Highlights: April 2024

Highlights: April 2024

Place Secured at WRWC 2025!

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ben Brady

Our congratulations to all involved in Ireland’s Women’s Six Nations campaign. By virtue of their third-place finish, the side have simultaneously qualified for the Rugby World Cup in England next year and will also feature in WXV1 which will take place in Canada later this year. 

Ireland came from behind twice against an in-form Scottish side before a Dannah O’Brien penalty in the 73rd minute sealed their fate. The result was particularly impressive given the heavy loss suffered at the hands of the English the week before. Meanwhile, Aoife Wafer‘s outstanding performances have seen her nominated for Player of the Championship.

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ben Brady

The same weekend also saw the Women’s Energia AIL final contested at the Aviva Stadium for the first time. Many current, former and future internationals featured with UL Bohemians captained by Chloe Pearse and coached by Fiona Hayes triumphing over Railway Union.

Earlier this year we had members of the Irish Women’s XVs squad in addition to our Ireland 7s members for a Player Development Camp at Druids Glen Hotel & Golf Resort. 


The Irish Men’s 7s claimed yet another bronze medal on the World Series following a deserved 14-5 win over Michael Hooper and Australia in the 3rd place play-off. It was their second successive bronze medal following the same outcome in LA, where they also fell to France at the penultimate hurdle. Zac Ward‘s fine form saw him named in the HSBC Dream Team for the tournament. 

Back in Ireland, Jordan Conroy launched a new six-part TV series called Man Up? on RTÉ which examines what it is to be a young man in Ireland today. The Tullamore man was also commended for his bravery as he opened up on his experiences growing up as a ‘child of domestic abuse’ and and explained that he’s now at a point in life where he’s ready to speak about his childhood and hopes to show that what ‘happens to you at an early age doesn’t define your future’, adding that he’s ‘still learning how to do it’ himself.



Player Development Conference 2024

Pamela Gilpin, Dr Deirdre Lyons, and Aoife Lane were in Arizona for the 7th annual Player Development Conference. In her role as Player Development and Wellbeing Coordinator for World Players, Pamela organised the event which brought over 100 player development and wellbeing experts together from around the world. 

There was a focus on foundations for the future at the conference, gamification of players’ associations and flipping the career coaching models.


Irish Athletes Alliance

Led by the Gaelic Players’ Association, Rugby Players Ireland, the Irish Jockeys Association and the Professional Footballers’ Association of Ireland, the Irish Athletes Alliance which launched in April aims to serve as a voice and as a catalyst for positive change within Ireland’s high-performance sporting community.

Aligned with a collective vision to safeguard the interests of Irish athletes, the Irish Athletes Alliance’s first undertaking will be in the engagement of government to advocate for the development of policies that will ensure all athletes on elite-level pathways receive cardiac screening.


Rugby Players Ireland Awards

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Evan Treacy

In recognition of his wide impact on the community, Keith Earls will be recognised at the Rugby Players Ireland Awards on May 22. The Zurich Contribution to Irish Society Award, one of the most prestigious accolades in the Irish game, has previously recognised the likes of Billy Holland, Tommy Bowe, Hannah Tyrrell and Shane Byrne. Last year’s winner was Alex Soroka who raised over €50,000 for a children’s hospital in Kyiv. 

The night will also see Earls’ former international teammate Johnny Sexton celebrated having hung up his boots following Ireland’s Rugby World Cup exit. Sexton is a former Chairperson of Rugby Players Ireland.

Voting continues for the respective Players’ Player of the Year Awards. 

Meanwhile, four Irish players are in contention for the EPCR European Player of the Year: Caelan Doris, James Lowe, Jamison Gibson-Park and Dan Sheehan. The quartet have been to the fore of Leinster Rugby’s Investec Champions Cup tilt following April victories over Leicester Tigers and their old foes, La Rochelle. 

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland


Brain Health Service

World Rugby and Rugby Players Ireland have launched a new Brain Health Service to support former elite players who have concerns about their brain health.  Ireland is the first country in the world to launch the new initiative which is available free of charge.  

The first of its kind, the service includes an awareness and education component, an online questionnaire and tele-health delivered cognitive assessment with a trained brain health practitioner.  This service assesses players for any brain health warning signs, provide advice on managing risk factors and signpost anyone in need of specialist care.  

Our thanks to Devin Toner, Lynne Cantwell, Marcus Horan and Éanna Falvey for their contributions. 


Protect Integrity

On April 15 we marked #EUSportIntegrityDay along with many organisations across Europe. Initiated in 2014 by EU Athletes, the day presents us with an opportunity each year to take a stand against match-fixing and show a sustained commitment to protect the integrity of sport. 


Tackle Your Feelings

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ben Brady

Our sincerest thanks to Ryan Baird and Deirbhile Nic A Bháird who fronted the latest public activation on behalf of the Tackle Your Feelings campaign. The duo were on hand to talk about our updated Schools Programme which provides a brand-new online platform that will make it easier for teachers to deliver the programme, supported by greater accessibility and updates to content.

On the new platform, teachers are equipped with the tools and resources to guide their students through relevant resources where the students will complete tasks and exercises designed to make them more aware and knowledgeable about their own mental health and wellbeing.

Over the course of the month TYF was also delighted to be in attendance for a wellbeing session facilitated by Zurich Ireland with Irish Olympic medalist, Sonia O’Sullivan. We were also in St Mary’s New Ross with Temi Lasisi and Aitzol King to meet the students there. 


Contract News

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

It’s been a busy period for Connacht with several players confirming their stays into next season, and others joining the fray. Looking forward to welcoming Piers O’Connor next season, while our congratulations to Jordan Duggan, Conor Oliver, Oisin Dowling, Oisin McCormack, Shane Jennings, Andrew Smith and Byron Ralston on their new deals. Hugh Gavin and Matthew Devine have also secured their first professional contracts.

Devine would also start his first game for his home province and marked the occasion with two tries. Club stalwart Finlay Bealham celebrated his 200th cap on the same evening. 

In Ulster, Scott Wilson, James McNabney and Lorcan McLoughlin all signed new deals.

Amidst a raft of positive Leinster Rugby news, it was announced that not only had Dan Sheehan been promoted to a senior IRFU contract but All Black Jordie Barrett will line out for the club following the Autumn internationals later this year. After nine seasons and 175 caps, Ross Molony departs the province for Bath Rugby. 

It was also confirmed that Peter O’Mahony has signed a contract extension along with Conor Murray, Jack Daly and Brian Gleeson who joins the senior ranks.  Neil Cronin, Colm Hogan and Andrew O’Mahony have all completed their time at the province. O’Mahony is the current chairperson of Rugby Players Ireland’s Executive Board. 



Wild Atlantic Challenge Cycle with RL Cares

RL Cares is partnering with Rugby Players Ireland for a fundraising bike ride in June. The Wild Atlantic Adventure will build on an already strong relationship between the two organisations and will see riders take on an epic 300-mile cycling challenge over four days between Cork and Limerick along Ireland’s rugged south coast.  

RL Cares has been delivering world class levels of wellbeing support to rugby league players since 2019 and maintains regular contact with representatives in other sports to ensure athletes get the best support possible. It shares the same values as Rugby Players Ireland, especially around issues such as personal development and health.  



Congratulations to Peter Claffey who has landed a prominent role as Ser Duncan the Tall in A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms: The Hedge Knight. The HBO series is based around George R.R. Martin’s Tales of Dunk and Egg novels and is set around 100 years before the events of Game of Thrones. On the books at Connacht between 2015 and 208, Claffey swapped rugby for acting and made his on-stage debut in 2022. 

Joy Neville took charge of her final international game. She now takes on the role of Rugby Development Manager at Connacht Rugby. As part of her new role, Joy will work with key provincial personnel to recruit, educate and retain referees to provide for the needs of the game, as well as to develop referees from Trainee Referee to National Panel.

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

Head Coach Johnny Holland and his coaching team of Billy Holland, Brian Scott and Denis Fogarty oversaw Cork Con’s Energia AIL Final win at the Aviva Stadium. The women’s final saw Jane Clohessy, daughter of Peter Clohessy, claim her own AIL title for UL Bohemians. 

Holland’s former teammate Tyler Bleyendaal will join the Leinster Rugby coaching ticket from the Hurricanes ahead of next season. 

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Connacht Rugby legend Tiernan O’Halloran will bring a stellar 15-year professional career with his home province to an end this summer. One of the all-time greats out west, the full-back has made 236 appearances, scoring 48 tries in the process – including the opening try of Connacht’s PRO12 final bout with Leinster in 2016.

Finally, it was announced that Luke Marshall will also be retiring from rugby at the end of the current season. After 15 years and 174 appearances with his native province, the Ballymena man will go down as one the best players the province has ever produced in the modern era. Despite winning 11 caps for Ireland, Marshall’s career was pockmarked by serious injuries.

Before announcing his retirement, Marshall also featured in our #MoreThanAPlayer series with the BKT URC.

Back to News