England Rugby’s Cath O’Donnell, who plays in second row for the Red Roses, has sent a message of hope and support to the Upper Eden Eagles, after Coronavirus denied the recently formed team a place at the top of the league.
The Eagles had looked set to win the new Women’s Challenge Senior (North) League One, having remained unbeaten until March. Only two points behind their nearest rivals, who they were still to play, the team felt confident of bagging a further win in front of a home crowd and taking the league title. But the season came to an abrupt end with the implementation of lockdown restrictions coming as a huge blow to the team and the club.
In the video, O’Donnell, from Maryport, encouraged the Eagles to ‘stick with it’ and congratulated them on a “fantastic season”. “I know you guys were in line to win the league and you’ve only been playing together for two years. It’s such a great achievement and I just wanted to say, although these are bizarre times and it isn’t ideal, we’ll all be back playing rugby soon, so just stick with it.”
O’Donnell was first spotted at the age of 18 when she represented England U20 while playing for Firwood Waterloo and scored her first international try in England’s 37-15 win over Ireland at Twickenham Stadium in the 2018 Quilter Internationals. She now plays for Loughborough Lightning and signed a full-time England contract for the 2019/20 season.
Upper Eden’s women’s side was only formed in 2018, with many of the girls having never played rugby before, making their success, under the guidance of Coach Dave Pearson, all the more remarkable. Despite the uncertainty around when rugby union can resume, the Eagles are already working on their fitness and are looking forward to the challenge of matching their previous record when the next season comes around.
The team are always looking to welcome new members, and any women interested in giving rugby a go should get in touch with the Eagles via their Facebook page – @UpperEdenEagles.