Cross Code Cycle Challenge

Cross Code Cycle Challenge

Last week we were delighted to join our friends at Rugby League Cares as they embarked on their Wild Atlantic Cycle Challenge. The official charity for Rugby League in the UK, RL Cares has raised over £70,000 in recent years to aid health and wellbeing programmes for people of all ages where the sport is played. 

Represented by Paul Marshall, Niall Woods, Simon Keogh and Aaron Buggle, Rugby Players Ireland’s participation in the cycle this year underscored a shared commitment to prioritising player wellbeing in both rugby codes. It also builds on a strong pre-existing relationship with RL Cares, one that allows for the sharing of best practice and ideas.

Setting off from Cork, the cyclists covered 500 kilometres of beautiful yet rugged terrain over the course of four days. Along the route they were fed by Darragh Fanning and Zambrero, while Killarney RFC also hosted the group last Friday evening. On Saturday they crossed the finish line at the International Rugby Experience in Limerick where they were welcomed by Deirdre Lyons and Marcus Horan. 

While maintaining decent fitness levels since hanging up his boots in 2018, Paul Marshall stepped up his training regime considerably this year. Recently, before a past player breakfast hosted by Rugby Players Ireland in Dan Tuohy’s new café ‘Izzy’s’, he even challenged his former teammates to an early morning spin bike session. Most declined the offer…

“I don’t think anything could  have prepared me for a cycle of that nature,” he concedes of the Wild Atlantic Challenge. “The first day was very tough. We covered about 78 miles, and I was exhausted by dinner. A few photographs went up in the WhatsApp group and it was written all over my face.

“Day two didn’t get much easier unfortunately. We set off from Skibbereen for Bantry via Mizen Head. Not only were we battling strong headwinds, but I also had saddle soreness to contend with. I don’t think I found a comfortable position all day!”

Despite the testing conditions on and off the bike, Marshall thoroughly enjoyed the experience. From the very beginning the RL Cares team made everyone feel included. There was also plenty of scenery to be distracted by, while plenty of craic was had with the former rugby league players such as Adrian Morley and Bob Beswick, a former Ireland Rugby League captain.

“They’re serious athletes and are still in great shape by the way,” Marshall notes. “They were able to go incredibly fast and I was shown up quite a few times. Thankfully, they were happy to hold the urge to push on for the most part and we could chat and share stories– especially about some of the players who made the switch to union!

“From speaking to them, I think it’s remarkable how similar our sporting experiences have been. We might occupy different worlds, but many athletes tend to think and feel alike especially in terms of retirement and the loss of identity. It was great to hear how supportive RL Cares have been and it reinvigorates our own resolve to be of support to our past player membership.”

While there are several examples of a crossover between both codes – not least that of Andy Farrell who supported the Wild Atlantic Challenge – Marshall believes there is more to be gained from working with different sports and organisations, like RL Cares.  

“I think cross-sport events are crucial, actually,” Marshall says. “It’s a great way to get to know people who work in a similar space. It creates a trusting environment that enables us to share resources and learn from each other’s experiences. To keep ahead we need to be open to change and to different ways of doing things.

“For instance, one of the RL Cares staff had some invaluable ideas and information about past players which I will bring back to Rugby Players Ireland. In return he is going to join us at our Rookie Camp next month to see how we deliver it. There’s a quid pro quo there.

“Sharing knowledge and information can only enhance all sports to better cater for players, past and present.”


You can still support the event here

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