because so many people were talking about it.
9. What music do you listen to?
Whatever is on the radio or if someone has a playlist playing I will listen to anything.
10. Are you a reading fan? If so what are you currently reading?
I have restarted reading since retiring. I love autobiographies my favourite was Andre Aggassi “Open”
11. Do you follow any sports stars on social media? If so who?
Too many to mention, the majority of my following is athletes.
12. Forget about your sporting diet for a moment? Your favourite meal when you breakout?
Not much of breakout but I love fresh fish. I’d have a sneaky crisp sandwich every now and then.
13. Who do you most admire in your own sport?
My team-mates, as they were what motivated and drove me to get out of bed on winter mornings at 5.30am and pushed me in every session we did.
14. Do you have a special ritual before competing?
Not a ritual but myself and Joy Neville used to sit in the same seats just at the back stairs of the bus going to training or games. You couldn’t rely on it as a ritual as sometimes we had buses that had no back seats, also Joy retired a year earlier than me, so I was on my own for a year.
15. Do you still play other sports for fun?
When I retired from rugby I went back to GAA and played for three-year culminating in an Intermediate Club All Ireland medal. Then it was time to retire as the talent coming through was running rings around me. Trying to get into golf, but it’s a slow process.
16. What advice would you give to young girls & boys to encourage them to participate in sport?
I firmly believe there is a sport out there for everyone, sometimes you might have to go out of your way to find it. Give everything a try!!
17. What has been your biggest sporting achievement?
I think there has been different highlights on different levels.
• Winning 11 AIL’s with team-mates and very close friends in UL Bohs.
• My first cap for Ireland.
• The Grand Slam in 2013 as it was years of progression and then consistency across the tournament.
• Beating the Black Ferns in 2014 was a huge moment for World Rugby
18. How do you cope with (a) injuries; (b) other setbacks?
I was very fortunate with injuries, mine were all cosmetic so I would feel like a fraud talking about them. Losing matches or not playing the way you wanted was always tough and gave me sleepless nights after the games but you always have to look forward, learn and improve.
19. What do your family make of your success?
They loved following the Irish Women’s Rugby Team, even in the early days when there wasn’t much to be shouting about. I would say they have been to 95% of my games at every level. They miss me being involved but they are still very supportive of the team.
20. What does sport mean to you?
It is engrained in every part of my life, from my job, to friends to what I do or watch in my free time. Also the experiences I have had through sport has in many ways shaped me as the person I am today.