Highlights: January 2023

Highlights: January 2023

Drawing True Strength from his Support Network

As 2023 got going, Tackle Your Feelings announced Andrew Porter as the campaign’s latest ambassador. In his video highlighting the TYF Schools programme, Porter reflects on the impact his family and friends have had on his mental wellbeing especially since his mother passed away at a young age, and the importance he places on being surrounded by a strong support network.

The clip explores Andrew’s gratefulness for his supportive network of family and friends, who have always been there for him to talk to and to express his feelings. Andrew speaks openly about his fiancé, family, friends and even his dog, Pablo, as the enablers of his strength whether in his personal life or his rugby career.

You can read more from Andrew’s open conversation with TYF here

Earlier in the month Craig Casey also gave his support for Tackle Your Feelings in a brief clip outlining how his family supported him through some early challenges in his rugby career. 

Looming Large

The Six Nations season is once again upon us, and we couldn’t be more excited!

The Johnny Sexton-led Six Nations squad has a familiar feel to it following a hugely successful 2022 for the side, however injuries and a good run of form have seen both Jamie Osborne and Tom Stewart called in.

Osborne and Stewart were involved in the Emerging Ireland tour along with Jack Crowley, Joe McCarthy and Cian Prendergast who have all made the transition into the senior set-up. Meanwhile, Ben Healy is set to represent Scotland in the forthcoming Championship. 

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo


The U20 Six Nations will kick-off simultaneously with Gus McCarthy, a year out from leading Blackrock College to a Leinster Schools’ Senior Cup title, captaining the side. Leinster duo Diarmuid Mangan and Conor O’Tighearnaigh, as well as Ulster back row James McNabney, were part of last season’s Grand Slam-winning squad, while a further four players – Sam PrendergastCharlie Irvine, Harry West and George Hadden – are named in the 2023 Championship squad having featured during the U20 Summer Series in Italy last June.

Greg McWilliams’ preparation for the Women’s Six Nations took another step-up with the inaugural fixture of the Celtic Challenge tournament. Co-led by Hannah O’Connor and Enya Breen, the Combined Provinces XV will compete with Welsh and Scottish development sides over the coming weeks, providing a high-performance tournament window for players in national-team contention ahead of the 2023 TikTok Six Nations.



With a busy year ahead, Peter O’Mahony set his stall out for the coming months with this message for his fellow Rugby Players Ireland members

O’Mahony’s note was included in the winter edition of the Rugby Players Ireland magazine. Click on the image below to view. 

Across the water, both Ciara Cooney and Edel McMahon have taken their place on the first ever Women’s Rugby Association players’ board as representatives of Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC and Exeter Chiefs Women RFC respectively. 

Rugby Players Ireland have also linked up with EU Athletes for the PROtect Integrity Online, an Erasmus+ project co-funded by the European Union. It will focus on researching, developing, implementing and evaluating the best ways to deliver integrity education, particularly related to fighting match-fixing and corruption in sport. Pamela Gilpin has also been involved in a further European initiative that aims to deliver bespoke leadership courses to athletes. 


Locks of Love

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

To mark Darragh Murray’s first start at the Sportsground for Connacht Rugby, the forward shaved his renowned mullet in aid of two charities, LauraLynn (as Rugby Players Ireland’s charity partner) and Mayo Roscommon Hospice raising over €18,000 in the process. 

Murray had been holding out on a much-needed cut to ensure his hair would benefit the Little Princess Trust and be used to provide real hair wigs for children who have lost their hair due to cancer treatment in Ireland and the UK.  

He reflects on the experience here


Dual Career

Having kicked off her eighth campaign as an Irish Sevens international, Stacey Flood told us how she balances a role with Deep Pool Financial Solutions alongside her playing commitments.

Flood was part of the squad that recently finished fourth at the Sydney Sevens, their third consecutive finish in such a position. 

Read her interview with Rugby Players Ireland here. 

The men’s squad, with World Rugby 7s Player of the Year Terry Kennedy back in the fold, finished 5th in both Hamilton and Sydney. 



Calling Time

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

The end of any playing career is tough, especially when a player may feel they have failed to fulfil their true potential. Charlie Ryan may see himself in this category having been forced to call time on his career at just 23 years of age.

The Leinster lock enjoyed had a glittering age grade career in his school Blackrock College, with the Ireland U-20s and indeed captained Leinster Rugby ‘A’ to their 2019 Celtic Cup Final win over Ulster ‘A’. Ryan was also captain of the Grand Slam winning Ireland U-20s side of 2019, when David Hawkshaw was ruled through injury, and he carried that honour with him through to the U-20s World Cup that summer.

We wish him well for the future. 


Special Moments

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

Munster Rugby retained the Vodafone Interprovincial Championship following a clean sweep of victories over their provincial rivals. The side, captained by Nicole Cronin with former Ireland international Niamh Briggs as Head Coach, are now unbeaten in two seasons. 

Making the campaign all the sweeter for the Munster crew was the engagement of teammates Chloe Pearse and Clodagh O’Halloran on the field after victory over Leinster Rugby. 

Elsewhere, James Culhane and Aitzol King made their respective Leinster Rugby debuts against Cardiff Rugby while an elder statesman of the squad became only the fifth player to reach 100 European appearances as he came off the bench against Gloucester. Cian Healy now embarks on his 14th season for Ireland. 

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo


The Wheel Keeps Turning

Connacht Rugby were busy throughout January as they tied several players to new deals at the Sportsground. Our congratulations to our Executive Board Member Dave Heffernan and his teammates Caolin Blade, Eoin de Buitléar, David Hawkshaw, Sam Illo, Niall Murray, John Porch and Dylan Tierney-Martin who have each committed their futures to the province.

Meanwhile, their captain Jack Carty became the province’s leading points scorer of all-time during their bonus point win over the Emirates Lions. Donnacha Byrne departs the club to link up with Cobras Brasil XV based in São Paulo.

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

Exeter Chiefs stalwart Dave Ewers is set to join Ulster Rugby ahead of next season. We look forward to welcoming him to Ireland. 


Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Having had his career cut short through injury, Rowan Osborne spoke to Rugby Players Ireland about how he remains grateful to have experienced professional rugby if even for a relatively short period.

Check out his interview here. 

Osborne’s former teammate James Tracy was given a fitting send-off following his recent retirement during Leinster’s clash with Racing 92 at the Aviva Stadium

In Australia, Scott Fardy received a Commendation from Japan’s Foreign Minister for his work in Kamaishi following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. 

Shane Byrne is back in training for the upcoming Ireland v England Legends game by taking part in Dancing with the Stars Ireland. The former Irish hooker has brought his trademark energy to the show and remains in the hunt for the top prize. 

Our congratulations to Byrne’s Legends teammate John Kelly who has has been appointed as a partner in Deloitte’s audit and assurance practice in Cork. 

Dan Leavy and Philip Matthews alongside Dr Emma Burrows delivered an insightful workshop to our partners at Energia on growth mindset, accountability and placing focus on the 1% to achieve goals. 

Judy Bobbett has won the +81kgIrish Elite title at the National Boxing Championships in just her second ever competitive fight.


Greg O’Shea spoke openly about the impact of fame on his life following his retirement from rugby, and the loss of his identity.  


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