History Of Rugby League In Ireland
The seed of modern-day rugby league in Ireland was sown when in 1989 the Dublin Blues were formed and founded by Brian Corrigan. They consisted mostly of rugby union players who wanted to stay fit over the summer. The Blues competed against touring teams from Britain and surprised many of the touring sides with the quality of their play, scoring many memorable victories over British amateur opposition.
In early 1995 the British Rugby Football League development arm financed the position of a Development Officer for Ireland, providing a massive boost to the development of the game. In the same year Ireland formed its very first competitive team to play against the USA in Washington on St. Patrick's Day. Ireland won 24-22 with Wigan legend Joe Lydon coming on as a replacement. He had gone out there as a manager but was drafted in to play. Terry Flanagan, Huddersfield Coach and former Great Britain player and Niel Wood, Director of British Student Rugby League, coached the team..
Competitive matches were established between teams in Leinster and Ulster: Schoolboy matches were played between Dublin and Belfast schools, Open Age Clubs competed against each other in the All-Ireland Challenge Cup. Teams included Belfast Wildcats and Bangor Vikings from Ulster. From Leinster there were Dublin-based Dublin Blues, North Side Saints, Tallaght Tigers, Churchtown Warriors and Bray-based East Coast Panthers. From Munster the Cork Bulls were formed under the guidance of Ex-Dublin Blues stalwart Peter McNamara. Northside Saints and Cork Bulls had their successes but the long-established Dublin Blues were always pre-eminent and there or thereabouts when it came to the trophy presentations.
In August 1995 Ireland beat Scotland at the RDS in Dublin. The game was played as a curtain raiser to the British Charity Shield encounter between Wigan and Leeds. The Irish team that day included former Great Britain player Des Foy.
These two victories ensured that Ireland were included in the Emerging Nations World Cup in the Autumn of 1995. Coached by Flanagan and Wood the Ireland team beat Moldova and Morocco but lost 22-6 to the Cook Islands in the final held at Gigg Lane, Bury in England.
In February 1996 a Senior Irish squad travelled to Fiji to participate in the Inaugural Super League World Nines. Ireland managed to finish 8th out of 16 nations. During the tournament Ireland played Japan, France, New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga.
Following discussions between Mal Meninga and Ireland's Niel Wood, (This was actually a game of touch rugby as final preparation for the Nines Tournament which started the day after.)an unofficial 'test' was organised between Ireland and the World Champions Australia on 20th February 1996. The match was played at the Fiji National Stadium and was won by Australia 20-12. Australians playing that day included: Laurie Daley (Capt.), Ricky Stuart, Andrew Ettinghausen, Brett Mullins, Wendell Sailor, Jason Hetherington, Simon Gillies, Robbie Beckett, Mark Geyer and Steve Renouf.
In 1996 a second St. Patrick's Day match was played against the USA. Try scorers that day were Tom McCabe and Des Foy. . Phelim Comerford kicked 3 goals to ensure another 2 point victory by 14-12.
In August 1996 the Ireland team lined out against Scotland and were beaten 26-6. Both teams fielded a few professionals: Scotland included Alan Tait, Matt Crowther, Danny Russell and Darren Shaw.
The Ireland team included Martin Crompton, James Lowes and Bernard Dwyer. The rest of the Irish team was made up of a few professionals from the lower divisions in England, a couple of ex-professionals, a few amateurs from the English amateur leagues and players from the fledgling Irish domestic competition.
1997 saw more England-based Super League players making themselves available by use of the grandparent rule. The Irish team improved its standards but this development gave less opportunity for Irish-based players to get a chance to play. However, Irish-based players were included in the Irish squad for the triangular tournaments in 1998 against France and Scotland and 1999 against Scotland and Wales.
Their success was enough to earn a place in the 2000 World Cup. Finishing top of their group, the Irish eventually lost 26-16 to England in the quarter-finals, but the performance set the scene for future developments in Ireland.
In 2006 the Leinster and Munster conferences were abandoned in favour of an all-Ireland league. This had great difficulties while it attempted to compete with the Rugby Union season and unfortunately the end of the season was scrapped in order to get to the play off finals. Hard lessons were learnt as a result of this. At the AGM in 2006 the league structure was again reviewed and this time the shorter season was agreed on but with a tiered system. The tiers would allow newer teams and less experienced teams to play against one another and continue their development while the more established teams would compete against each other and enhance the players skills for games against other representative teams.
2007 therefore saw a three league approach with the Elite league and two conferences based on geography. The newly elected executive also set about making the product more recognised and developing new relationships with potential sponsors. The Leeds Rhino's brought their pre season training camp to Dublin. The leagues each had a major sponsor and all results were published in various media outlets. The wolfhound draw was converted to the Wolfhound Supporters Network. The Elite league was won for a record 3rd consecutive time by the Treaty City Titans. The Southern Conference was won by Tullamore Knights. The Northern conference was won by Portadown Pumas. At senior level the Wolfhounds qualified for the 2008 World Cup in Australia after two wins over Russia and two drawn games with Lebanon. The Students also qualified for the World Cup also in 2008 in Australia. The Wolfhounds A came second in the Four Nations on points difference after wins over England A and Scotland A but drawing with Wales A who were winners.
At the 2007 AGM a new Chairman was elected. Niall Cantrell from Munster and the Titans was elected after Dave Southern stepped down. Dave continued his involvement as Marketing Director and also vice chairman to aid a smooth transition. A new kit deal was also signed with Kukri. This 3 year deal saw a significant investment and allowed for retail of the Wolfhound brand gear.
In 2008 the champions were the Carlow Crusaders who won the Carnegie Grand Final 24-8. The final was re-arranged due to bad weather and was played under floodlights in Portlaoise. The Titans had been champions for 3 consecutive years and this season saw the title move to the Midlands. In the Emerald Rugby conference, Portlaoise Panthers beat Kilkenny Wildcats 42-22 in the final at Portlaoise. The Panthers had been unstoppable all year. On the representative front the Senior team had a great World Cup in Australia and reached the semi final qualifier against Fiji much to most peoples surprise having topped the group of death with Tonga and Samoa. The Students also played in the Student World Cup in Australia and this was run by RLI for the first time. Although not successful in terms of results it was the first time that RLI had run the students in a major tournament and is a watershed in that respect. RLI was also represented at the Under 18 level by Peter Carr from the North Dublin Eagles who was the only domestic player in the championships in Serbia.
Ireland has played in 26 full internationals, winning 15 and losing 8 with 3 draws. As it is not a full member of the Rugby League International Federation, these matches are not considered to be tests. Ireland has also played friendlies against Australia and Scotland that are not included in these results.
Fiji def. Ireland 30-14 (10/11/2008 RLWC08 Quarter Final Australia)
Ireland def. Samoa 34-16 (5/11/2008 RLWC08 Pool 3 Australia)
Tonga def. Ireland 20-12 (31/10/2008 RLWC08 Pool 3 Australia)
Ireland drew with Lebanon 16-16 (2/11/2007 RLWC qualifier Dewsbury)
Ireland def. Russia 58-18 (20/10/2007 RLWC qualifier Carlow)
Ireland drew with Lebanon 18-18 (5/11/2006 RLWC qualifier Tolka Park Dublin)
Ireland def. Russia 50-12 (22/10/2006 RLWC qualifier Moscow)
Wales def. Ireland 31-10 (30/10/2005 European 4 Nations Terenure RFC Dublin)
Ireland def. Scotland 12-6 (23/10/2005)
England A def. Ireland 36-12 (7/11/2004)
Ireland def. Scotland 43-10 (29/10/2004)
Ireland def. Wales 25-12 (17/10/2004)
Russia def. Ireland 64-6 (16/5/2004)
Ireland def. USA 74-16 (10/5/2004)
Ireland def. Scotland 24-22 (26/10/2004)
France def. Ireland 26-18 (11/1/2003)
France def. Ireland 56-16 (26/6/2001)
England def. Ireland 26-16 (11/11/2000)
Ireland def. New Zealand Māori 30-16 (4/11/2000)
Ireland def. Scotland 18-6 (1/11/2000)
Ireland def. Samoa 30-16 (28/10/2000)
Ireland def. Scotland 31-10 (31/10/1999)
Ireland def. Wales 24-17 (15/10/1999)
Ireland def. Scotland 17-10 (18/11/1998)
France def. Ireland 24-22 (4/11/1998)
Ireland drew with France 30-30 (13/5/1997)
Cook Islands def. Ireland 10-6 (24/10/1995)
Ireland def. Morocco 42-6 (24/10/1995)
Ireland def. Moldova 48-26 (16/10/1995)
The Ireland A Wolfhounds team is selected from players in the Irish domestic competition. This team is administered by Rugby League Ireland.
Ireland A def. England A 36-24 (6/9/2008 Euro Amateur 4 Nations Tullamore)
Scotland A def. Ireland A 28-26 (26/7/2008 Euro Amateur 4 Nations ALSAA Dublin)
Wales A def. Ireland A 32-24 (6/7/2008 Euro Amateur 4 Nations Wales)
Ireland A def. France A 40-14 (7/6/2008 Friendly France)
Ireland A v France A score unknown Ireland A def.
Scotland A 28-18 (11/8/2007)
Ireland A draw with Wales A 16-16 (14/7/2007)
Ireland A def. England A 28-22 (23/6/2007)
Ireland A def. Bay Of Plenty 44-14 (27/5/2007)
Ireland A def. Wales A 24-10 (19/8/2006)
England A def. Ireland A 44-23 (15/7/2006)
Ireland A def. Scotland A 38-30 (3/6/2006)
Scotland A def. Ireland A 42-16 (14/8/2005)
Wales A def. Ireland A 18-10 (16/7/2005)
Ireland A def. England Amateur "Lionhearts" 28-8(3/7/2005)
Scotland A def. Ireland A 24-16 (22/8/2004)
USA def. Ireland A 41-10 (24/3/2004)
Scotland A def. Ireland A 48-20 (9/8/2003)
Ireland A def. Wales A 32-28 (21/6/2003)
USA def. Ireland A 20-16 (15/3/2003)
Ireland A def. Scotland A 70-10 (18/8/2003)
England Amateur "Lionhearts" def. Ireland A 32-10 (16/6/2002)
USA def. Ireland A 24-22 (16/3/2002)
Ireland A def. Scotland A 28-10 (11/9/2001)
USA def. Ireland A 19-6 (18/3/2000)
Ireland A def. Scotland A 21-16 (30/5/1998)
Ireland A def. Scotland A 25-18 (25/10/1997)
Ireland A def. USA 26-6 (16/3/1996)
Ireland A def. USA 24-22 (16/3/1995)
The Ireland Development team is selected from players from the Irish domestic competition and is see as a feeder for the A team.
Results for this are as yet not tracked
The Ireland Students team is a selection of players in full time study and until 2008 this team was administered in the UK under the RFL umbrella. In 2008 the team management moved to be governed by RLI and the results are tracked at this point.
Ireland Students def. Scotland Students 22-18 (19/7/2008 Student World Cup Australia)
Greece Students def. Ireland Students 28-10 (15/7/2008 Student World Cup Australia)
New Zealand Students def. Ireland Students 32-10 (12/7/2008 Student World Cup Australia)
France Students def. Ireland Students 11-2 (9/7/2008 Student World Cup Australia)
Wales Students def. Ireland Students 32-12 (5/7/2008 Student World Cup Australia)
The Ireland Under 18's are currently run out of the UK under the RFL Schools umbrella but RLI are keeping the links to the management open to try and keep the progression of players from this competition into the Students and the other representative teams.
England U18 def. Ireland U18 34-6 (5/9/2008 Under 18 Euro Nations Cup Third Place Playoff Serbia)
France U18 def. Ireland U18 40-34 (3/9/2008 Under 18 Euro Nations Cup Third Place Playoff Serbia)
Ireland U18 def. Serbia U18 66-12 (1/9/2008 Under 18 Euro Nations Cup Third Place Playoff Serbia)
Rugby League Ireland - Past Champions
1997 - Dublin Blues
1998 - Northside Saints
1999 - Dublin Blues
2000 - Churchtown Warriors
2001 - Cork Bulls
2002 - Dublin City Exiles
2003 - Dublin City Exiles
2004 - Clontarf Bulls
2005 - Treaty City Titans
2006 - Treaty City Titans
2007 - Treaty City Titans
2008 - Carlow Crusaders
2009 - Treaty City Titans
2010 - Treaty City Titans
2011 - Treaty City Titans
2012 - Country Cowboys
Prior to 2001 - Rugby League Ireland was known as Ireland Rugby League