AS her Stock rises in London, the Bantry woman who has become a regular for Wasps Ladies in the top tier of English rugby is hoping to, in the future, catch the attention of the Ireland senior management team.
Andrea Stock – from Durrus – has already played eight times for Wasps in this season’s Allianz Premier 15s, so she’s right to set her targets high.
‘When I was 14 years old and starting rugby I never thought I could make Munster, yet alone Ireland. It was a dream then, but it’s an ambition now. It’s something that I do want,’ Stock says.
‘I am still young, I’m only 21 years old now so I have time on my side. Being in the front row, it’s a position that you get better in with more experience so I will develop and improve.
‘It would be great to get a chance with Ireland at some stage, it’s a target, so we’ll see how it goes.’
Stock’s story starts at home in West Cork. When her friend, Caroline Downey, joined Bantry Bay RFC Women’s team, Stock threw in her lot, too. It was an instant hit. In fact, the physical part of the game appealed to her.
‘I felt it was a sport that I could grow into,’ she explains.
‘I really enjoyed the team element as well. I had quite a few friends on the team and I loved that aspect that the team is your family and you are playing for each other.
‘I loved the contact element of it as well. It’s proper, full-on contact and I love that, and the challenge that brings with it.’
Stock played with Bantry Bay RFC from when she was 14 years old until she was 18, and in that time came Munster recognition as she was called into the Munster U18 Girls’ set-up along with more Bantry players, future Ireland senior Enya Breen, Mary Hilda Hurley, Rebecca Hayes and Caroline Downey. In 2017 that Munster U18 team won the interprovincial championship, and they were on the radar of the Munster Women’s senior squad that was then coached by Clonakilty’s Laura Guest. Stock was promoted to the senior set-up in 2018, along with Breen.
‘I felt out of place at the very start,’ Stock admits.
‘I remember the trials and noticing the difference between senior level and U18, it was massive. I was only 18 at the time and I was up against women that were older than me, stronger, much more experienced, Ireland players, and I was a bit star-struck at the start. But everyone was so helpful to me and that helped me settle in.’
Then there was a positional change to adapt to, too.
‘Since I was 14 I always played flanker or number 8 in the back row. Even with Munster U18s I was flanker as well, but for my last year at U18 I was moved to prop, so the front row,’ she says.
‘When I got called up to the senior team I had only been propping for about a year. I was very inexperienced in scrums, but the girls were brilliant, they taught me so much, showed me the ropes and helped me get better.’
Those early, formative years with Bantry Bay RFC were crucial. There, with Damien Hicks – a key figure behind the success of the club and also a Munster Rugby Club & Community Rugby Officer – played an important role.
‘I owe Damien Hicks everything. Where I am now is because of him. Everything I learned from rugby is from him. He is such an amazing coach. He always tried to help me to get to where I wanted to go,’ Stock explains.
‘There’s Eugene McCarthy from Bantry as well, he was my Munster U18 rugby forwards coach and he was amazing too.
‘The coaching in Bantry is incredible, they dedicate so much time and effort to the players and the club.’
In 2018, Stock, daughter of Paul Stock and Maureen O’Donovan, swapped the beauty of West Cork for the hustle and bustle of London when she started at Brunel University London. These days she studies Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences, and it was at university that she got the chance to play for Wasps Ladies.
‘My coach at Brunel, Hannah West, played for Wasps, and she brought me to a training session,’ Stock explains.
‘This was at a time when they had a first and a second team, and all teams had, so you had two leagues – the Premier 15 which is the main one and the development league. I was put into the second team, played there and that really helped me develop. Then I was called up to the first team and I have been there ever since.’
Again, like the step up from Munster U18 to senior was a giant leap, so was this. Stock needed time to find her feet, but she did.
‘I’m only 21 now so I was breaking into a new team where I was still quite inexperienced in the front row. I had only a few years under my belt and I was up against women who played for England, so I had to learn fast and prove to the coaches that I do have what it takes to play at this standard,’ she says.
‘I had to start believing in myself, backing myself that I was good enough. My coaches were great, they said they picked me for the first team because they believe I’m good enough and that it’s up to me now. Once I believed in myself more, I found a difference. I found my place and proved that I deserved to be there.’
Now the former Bantry Bay RFC player is a regular in the Wasps’ match-day squad and has featured in eight games so far this year. It’s still so early in her rugby career so she’s confident there’s a lot more to come. Maybe even an Ireland call-up in the future, that’s the dream.