Touch of class
Newport physio Lucie Hanaghan represents Ireland at Touch Rugby
TOUCH rugby. You might think you know it, but you probably have the wrong idea. It’s not tag rugby. It’s faster, more tactical and requires a higher level of fitness. It is a sport all of its own.
The Federation of International Touch, FIT, refer to their sport simply as ‘touch’. The game is very new in this country, but the Ireland Touch Association have just hosted a Four Nations Championship and Mayo native Lucie Hanaghan was a key part of the national women’s team at the event.
As a physiotherapist, the Newport woman (who has a newly-established business in Ballyvary) worked on the sidelines for Mayo under John O’Mahony alongside Aoife O’Keefe. She also has a lifelong love of horses and was honoured at the Horse Sport Ireland Breeders Awards in 2008. Touch rugby takes most of her sporting attention these days.
“I just really enjoy the speed of it,” she told The Mayo News. “Agility, team communication and athleticism are all essential ... The tactical side of things, moving players at speed, looking at different phases of play and thinking two and three phases ahead, make it incredibly challenging.”
Hanaghan started playing while studying in England, and continued when she went for her masters in Scotland. She worked her way through to represent England at European and World Championship level. They won the Euros and finished fourth in the Worlds, but she was delighted to get the chance to play for Ireland this season.
“It’s a new sport in Ireland,” she explained. “We won the Europeans at mixed levels in 2010, but overall our teams are just getting off the ground. I play for the women’s open group and the Four Nations was my first major event with the team. We didn’t get a win but we improved with each game. We’re a new team and we notched up six tries.”
Hanaghan scored two tries and is a key component in the fledgling team’s plans. She has the experience of many years in the game, having trialled for the Connacht women’s rugby side before picking up an injury, and playing a bit of tag rugby along the way.
“I enjoyed the trials for Connacht and found some of my skills from touch useful, but I injured my shoulder, and as a self-employed person, it can be risky to play a contact sport; as injury really sets you back.
“The tag rugby was fun and it’s a great game from a social aspect, but nothing like the same in terms of fitness and enjoyment. I play women’s-only touch, which is completely different in many ways. In the mixed touch rugby and in tag rugby you don’t get a chance to play in the centre and be a playmaker like you do in the women’s game.”
Touch rugby is a six-a-side game played on quarter-size pitches with squad members coming on and off on a rolling basis.Three referees at international level keep an eye out for even the slightest touch which results in a roll back. Each team has six plays before the ball is turned over, similar to rugby league.
“What makes touch rugby different than tag is the incidental contact,” Hanaghan explains. “As an attacking player in touch you initiate the contact. You are looking to create it yourself and get the quick roll back to catch the other team offside or running backwards to get onside. You don’t want to overrun the contact and slow it all down. It is a lot more tactical in that sense.”