There’s a modesty to Sue Ramsbottom when she speaks about her brief, but bright, rugby career.
Better known for her exploits on the football pitch with Laois, the 2001 All-Ireland winner played three times for Ireland in 1998. She did so just weeks after taking up the sport.
“I went to college with the Defense Forces to study Computer Science at GMIT,” Ramsbottom tells Balls on a video call ahead of her episode of TG4 series Laochra Gael which airs January 27th at 9:30pm.
“Next door is Galwegians. I used to see the lights on there, it was winter time when the rugby was being played, and I went in and joined. Away we went.
“It was a nice thing to do during the winter. It was a great way of keeping fit. It was completely different to Gaelic football in so many aspects.”
Though she was only in her mid-20s, Ramsbottom had played senior inter-county football for a decade. She had been a precociously talented teenager, and at the time was one of the top forwards in ladies football. Her athletic ability transferred easily to rugby. Not long after pulling on the Galwegians jersey, she was lining out for Connacht, and soon Ireland.
“I was asked to train up in Dublin,” she says.
“I made the [Ireland] team straight off. They were super players, girls who’d been playing there for years. It was different.
“I was in there for my kicking ability. I had a lot to learn. I played fullback. That was the natural position for me for kicking. It is true that I didn’t exactly know the rules. The girls would laugh, and I’d say, ‘Can I kick it for the posts?’
“They’d a lot of girls who’d been living over in England. They were coming back to train and play for Ireland. The commitment these girls were giving was unbelievable. They were some group of players. What I was giving to ladies football, they were certainly giving the same to rugby.”
There are parts of the internet which suggest Ramsbottom was a member of the Ireland squad for the 1998 World Cup in the Netherlands, but that is not correct. “I wasn’t in Amsterdam,” she says.
“I just played for the season. I retired then, and focused back on the football, and my career. I was heading overseas [with the Irish Defence Forces], and that’s the reason I stopped. I was heading to Lebanon to work.”
Three years ago, Ramsbottom was one of 112 Irish rugby internationals who played between 1993 and 2005 to belatedly receive their caps.
“We didn’t get the caps at the time when we were playing,” she says.
“They gave them to us just a few years ago. They gave us one cap to cover all our international games. I’m really proud that I did play for Ireland and represent my country.”
Picture credit: Sports file