Highlights: April 2023
It has been one of the most difficult campaigns in recent memory for an Irish Rugby side. While professional contracts are now part of the IRFU structure, Ireland are still a young and developing team playing against seasoned TikTok Women’s Six Nations campaigners.
However, despite some heavy defeats, things are getting better for this Irish side. With every passing week the team have shown signs of improvement and have demonstrated impressive resilience in the face of added scrutiny and criticism. Though it won’t have been their ambition, the Nichola Fryday led group have inadvertently earned plenty of admiration as they battled through circumstances beyond much of their control.
Aoife Lane, Player Development Manager for the Women’s XVs, has been helping the players navigate their way through a challenging few weeks.
As the Championship drew to a close, Aoife reflected on her role.
Player Development Programme
Our Player Development Programme supports our members off-field development, assists them in maximising the opportunities available to them as elite rugby players and helps to hone their life skills. This ranges from career guidance, education, wellbeing and social engagement. While the programme runs throughout the season, off-field considerations come sharply into focus as the seasons nears an end.
This month, activities have included:
- Career Exploration workshop for current and past players with Deloitte, in partnership with the Sport Ireland Institute
- Media Training for the Irish Rugby Men’s 7s with Evanne Ní Chuilinn
- Connacht Rugby site visit to Genesys for a discussion on the future of the tech industry
- Barista Training with our Connacht Rugby members
- ‘Supporting the Support’ with Connacht Rugby academy staff at Matt Healy‘s My Little Flower coffee shop.
- Brothers Joe and Paddy McCarthy were joined by Kathryn Dane for a session with students from the Trinity Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities
- Leinster Rugby Transition Talk with Steve Crosbie, Ross McCarron and Eoin Reddan
- Munster Rugby Academy day-out with TYF
- Ulster Rugby Transition Talk with Simon Keogh, Louis Ludik and Paddy McAllister
This month also saw our Financial Services Educational Partners at the LIA nominated for an Education Award 2023. Developed in consultation with our members, Smart Money Habits was shortlisted for Best Community Academic Collaboration.
Elsewhere, former Irish international and current Head of Legal and Player Welfare at International Rugby Players David Quinlan told RugbyPass that the integration of player development programmes in clubs is a message that needs repeating.
This note was reiterated by Dr Deirdre Lyons.
"When the game is over, players talk about the stark reality of being kicked out of the WhatsApp group. They’re no longer the rugby player."
As we look at the work of our Player Development Managers, @dlyonsIRUPA highlights the need for players to prepare for life after Rugby 🎥 pic.twitter.com/kiYIVAL1sq
— InternationalRugbyPlayers (@IntRugbyPlayers) April 5, 2023
Business End of the Season
Whatever about results on the pitch, many of our members have been assessing where there futures may lie.
On the national front, Josh van der Flier has committed to the IRFU until 2026, with James Ryan signing on until 2025.
Shayne Bolton, Colm Reilly and Dominic Robertson-McCoy have all signed new contracts at Connacht Rugby, with Declan Moore and Michael McDonald set to land in from Ulster. Sadly, Shane Delahunt has had to retire from the game after 125 caps for the province. Delahunt joins seven other players in leaving the province including Adam Byrne, Leva Fifita, Conor Fitzgerald, Seán Masterson, Ciaran Booth, the also retiring Alex Wootton and Bristol bound Kieran Marmion who capped his final appearance at the Sportsground with a try.
John McKee, Rob Russell and Alex Soroka will be remaining in Dublin next season having signed their first senior contracts at Leinster Rugby. Rónan Kelleher, James Lowe and Liam Turner have also signed contract extensions.
Former Connacht Rugby player Séan O’Brien will link up with Munster Rugby at the end of the current campaign. Following the news, O’Brien teamed up with his players’ association to promote the Champions Cup and the sixth season of Rugby Players Ireland’s partnership with Heineken.
In Ulster, Angus Curtis, Jake Flannery, Greg Jones, Luke Marshall, David McCann, Ben Moxham, Shea O’Brien, Eric O’Sullivan and Andy Warwick have tied their immediate futures to the club. Robert Lyttle and stalwart Craig Gilroy are set to move on. Meanwhile, 30-times capped Grand Slammer Jordi Murphy will take his leave of rugby at the end of the current campaign. Having made 107 appearances for Leinster, he joined Ulster back in 2018.
A number of players have made their Test debuts over the course of the TikTok Women’s Six Nations Championship including Kathryn Buggy, Clara Neilson and Emma Stone, following on from the debuts of Sadhbh McGrath and Niamh O’Dowd last month.
Andrew Smith was named as the DHL Impact Player of the Hong King 7s.
Congratulations to Liam Molony, Conor O’Tighearnaigh, Sam Prendergast who all made their senior Leinster Rugby debuts on the province’s recent trip to South Africa.
On the day he made his 150th league appearance for #LeinsterRugby, Dave Kearney presented Sam Prendergast with his first ever Leinster cap. 🤝#FromTheGroundUp pic.twitter.com/QUoHyTRBV5
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) April 16, 2023
Keith Earls racked up his 200th appearance for Munster Rugby. Earls made his debut for his home club 16 years ago.
Tom Stewart broke the record for the most tries scored in the regular URC season following his 16th try in 13 games (and his second hat-trick in consecutive games),
Hugo Keenan‘s try against France was voted by fans as the Six Nations Play of the Championship.
EU Sport Integrity Day
On April 15, Rugby Players Ireland joined a host of players’ associations from across Europe in raising awareness of the importance of integrity in our sports. Rugby Players Ireland is currently partnering with EU Athletes on Protect Integrity Online in researching, developing, implementing and evaluating the best ways to deliver integrity education, particularly related to fighting match-fixing and corruption in sport.
Scott Fardy returns to Ireland this summer to take up the position of defence coach at Connacht Rugby.
Louise Galvin was part of the Kerry squad that won their first Division One title since 1991. Galvin’s fellow former Irish internationals Mairead Coyne, Laura Feely and Mary Healy ended their rugby careers as Galwegians faced Blackrock College. The trio signed off from provincial duty together earlier this year.
Charlie Ryan spoke with The42.ie about how he has dealt with his early retirement from the game.
Finally, Nevin Spence was remembered as Ulster took on Edinburgh at the Kingspan. On what would have been his 33rd birthday, The Nevin Spence Memorial Stand ensures his lasting legacy on the club.
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