Ireland international Laura Sheehan chats to KIERAN McCARTHY about life in the fast lane
LAURA Sheehan is faster than she gives herself credit for.
The body of evidence stacking up says she’s quick. More than that, she’s lightning quick.
But the Urhan woman (25) is modest.
‘I was fast enough but never the fastest,’ Laura said.
But, you are quite fast?
‘I was never slow but never the fastest,’ she replied.
‘Laura Sheehan’ and ‘slow’ don’t sit well in the same sentence unless separated by ‘was never’.
An outside opinion is needed to settle this. Step forward Laura Guest, the Clonakilty woman who is the head coach of the Munster women’s team.
Guest has worked with Sheehan the past three seasons, and in the last two campaigns the fleet-footed winger has really caught fire. That’s why she was called into the Irish set-up in October, and then she went on to score a stunning try in her debut against the USA.
‘Laura has excellent acceleration and footwork. As a winger you need out-and-out speed, and Laura has that,’ Guest explained.
‘You can’t buy the speed she has but you can improve it and she works incredibly hard with our strength and conditioning coach Lorna Barry. Throughout the entire season Laura was half an hour early for every single session, there were three players out working with (strength and conditioning coach) Lorna on their footwork, their acceleration, their change of speed and their take-off speed.
‘That’s one of Laura’s real strengths, she is a very powerful winger.’
There. It’s settled. Laura is faster than your average winger, and what’s more, she works incredibly hard too. She’ll admit that herself.
‘I’m not exactly the most gifted athlete but what I do have is a work ethic. I enjoy it. That’s fun for me. I like improving myself,’ she said.
‘I have a lot of things that I need to work on and improve on, so the more practice and time I put into them, the more fun it is playing. I enjoy a challenge, Lorna puts in a lot of work with me. Okay, I have some speed but there’s room to do better technically, so it’s fun to learn improve.’
It’s been a whirlwind few years for Laura. The Irish international only started playing rugby when she began college life in UCC, but she hit the ground running. She joined Highfield – where Guest was her coach too – and she was on the fast-track to the top then. UL Bohemians were next and in 2016, Laura was drafted into the Munster set-up and played one game, against Leinster. In 2017 she started her first Munster match, against Ulster, and scored a try that day too. One year later, the former Beara Atheltic Club member ran in a try on her international senior debut. That’s a fast rise, even by her quick standards.
‘I have been working fairly hard for the last five years at this. In the last two years, things have gone my way but it’s taken a lot of hard work to get to this point,’ Laura explains.
‘I like training hard, I really enjoy that side of it, and I want to achieve my potential, whatever that may be, whether it’s with the club, at interpro level or hopefully at international level.
‘I try and prepare as best I can for everything and improve myself as a player. Where that takes me, I don’t know, but it’s going well at the moment and I’m enjoying it.’
The Six Nations in February are a definite target, given the impression she made in the November tests against the USA and England, the latter at Twickenham.
Now working in PWC in Dublin, and making the regular commute to Limerick for UL Bohs, Laura is the first international rugby player from Beara. Fingers crossed, she’s here to stay.
Laura Guest certainly thinks so.
‘She is a real modern winger as she goes looking for ball in-field and she runs aggressive, hard lines. Her defence is excellent as well, she doesn’t really have a weakness in her game, which is what you need in the modern game now,’ Guest explained.
Laura showed all that skill and talent to score that try against the USA in November, the Sunday afternoon after the Irish men’s team tamed the All Blacks at the Aviva.
Hugging the left wing, when the ball was delivered out to her, she turned on her afterburners and sprinted over 40 metres to ground the ball in the corner.
‘I couldn’t believe I scored,’ Laura said.
‘There was space on the wing, I was roaring for the ball, (Michelle) Claffey threw a great ball to me and I knew I had to run like hell after that
‘I tried to stay as wide as possible because I knew the space would be out there. We thought we’d get a chance out wide, thankfully we did and I ran as fast I could then.
‘It was an unreal feeling.’
Hopefully, it’s the first of many similar moments for the Urhan speed merchant who says she is faster with the ball in hand for some reason.
There’s absolutely no need to overcomplicate tactics here so: give Laura the ball and watch her go.