Ireland international scrum half Kathryn Dane is continuing to work hard during the current lockdown as she aims to continue the progress that saw her nail down a starting spot in the side that began the Women’s Six Nations in February.

The Enniskillen native started all three games for Ireland before the Covid-19 crisis brought an end to games and she is targeting further improvement ahead of the World Cup qualifiers.

“Coming on from the autumn internationals in November I worked really hard over Christmas to make sure I was in the right shape and the right place to get out on the field and perform for the Six Nations and that’s paid off.

“I suppose I have been very lucky, I’ve had a few good performances in the Six Nations and got a spot and I’ve been taking on board all the feedback that I can as the weeks progress. Now we are building towards the World Cup qualifiers and hopefully I can push on and improve again,” she said.

The physiotherapist has made wonderful progression to date with her exploits with Ulster earning her a call up for Ireland ahead of the 2019 Six Nations. It was a call that surprised her at the time but not one that she was going to turn down.

“I was actually in my final year at college and my mind was elsewhere and I was thinking I would put rugby on the back burner for a year but I got the call from Adam Griggs to come into camp and help them prepare for the 2019 Six Nations.

“It was one of those things were I just felt I had to take the opportunity because you don’t know if it will come again although I thought I would just be the tackle bag holder and helping getting the girls ready.

“But, I worked hard and luckily I was up to the standard of the other scrum half and I was very fortunate to get called into the reduced squad for the Six Nations and make game time in all the games,” she explained.

Kathryn’s love of rugby came from her involvement with the mini rugby at Enniskillen Rugby Club although it was football that was her choice of sport early on.

“Soccer was probably my first ever love. We played it in the school at the Model and you could join Ballinamallard at a young age.

“But, living beside Mullaghmeen I noticed that mini rugby was on and after coming back from Ballinamallard on a Saturday morning I begged Mum and Dad to let me join in there after soccer training.

“I fell in love with it. I liked the whole discipline side of it, I liked that you couldn’t speak back to the ref and I liked that your parents couldn’t be too loud on the touchline and there was a real sense of camaraderie on the pitch.

“I think the coaches were apprehensive about letting me play with the boys who were bigger but I just loved the fact that at that age you had a lot of blitzes; you could be going to Omagh one weekend, Armagh the next and then Virginia, you would constantly be on the bus going to games and the lads were great with me,” added the 23 year old.

Rugby soon became her main focus and it was success with the Collegiate in the Ulster Schools’ Tag Rugby that gave her the hunger to continue to push on.

“From about third year at school I was playing in the Tag Rugby team and that was the big deal because the year before I had joined the team they had won the Ulster Tag Rugby title for the first time at Ravenhill.

“The thought of getting up to play there was my biggest dream and being able to go up there and win in front of your whole school was an even bigger achievement and memories that will always stick with me. Those experiences of that heat of the moment competition really gave me that passion to go a bit further and try out for the Ulster team and try out for the club team.”

And it was while playing for a talented Enniskillen U18 Girls team that she came to the attention of the Ulster Women’s coaching set up.

“We had beaten Belfast Harlequins in the final of the Ulster Cup and it was the first time I have realised that we are a really good team.

“I think it was at that game where I was spotted for the Ulster Women’s team and luckily enough I was already training with the Enniskillen Women’s team at the time so I knew a few girls like Noreen Nethercott and Leona Hallett who were training with the Ulster senior team and they helped ease me into it and ensured me that it wasn’t a big massive step,” she said.

As a student in Dublin, Kathryn continued to progress, earning her that call up to the Ireland squad.

With the restrictions in place, rugby has been postponed but the Fermanagh woman is intent on working hard to ensure that she is ready to hit the ground running when the squad can return to the pitch together.

“At the start of the lockdown I struggled with the loss of team training and being in that team environment but luckily I have got really supportive housemates in Dublin, including Jennie Murphy who is an ex-Irish player. We are quite an active household so a lot of our home workouts and running are done together,” she explained.

And she says that there is a competitive nature to the online group training that they do.

“A lot of the sessions are done in Zoom calls so there is a competitive edge as well. There is a leaderboard for the team and I have been lucky enough to keep myself in the top ten the last few weeks!

“We are putting in the hard yards here so when we do get back to the pitch we will be ready to focus on the skills and the tactical elements.”