Longhorns RL are set to become the first Irish side in almost 20 years to take part in the Challenge Cup.
The reigning All Ireland champions are looking to continue Ireland’s good fortunes from the World Cup when they enter the draw for the first round of the Challenge Cup.
Longhorns Chairman, Mick Aughey, spoke about what the Challenge Cup means for the Longhorns and Rugby League in Ireland as a whole:
“This is an opportunity to see how we have progressed. It is also an opportunity to play in our ‘off season’ and keep the squad together.”
“For the club it’s a fresh challenge, up to now the challenge was to win the All Ireland title,” said Aughey.
“It has the opportunity to benefit the game in Ireland. It has to be viewed as a medium to long-term relationship by both the RFL and RLI. How both bodies approach the matter could affect the long-term development of the game in Ireland.”
Plans are currently in place for an Irish side to take part in League One in future years and the Longhorns Challenge Cup campaign could prove vital in this happening.
Captain Matt Connolly is relishing the chance to represent the Irish side, based out of Ashbourne Co.Meath, in the most historic competition in Rugby League:
“I believe it’s a massive achievement being accepted into the challenge cup being the first Irish team in many years,” said Connolly.
“Since winning the All Ireland, we at Longhorns have been looking forward to entering the Challenge Cup. With Rugby Union being so dominant at this time of the year, we have had positive feedback on our lads wanting to play in the Challenge Cup.
“For Rugby League in Ireland this is a progressive step forward into the development of the domestic game.”
“The lads are already praying for an away game. This will lead to lads getting picked up for teams in England and that will hopefully lead to them making the Irish senior team, like our player coach Casey Dunne who brings back a lot of his learnings from international duty into the domestic game.
“The lads are looking forward to see who we get in the draw and whoever it is the Longhorns will be sure to get stuck in.”
The draw takes place for the first round of the Ladbroke’s Challenge Cup on Tuesday the 12th of December 2017 with the match looking to take place at the end of January 2018.