Highlights: February 2023
Firing on all Cylinders
February was a successful period on all fronts with the senior men’s and U20s nationals sides enjoying winning starts to their respective Six Nations campaigns (including a first senior win in Cardiff for ten years), while the newly assembled Combined Provinces squad have also claimed three successive wins in their Celtic Challenge tournament.
In Solidarity with WRPA
With players in Wales currently involved in a dispute with their union, player associations met to discuss the situation and pledge their support to WRPA Chief Executive Gareth Lewis and the senior players.
“The success of Welsh rugby is critical to the global game but in particular the Six Nations and URC competitions,” said Rugby Players Ireland boss Simon Keogh. “We hope a meaningful resolution can be found here.”
“Gareth and his team at the WRPA are trying to find a way through this challenging impasse and we wish them the best. We have found, through our experience, that forging collective partnerships between a union and its players is key to ensuring success,” he added.
With just days to go before the Welsh were due to take on England, we were glad to see that a compromise had been agreed with fuller talks to take place this week.
Hitting the Airwaves
Following on from an extensive national radio campaign, the Tackle Your Feelings Podcast is now up and running. Having tested the waters last year with Eimear Considine, Billy Dardis and Andrew Porter featuring in an exclusive TYF discussion on Off the Ball, we have invited more players to join the conversation. With Dr Hannah McCormack as host, episodes to date have included club and country teammates Laura Feely and Hannah O’Connor, while Andrew Trimble – no stranger to a podcast – also joins the catalogue and discusses how he balances the various commitments in his life.
You can catch all episodes of the Tackle Your Feelings: More Than A Player Podcast here.
Coincidentally, on the very day the latest phase of the campaign began, Jack McGrath announced his retirement from the professional game. We are indebted to him for all he has done for mental health and wellbeing and hope that he is proud of his TYF legacy. Jack helped us to launch the campaign in 2016. For several seasons, Andrew Porter learned the ropes from McGrath and we were delighted to have Leinster Rugby showcase the prop’s recent ambassador video in their recent game against the Dragons at the RDS.
Undoubtedly, one of Jack’s career highlights was being involved on the day Ireland first beat the All Blacks in Chicago. That same afternoon, Joey Carbery made his Irish debut. The Munster player has gone on to play for his country on 37 occasions but was recently omitted from the Six Nations squad. However, to mark his call-up during the Championship, Joey speaks about his understanding of resilience and how he has overcome the various challenges in his career.
The Tackle Your Feelings team also joined our partners at Zurich at their Blackrock offices for an afternoon of meditation with Dermot Whelan. In other TYF related news, the campaign was featured by focusondiversity.ie.
— TYF (@TYFIreland) February 8, 2023
Get Well Soon!
Sending our best wishes to Kathryn Dane who recently revealed that she suffered a brain haemorrhage last year. Kathryn is firmly on the road to recovery and hopes to return to work and rugby in the near future.
— Kathryn Dane (@KathrynDane2) February 16, 2023
The Rugby Players Ireland team gathered at Druids Glen Hotel & Golf Resort to review our strategy and ensure we remain on course to have Ireland be the best place in the world to play rugby.
Earlier in the month, Rugby Players Ireland representatives were in Paris for the opening meeting of the Protect Integrity Online campaign being run by EU Athletes and a number of players’ associations from across Europe.
Stay tuned! pic.twitter.com/orU2X6gQmr
— RugbyPlayersIreland (@RugbyPlayersIRE) February 9, 2023
We were delighted to be informed that our Smart Money Habits programme has been nominated for Best Community Academic Collaboration award at the Education Awards 2023.
Developed in consultation with our members, and in partnership with the LIA, the centre of excellence for the education and development of finance professionals, Smart Money Habits is fundamental in future-proofing an athlete’s overall wellbeing throughout their playing career and beyond.
Doing the Business
Hugo Keenan‘s remarkable rise has been rewarded with a three year IRFU contract. A nominee for the Players’ Player of the Year in 2022, the full-back has scaled even greater heights in 2022/2023.
We were also delighted to see that Rugby Players Ireland’s Chairperson Peter O’Mahony has committed to an IRFU contract extension to the end of the 2023/24 season. O’Mahony’s Munster teammates David Kilcoyne and Stephen Archer are also staying put at the province where they will be joined by Alex Nankivell. The New Zealander joins from Super Rugby side Gallagher Chiefs whom John Ryan recently joined on a short-term deal.
Our congratulations to James Ryan, Andrew Porter and David Kilcoyne who all won their 50th Irish caps in Ireland’s impressive win over the French in Dublin. Incidentally, James and Andrew made their senior debuts together when Ireland faced the USA in 2017.
Well done to Jack Boyle who made his senior Leinster Rugby debut when he came off the bench against the Dragons. On the same weekend, Eoin de Buitléar got on the scoresheet for Connacht Rugby just weeks after signing his first professional contract. In the same game, Niall Murray celebrated his 50th cap for the province. Up north, Eric O’Sullivan made his 100th appearance for Ulster Rugby in their loss away to Glasgow.
With Shane Byrne‘s pre-season stretching into several weeks, it’s time now for his Legends teammates to play catch-up and start dusting off the boots in anticipation of the annual Ireland v England Legends fixture. Taking place on St. Patrick’s Day at Energia Park, the game looks set to be the curtain raiser to a potential Grand Slam clash the following afternoon.
Finally, we were truly saddened by the loss of Tom Tierney. Tom passed away unexpectedly at home on February 24th 2023. Our thoughts are with his wife Mary, adored daughters Isabel & Julia, his extended family and his many friends and colleagues in the wider rugby community.
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