A New Voice at the Table

A New Voice at the Table

It was the 84th minute. As Ireland stared down the barrel of a first Six Nations wooden spoon since 2004, Enya Breen took the game against Scotland by the scruff of the neck. In converting her own try, Breen sealed the deal before running back to half-way to be engulfed by her teammates and backroom staff.

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Alas, that was 2022. It remains a nice memory but a disappointing 2023 campaign subsequently intervened. Having been injured in the opening game, the side could have done with Breen’s experience and capacity for big plays in what was a challenging championship.

Whether or not it would have made a difference is anyone’s guess but Breen might have allayed some of the apprehension that set in as the tournament progressed. Despite being just 24-years of age and still finding her own feet in the game, the Skibbereen native has a seasoned and calming presence.

These attributes would have helped her cause as Breen was appointed to Rugby Players Ireland’s Executive Board – the first women’s XVs representative since Ciara Griffin. At the time of Griffin’s retirement in 2021 murmurings of a full-time programme had gathered momentum and as the newly installed Irish captain, Nichola Fryday undertook temporary representative duties until the landscape became clearer.  

Following Fryday’s retirement last summer and the changed contractual situation of the women’s squad, candidates were then sought to fill the void on a permanent basis. With 17 Irish caps to her name and a wealth of experience in the domestic game, Breen was deemed to be an ideal fit by her teammates.  

“Last year was huge for us,” Breen says, as she reflects on a transformative period for women’s rugby. “The next 12 months are going to be just as important too. We’re breaking new ground but we’re also at a crucial stage.

“We’re a young group, so most of the players had never experienced a high-performance environment before. I think we’ve all been happy to feel our way through it but naturally, any new programme is going to have a few things to iron out.

“The Board gives us a mechanism to feed back or voice any concerns, but more importantly I think, it’ll allow us to tap into the experience around the table, learn from other players, compare to their programmes, and even get some reassurances that we’re headed in the right direction.”

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ben Brady

While her squad involvements were curtailed for much of last year, Breen’s appointment underlines her continued standing within the group.

While some can grow disillusioned with the game from the treatment table, Breen has instead doubled down on the sport. Coaching roles in a Dublin school and with Blackrock College RFC, whom she joined from UL Bohemians in 2022, have reminded her why she fell in love with the sport to begin with. 

“It’s been an up and down period, if I’m honest,” she admits. “Touch wood it’s going to be my only long-term injury because some of the challenges along the way have been pretty tough.

“At the same time, it’s been nice to have a get a bit of space away from the game. I’ve enjoyed going out and exploring who I am a little bit more because I’ve never really had the opportunity to throw on a few different hats.

“I feel like I’ve always had good perspective but seeing the world in other ways is always helpful. You take bits and pieces from everything you do and I think that can only help when I’m trying to be the voice for my teammates. It can’t be just my own agenda.

“So as much as being injured hasn’t been a great experience, it has really, at the end of the day. Does that make sense?!”


Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Breen acknowledges the challenge that lies ahead as new expectations are made of her. Things will happen and she will need to address them. Yet, just as she plays the game, she is unfazed by the task at hand. Indeed, she has already identified some of the issues she’d like to address.

“I think helping the Board understand the make-up of our squad will be key. We’re in an interesting position. Our squad is comprised of centralised Irish players, non-centralised Irish players and then we have a number of players coming in from the UK.

“We’re also heading into a really important period as a team with World Cup qualification just around the corner. It’s so important that everyone, no matter their playing status, is aligned and we are in the best place possible to perform as a team.

 “Yet as much as we want everyone at home and training away in the HPC, we also have to respect the decision that every individual has made and support their growth as much as we can.”

As she embraces her new role, Breen recognises the significance of guiding the squad through a transitioning phase. “It’s still baby steps at the moment, but I have to ensure that each step goes in the right direction,” she asserts, reflecting a proactive stance that is balanced between progress and thoughtful navigation.

“My appointment wasn’t something I’d thought about or expected,” she admits, “but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be there. It’s a huge honour. Now that I’ve been voted in by my teammates, I have to ensure I represent them as well as I can.

“Nothing beats getting back out there on the pitch with them though.”

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