'amazing year' | 

Emotional scenes as brilliant Ireland qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics

Ireland celebrate beating Fiji and qualifying for the Paris Olympic Games© SPORTSFILE

David Kelly

A tearful Lucy Mulhall hailed her Ireland Sevens team after clinching automatic qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics after beating Fiji 10-5 in a nervy Toulouse encounter.

“It’s been a journey and I’m just so grateful to have a team like that around us, players and family. It’s been an amazing year and our goal is to grow Sevens in Ireland,” said the Tinahely native, who was watched by her father, Pat, and her fiancée.

“It means so much, we did it for our family and they have joined this rugby family and I’m happy we have done it together.”

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Two-try scoring sensation Aimee Murphy-Crowe beamed: “The cow jumped over the moon!”

After a tense opening, Amee-Leigh Murphy-Crowe put Ireland ahead after nice work from Stecey Flood.

Fifi responded despite stern Ireland defence, Ilisapeci Delaiwau with the try.

Bizarrely, Fiji missed the conversion drop in front of the posts and then their restart did not go ten.

From the scrum, Blackrock’s Emily Lane dithered but the hesitancy also unsettled the Fiji defence; she eventually tracked left and once more found scoring machine Murphy-Crowe, who sailed in for her second of the morning for a 10-5 interval advantage.

Fiji had more of the ball in the seven first-half minutes but the Irish, scoring from each 22 visit, were much more clinical.

Fiji once more had a calamitous restart but Ireland tried to play the ball and knocked on.

Ireland were once more waiting to pounce for Fijian errors. Flood kicked forward from a turnover but conceded a penalty as she and Murphy-Crowe chased on the right wing against a scrambled defence.

Ireland’s defence was much more composed against a Fijian side lacking assuredness on the ball, or a passing threat to the wide.

They managed the game well as the final quarter loomed, claiming a penalty which allowed them a half-way lineout.

Murphy-Crowe was tackled high as Ireland worked the ball to the right wing once more.

Patience was the key but Lucy Mulhall’s knock-on with a minute left induced anxiety and there were echoes of the fifteens’ tossing away their World Cup hopes in Parma late on against Scotland two years ago.

This team would not be denied.

However, Fijian incompetence allowed Ireland to regather; they kicked away their final possession and Flood won the turnover.

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