When women’s rugby star Lauren Day lifted the RBS Six Nations trophy proudly above her head after Ireland’s first Grand Slam victory, it wasn’t just in celebration.
Lauren (27) had dedicated the victory to her soldier sister Channing, who was killed in a firefight in Helmand province in Afghanistan.
The 25-year-old Army medic from Comber had followed Lauren’s rugby career closely and cheered her on at games. Lauren, who teaches in England, has also played for Ulster and currently turns out as prop for Firwood Waterloo.
Lauren told more than 1,000 mourners at the funeral of her pride in her “brave, beautiful and determined sister”.
She said Channing (right) always wanted to be a soldier. “She loved what she did and we are so proud of her.”
The Ireland team had already secured Six Nations victory going into yesterday’s match with Italy in Milan, but wrapped up the coveted Grand Slam glory courtesy of a nervy 6-3 victory.
It was the first time Ireland had lifted the Six Nations trophy and it followed a historic win over Scotland last month when they claimed their first Triple Crown.
Irish president Michael D Higgins led the congratulations.
He said he would be hosting a special reception for the players on their return.
“This is an outstanding achievement and one we can all enjoy with pride on our national day,” he said. “The team has performed brilliantly all season and their preparation, commitment and courage has been rewarded today.”
He added: “This Grand Slam-winning performance again highlights the ever-increasing success of women in sport in this country, and without doubt will contribute to further participation by women in sport and will help gain the due recognition that women’s sports deserves.”