Goatstown native Aisling Naughton is hoping she can earn a place at the 2016 Olympics Games as part of the Irish women’s Rugby Sevens team via one of the more unique routes.
The Knocknashee resident previously represented Ireland at the Youth Olympics in Singapore in 2010 as part of the Irish Under-17 hockey team.
But she is now starting on the route to Rio de Janeiro following her selection to the Ireland’s Rugby Sevens squad which will travel to Atlanta next week as Ireland’s women team.
The 20-year-old, a first year sports and exercise management student in UCD, is one of 12 Irish girls taking part in the Rugby Sevens World Series, which moves on to Sao Paulo in February.
From there, the Irish side travel to Hong Kong, China, the Netherlands, France and finally Moscow in June.
Naughton is one of three new players who have been identified as part of the IRFU’s on-going talent identification programme. The programme is open to the wider athletic and team sport community and offers elite athletes the opportunity to join an Olympic programme in a new international female sport.
Ahead of her trip to Atlanta, Naughton said: “It is so exciting and such a privilege to represent your county and country and I hope that we can bring some national pride to Goatstown.
“Taking part in the World Series is daunting but we know that by working together and working hard that we can take on anyone.
“The ultimate dream is to qualify for the Olympics in 2016, and I hope that our journey can encourage more girls to get involved in team sports, particularly rugby as it one of the most inclusive sports with a position and role for everyone.”
Head coach Jon Skurr, meanwhile, says that Ireland’s involvement in the World Series is an exciting new development for the sport.
“A lot of hard work has gone in to get us to this point so far,” he said. “It’s a big year for Irish women’s rugby, there’s a lot going on and one of our jobs is to extend the player base that we’ve got, so that we’ve got more people competing, which is why our talent identification process is so important.
“We’ve got a number of new caps going. It’s going to be tough, but I feel we’re really going to progress as the season goes on as these players develop their ability to play international rugby at the top level.”
Previously, Naughton went on from the Youth Olympics to represent Irish hockey’s Under-21s in their successful 2012 European championships C division performance.
She comes from a strong sporting pedigree and is the grand-niece of former Irish champion jockey John Roe.