Connacht's Claire Molloy retires from international rugby

The standard bearer for Connacht women's rugby for so long, Claire Molloy has hung up her international boots after Ireland's hopes of World Cup qualification crashed against Scotland last weekend.

Certainly it was not the end Molloy would have hoped for herself or the team which she has led from the front for 12 years. With 74 caps and three World Cup campaigns, Molloy is a legend in women's rugby. And, as an advocate for the women's game, she is the ultimate figurehead - a woman who has combined a hectic life on the front line of medicine with dedication and success on the field of play.

Not surprising then that Molloy was always a gifted sportswoman. The daughter of Evan and Angela Molloy, Claire attended the Jes, and made a name for herself on the Gaelic football field, representing Galway in the sport from age of 16, along side players such as Niamh Fahey and Annette Clarke. It was those skills from Gaelic football that made it easier to transition to rugby when she moved to Cardiff to study medicine.

She was playing for Cardiff Quins when she made her debut for the Ireland women's national rugby union team. She later joined Bristol Ladies, and also played for Galwegians and Connacht when home in Galway, alongside another Connacht stalwart, Carol Staunton.

Making her debut for Ireland in 2009, Molloy came on as replacement in Ireland's first win over France. It was the beginning of an illustrious international rugby career which includes three World Cups, 2010, 2014 and 2017, Ireland's Player of the Year award in 2012, and the Guinness Rugby Writers' Player of the Year in 2017.

One of the highlights was Ireland's win over New Zealand at the 2014 tournament, and by 2017 she was chosen to take over the captaincy replacing the injured Niamh Briggs. At the time coach Tom Tierney described Molloy as one of the "most standout performers for Ireland over the past number of seasons, demonstrating durability and consistency".

"Whenever Claire puts on the green jersey, she plays with huge pride and commitment".

In between she was key to Ireland's Six Nation winning sides of 2013 and 2015, while her pace also made her an ideal fit for the Sevens game. The natural born leader captained the Ireland Sevens team at the 2013 Rugby World Cup and the 2015 Rugby Europe Women's Sevens Championships.

The natural born flanker has always led from the front, demonstrating all the attributes of a flanker with pace, outstanding defence and huge commitment at the breakdown. Consistently one of Ireland's best players, Molloy ensured she was always the first name of the team sheet.

This week she signed off from international duty: "Twelve years in the green shirt not the ending I would have wanted. So many memories, priceless highs and some rock bottom lows. To all the coaches physios, team managers, S&Cs, and all the backroom staff, thank you for guiding me along the way and often patching me back together at times. To the players I've shared the pitch with, it's been an honour. So many fantastic inspiring women I get to call friends. To my best supporters my mum and dad, thank you for following me all over the world to watch. 74 and out."

 

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