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Highlights: January 2024

Highlights: January 2024

Gold Rush

There were any amount of tributes being offered up to the Irish Women’s Sevens team as they became the first Irish side to win a leg on the HSBC SVNS Series. They did so in style too, overcoming hosts Australia 19-14 in Perth. Bar being overturned by New Zealand in their pool, the Irish recorded victories over the USA, Japan and Fiji before comprehensively beating Great Britain in the semi-final. Ahead of the final (and further boosted by being named the HerSport.ie Team of the Year on the Saturday night), it was clear they were motoring nicely. 

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Travis Hayto

While Australia took an early lead, experienced campaigners Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, captain Lucy Mulhall and Eve Higgins made their presence felt to haul the Aussies back in. Higgins’ effort proved to be the critical scored and teed up unbridled joy at the final whistle and beyond… 

Murphy-Crowe and Mulhall were duly named in the HSBC Dream Team, while Terry Kennedy was inevitably named on the male equivalent having helped the Irish Men’s Sevens to a bronze medal in Perth. Though they will undoubtedly share in their female colleagues’ success, Harry McNulty and his teammates know they are not far off their own share of silverware. Indeed, in overcoming Fiji in the 3/4 Place Play-Off they have surpassed yet another milestone in their journey.  

Before heading down under, Rugby Players Ireland spoke to Emily Lane about the year ahead. Click on the image for more. 

 

Proud Honour

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

In the weeks following his decision to step down from his leadership duties at Munster Rugby, Peter O’Mahony was named as the new Irish captain when the Six Nations squad for 2024 was revealed. Considering it to be the biggest honour of his career, O’Mahony will lead a squad that takes on a familiar look despite injuries to Mack Hansen and Jimmy O’Brien, and the retirements of Johnny Sexton and Keith Earls. New Munster Rugby recruit Oli Jager was named as a training panellist alongside Sam Prendergast and Thomas Ahern who was forced to withdraw from the squad’s pre-Six Nations trip to Portugal as he goes through return-to-play protocols. 

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Meanwhile, O’Mahony’s provincial teammate Evan O’Connell will captain a strong Irish U20s into their own campaign. O’Connell returns alongside several players who featured in last year’s Grand Slam championship. 

 

Off-Field Achievement

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ben Brady

Our congratulations to Gavin Thornbury who achieved the top mark in Ireland in his ACCA Taxation exam in December. The result also saw him placed fourth in the world! Thornbury is a student at PAT Business School 

 

Player Accolades

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Rugby Players Ireland were in attendance as Bundee Aki and Nichola Fryday were named as the big winners at the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Awards. Both players won the respective writers’ Player of the Year awards with Lucy Mulhall and Harry McNulty taking home the Sevens awards. Alex Soroka was the winner of the Tom Rooney award for his outstanding contribution through fundraising for Ukraine, while Lynne Cantwell and David Humphreys both entered the Hall of Fame. 

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ben Brady

Our congratulations to Luke McGrath who won his 200th cap for Leinster Rugby, coming off the bench as the province comfortably swept aside the challenge of Stade Francais at the Aviva Stadium.  

 

Tackle Your Feelings

We were immensely proud of TYF Ambassador Andrew Porter who featured prominently in Six Nations: Full Contact which was released on Netflix in January. The cameras follow Porter through Ireland’s Grand Slam winning campaign of 2023 and lift the lid on how he has become one of the best props in the game, highlighting the many challenges he has had to overcome to get there. 

Porter first linked up with Tackle Your Feelings last year to emphasise how he values his support network. 

 

 

Clubhouse

Darragh Leader has been selected for the NFL International Player Pathway Class of 2024. The former Connacht Rugby man will be joined by Gaelic footballers Rory Beggan, Mark Jackson and Charlie Smyth as budding punters/kickers at the NFL Combine from the end of February. The quartet have been under the guidance of Tadhg Leader of Leader Kicking who has already seen some of his charges earn scholarships to colleges in the States. 

Both Leader brothers will also have been interested to learn that Connacht Rugby have announced the formation of the Connacht Past Players Association (PPA), a new society that further deepens the connection between the province and its players. The PPA is open to any male or female who has represented Connacht Rugby at senior level at any point in the 138 year history of the club.

In other news, Kairos – a sports tech firm co-founded by Andrew Trimble was acquired by Teamworks. Based out of North Carolina, Teamworks said the deal represented the next step in its transformation of sports technology. 

Ian Keatley has been appointed as attack coach for the Irish U20s.

Joy Neville has joined Connacht Rugby to take up a new role as Referee Development Manager.  

Sadly, Angus Curtis has been forced into retirement and now enters our Clubhouse. Aged just 25, the Zimbabwean born centre has struggled with a series of injuries in the years since his provincial debut in 2018. He made 25 appearances for the senior side but following two concussions early this season has been advised to hang up his boots and give up on a dream to follow his father David and grandfather Arthur Bryan into the Irish jersey. 

Find out more about Angus and his unique background here. 

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