‘Across The Laighin’ is the magazine published exclusively for Season Ticket holders.

The eighth edition – went live earlier this Spring and we are giving Leinster Rugby supporters access to excerpts from some of the interviews and feature pieces.

This piece is with rising Leinster Rugby player Molly Boyne, who sat down to chat with Lisa Doyle. 

Since picking up a rugby ball for the first time in college, Molly Boyne has gone from playing in Leinster League Division Four with Trinity, to starting the Energia All-Ireland League final with Railway Union.

She has pulled on the blue jersey for Leinster and secured a spot on the newly formed Combined Provinces squad.

To put the cherry on top, Boyne was recently named in the upcoming women’s Six Nations squad. It’s been some journey in the space of six years.

Molly’s love of sport and being part of a team was cultivated from a young age playing hockey.

“My dad played hockey, so that’s how I got into it. I lived in Sandymount as a kid, then at the age of five, we moved to Enniscorthy in Wexford, and I joined the hockey club there.

“I played that all the way up, until I went to college. That was kind of my main sport. I did some swimming as well, but it was really just the hockey stick in my hand for most of my childhood.

“I really enjoyed playing with my club and was on the South-East U18s team for the Interpros in 2015, but I never progressed beyond that. It wasn’t until, I went to college that I started to play rugby.”

Hockey was always a passion of Molly’s. So, what was it that enticed her to sign up for rugby?

“I would have always watched the Six Nations and Leinster play when I was a kid and I’d always wanted to pick up a ball, but the training was on the same days as hockey.

“So, until I went to college, there wasn’t really that opportunity. I went to the Freshers’ Fair and I signed up for the hockey club. But as I walked past the rugby stand, it was so bright and they beckoned you over and they wanted to chat to you.”

“All of the girls were so outgoing and they were so keen for anybody to give it a go. That was the Monday of Freshers’ Week. On the Wednesday I went to my first rugby training session and never looked back. It was my favourite part of college. It was where I made some of my best friends.”

Molly talks about how she was sucked into the game from day one and refers to it as ‘a game changer’ for her life. It was something she’d never experienced, the camaraderie on the team was unbelievable.

“Just being a part of it was the essence of my college experience really. So, I played hockey with Enniscorthy and rugby with college that year. But then I fractured my ankle playing in the February of that season. Once I recovered from that ankle injury, I just stuck with the rugby and never looked back.

“I remember, we were all in the same boat, not having a clue what we were doing, but also I remember not really having any worries either, it was okay not to know. We just learned all together and hoped for the best. It was just that kind of sense in knowing that you have to look after the people on the pitch around you, because it’s not just about winning, you have to protect each other.”

So, after only six rugby training sessions under her belt, it was time to play her first game, Molly speaks of her memories of that first rugby match.

“It was a bit of a disaster, but we did have fun. We had picked up as much as we could, trying to learn all the rules and regulations. We only played in the college league, where we were up against the likes of UCD and UL.

“In our first year, I don’t think we won a game. But in my second year playing, we entered into the Leinster League. We were put into Division Four, and that was where the team really started to grow.”

After just one year, Molly and her teammates were now playing both college rugby during the week and club rugby on the weekends.

“I was the captain for the Leinster League team. I really enjoyed the club game, that was where we started to develop and grow as a team. Trinity now play in Division One of the Leinster League. It makes you really, really proud.

“It’s a really cool progression and to see the growth of that team, and that it’s still building.”

After two years playing in the Leinster League Division Four with Trinity, Molly made the jump to play Energia AIL rugby with Railway Union RFC.

“I suppose it was essentially my friend Niamh, she was the team captain for my first two years in Trinity.

“As I was finishing up playing college rugby, Niamh was trying to encourage me to go and play with the club team Railway Union. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to go or not.

“I went, and I played the Union Cup with Railway in the summer after I finished college and I remember Lindsay Peat was there. She helped to organise the whole event, and I was a bit starstruck, she was so friendly and so welcoming, so encouraging.

“That weekend, I was playing with Katie O’Dwyer and Nikki Caughey, people who were like superstars to me. They were all so welcoming, I made a couple of friends, and that was it, I was sucked in, and I was never going to go anywhere else after.”

Moving from Division Four rugby to AIL standards, is a big leap. Molly explains what that move was like and being surrounded by provincial and international players in this new club environment.

“It was a big jump because when I was in Trinity as the captain, with the help of a committee, we organised our own games essentially. It was always associated with fun. So, a lot of your brain power on match day wasn’t necessarily focused on the game.

“Going to play with Railway was so different. Particularly on match day, being in a supported environment where you could just focus on your performance, was a game changer.

“Coming to Railway, one of the scariest parts was that the first team and the second team trained together. When I first arrived, I almost hoped that they would be separate, so that I wouldn’t feel so out of my depth. But the step up in quality and intensity of training with Railway was the change of pace that I needed.

“Everyone comes to training, prepped and ready to perform. The players drive the high standards, with the coaches supporting us every step of the way. The likes of John Cronin, Blaise Kenny, Jude Cleary, and now Larissa Muldoon.

“Having so many people there who want the best for you and know how to facilitate that is amazing. I was blown away in my first few weeks that they could pick up on what you needed to improve on in a drill and help you make changes within the session. The attention to detail and dedication of our players and coaches is second to none.”

In Railway Union they have a term called ‘in the pit’, a place every athlete has to overcome, in order to progress. Molly explains what this ‘pit’ is and how every player has to enter the ‘pit’ and come out the other side, all the stronger.

“I settled into Railway really well and my skills developed quickly but for my first few years, I still felt like I was missing that “click” that would make all my learning fall into place. If you’re feeling uncomfortable and you don’t think you know what you’re doing, you’re in the pit.

“When that “click” happens, when you move out of that pit, that’s when you feel like you really start to perform well and can contribute to the team in a really valuable way. Everybody has to spend their period in that space of feeling uncomfortable. When you get thrown in the deep end, you have a huge opportunity to develop and come out the better side of it.”

One of the main differences from playing Division Four to AIL rugby, is the amount of ‘off-field’ work that is needed. Strength and conditioning, nutrition etc, these were all aspects Molly needed to get her head around, for the better of her game.

“When I was playing at first, I was really enjoying the game but I probably wasn’t minding myself and my body correctly. That’s something that’s really important in Railway and we’ve got the support in place to be able to get the most out of ourselves as players.

“We’ve got the gym, a team physio, S&C Coach etc. Being able to prioritize that side of training made a big difference.”

While playing with Railway Union for the last three seasons, Molly was a consistent player for the club, first with the J1 team, earning the Players’ Player of the Year award for the 2021/22 season.

“Playing with the J1 team was an amazing opportunity to develop as a player. It gave you confidence in your first few AIL appearances that you were ready to make the step up.”

It was only this season the opportunity came in the back row, that Molly got to start more AIL games and get comfortable playing at a higher level. As the games moved into the crunch part of the season, Molly was really happy to be a part of the team.

Playing elite rugby comes with its highs and lows.

“At the end of last year, I didn’t make the squad for the last three games of the season. It was really disappointing for me personally, but it was awesome to see the girls perform so well and bring home the AIL title.

“This year, it was a real goal of mine to be a part of that. Even though the result didn’t go our way this season, I was incredibly proud to take to the field with my friends and represent my club.”

While playing her AIL rugby, Molly also spent some time as a coach with the underage girls’ team in the club. What started as a six-week volunteering role, turned into a coaching position for a year and a half, while still playing her own game.

“Claire Byrne, our Director of Girls Rugby, organised a ‘Give It a Try’ programme to bring new players down to the club. It was a great success and our minis and youths teams have been growing from strength to strength.

“Unfortunately, my Leinster training this year clashed with these sessions, but I hope to get back to coaching soon. There’s an awesome buzz around the club on Wednesday evenings with all the minis and youth girls’ training. We also have an inclusion rugby team who train at the same time and they are absolutely flying it.”

While having a strong senior team is good, the development pathway in clubs is of the upmost importance to feed into the senior teams and to ensure there is a pathway in our rugby clubs for everyone or every age and ability.

“There’s amazing work going on to develop this aspect of the club. Coaches come down from the women’s team to help out at training sessions. The girls’ teams join forces with some other clubs, for games and blitz events.

“There’s some really talented girls coming through. Two players who graduated from our U-18s team took to the field for the J1 team this week, which was an incredible achievement for all involvement. We can see the future generation coming for the club.”

Playing rugby in a high-performance environment is vital to Molly and her teammates, who are constantly striving to better their game. She tells us what it’s like to be part of such a club rugby environment.

“We’re blessed in Railway that we have this high-performance environment where talented players want to come and play. There are so many positive sides to playing for this team.

“Training is always competitive. Everyone wants to get the best out of themselves and each other. It drives standards and means that even the best players can’t rest on their laurels. It brings good energy to training and means everyone is always working hard and giving their best.”

With Tania Rosser newly installed as the Leinster Rugby Women’s head coach, opportunities for new players to impress would be there.

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before Rosser’s number popped up on Molly’s phone.

While Molly made her debut for Leinster Rugby this season, it wasn’t alien to her as she had the opportunity to train with the extended squad last year.

“Last season I was with the extended squad up until they picked the final squad for the Interpros. I got to train all across the summer and really enjoyed the challenge. I was disappointed not to make the squad, but I was really thankful for the experience. It was awesome to train with people from other clubs as well, see how they do things.”

At the start of this year, Molly set goals for her season: to be a consistent starter for the AIL team in  Railway Union and to make the final Leinster Rugby Interprovincial squad.

When that call came from Rosser, there was a huge sense of excitement and relief.

“It meant a huge amount to me. It was always a dream for me and working with Leinster fuelled that fire even more. When I got the call from Tania to say that I was in the squad, my sister was sitting beside me, and when I got off the phone, we both just burst into tears of joy. We called my parents and got to share the amazing moment together.

“I have such respect for Tania. I really have valued her as a coach this year. It’s been something that I’ve really wanted and worked for. Even when it felt like a pipe dream, back when I was playing in division four in the Leinster League.”

Molly made her debut for Leinster, coming off the bench in the first home game against Connacht. What must that have been like, being named in the panel for the first interprovincial game?

“It was so exciting. It felt like a big deal. My family and friends were all there. I could hear them cheering us on and they even made a big poster for me.

“I was just really delighted to be out there with the team. I’d never experienced that kind of crowd, it was amazing. That step up of intensity was really cool. You have to be so clued in and switched on.

“The crowds, the match day experience, the tv exposure, were new experiences that could be daunting for some, but Molly took it in her stride and enjoyed every moment.”

There was great social media exposure for the women’s team during the campaign and it was awesome to have photographers and videographers at training and games.

“That was a new experience for a lot of us, but it was a brilliant way to highlight all the hard work going on in camp. We could then share the action shots and videos with family and friends.”

After her first cap, Molly got the opportunity to start the next two interprovincial games. That’s a pretty big deal to make the squad for every interprovincial game.

“It was amazing. I was really delighted. I was honoured to wear the blue jersey representing Leinster in the three games. It was a dream come true.”

Adding to her accolades this season, Molly also got a call up to the newly developed Combined Provinces squad, who played in the Celtic Challenge Cup.

“The has been an amazing experience. Something I couldn’t even have imagined when I sat down at the start of the year to set out my goals for the season. The green jersey is always a mirage in front that you almost don’t even dare to dream of.

“Playing with the Combined Provinces is the next level of competition. It’s another layer of challenge and professionalism.  Training in the High Performance Centre and all the supports that come with that has been brilliant. I’ve learned a huge amount and I’m so excited to continue developing as a player.”

There is no stopping Molly as she progresses through the rugby pathway. To add to all her rugby accolades, Molly has just been recently been named in this year’s upcoming Women’s Six Nations squad and hopes to get the opportunity to make her debut in the green jersey.

“The Celtic Cup competition is building towards the Six Nations, which will happen a couple of weeks after the Combined Provinces fixtures, so it’s a case of play your best and all bets are off, anything could happen.”

As both an elite player and staff member working with Leinster senior men’s team as a physio, what is it like to see both sides and all the stepping up around our women’s game?

“Working for Leinster Rugby has shown me how important support for players is. The structures around athletes that help them to perform when they need to and recover when they need to.

“I would never have imagined how much goes into facilitating players to be the best they can be and give incredible performances week in week out. The preparation and all of the different stakeholders who play such an important role into making everything work for the team is second to none.

“It’s awesome to see that reflected in the women’s team. As investment in the game continues to grow and the right support for female athletes builds, I think there’s no ceiling on how good women’s rugby can be in Ireland.”

How transferable are those skills, she’s working on and learning during the day in her day job, to her own game or even to her teammates, would she be called upon if there was an injury in training or games?

“The rugby knowledge I’ve gained from working with the best players and coaches in the world being here has been unbelievable. I really think that’s probably been one of the game changers for me in the last season. I get to see world-class back rowers play every day. I see what preparation they do. You get to pick up some tips and they are all so generous with their time and advice.”

As one of the females working in a male-dominated environment, some might find that intimidating, especially from going to an all-girls secondary school. Molly explains how she took it all in her stride, and always felt welcomed.

“I went to a small primary school, there were nine girls and one boy in my class, and I went to an all-girls secondary school. Then in my college class, I think there were only 10 lads.

“I spent the majority of my life in female dominated environments.”

So it was a bit daunting walking into the building full of big men, but everybody was so welcoming.

“All the lads are all so humble and friendly, and I quickly felt like I was part of the Leinster family. We all work well together and put high value on the connections between people.”

From all the rugby experiences we have spoken about, from picking up a rugby ball in college, to playing Division Four with Trinity, AIL with Railway, and then pulling on the Leinster and Combined Provinces jerseys and making the upcoming Women’s Six Nations squad, Molly tells us about one standout rugby memories for her.

“I definitely have one standout memory, from when I started playing!

“It was back in my Trinity club playing days. We were in Division Three, having been promoted that year but had our backs against the wall in a relegation battle.

“Our final game of the season was against Wexford Wanderers, who had beaten us earlier in the year. It was a must-win match on a sunny Sunday in Monkstown and we put in our best performance of the season.

“We won 51-5 and finished our season on a high. The sun was shining, everyone was so happy; I will always remember it as one of the best days of my rugby career.”

As someone who came to rugby later in life, would Molly have any advice for young girls who wants to pull on that blue jersey for Leinster some day?

“You are going to be good at what you love. If rugby is something that you’re passionate about, just keep on doing it. If you’re not sure whether you want to play or not, just give it a try. It’s the best thing I ever did, pick up a rugby ball. It’s shaped my whole life. I wouldn’t be the person that I am if I didn’t start playing with the girls in Trinity.”

“I’m forever grateful for that. Just stick with it. Even if you don’t want to play at a high level, play because it’s fun, because you enjoy it. Play with your club and your friends.”

It is clear to see the passion and ambition Molly has in terms of her rugby career, and I’m sure it won’t be too long before she gets the opportunity to pull on the green jersey for her country in this year’s upcoming Six Nations series. Until then, Molly will be kept busy between her day job as the physio intern with Leinster Rugby and training and performing for her club Railway Union RFC.