Highlights: May 2023

Highlights: May 2023

Carnival de Paris!

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Martin Seras Lima

Our Irish Women’s 7s are in for quite a year having secured qualification for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. With such a big prize on the line of their final leg on the World Series circuit, the pressure was ramped up in Toulouse when Ireland came head-to-head with Fiji in a straight shootout for the last automatic place to be won on the series. A brace of first-half tries from Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe sealed the deal with Ireland finishing fifth overall for the season. 


Rugby Players Ireland Awards

With an energetic contingent of our soon-to-be Olympians in the room, there was a great atmosphere for the Rugby Players Ireland Awards 2023 at The Clayton Hotel on the Burlington Road. Hosted by Barry Murphy and Andrew Trimble, we celebrated the on and off-field achievements of our members across the 2022/23 season. Our congratulations to our winners who each beat off strong competition from their fellow nominees. 

Bank of Ireland Men’s XVs Players’ Player of the Year: Caelan Doris

Bank of Ireland Women’s XVs Players’ Player of the Year: Neve Jones

TritonLake Women’s 7s Player of the Year: Lucy Mulhall

TritonLake Men’s 7s Player of the Year: Andrew Smith

izest Marketing Women’s XVs Young Player of the Year: Aoife Dalton

Nevin Spence Men’s XVs Young Player of the Year: Jack Crowley

Zurich Contribution to Irish Society Award: Alex Soroka

AIB Corporate Banking Women’s XVs Try of the Year: Nichola Fryday v Scotland

MSL Mercedes-Benz Dealerships’ Men’s XVs Try of the Year: Mack Hansen v South Africa

Druids Glen Hotel & Golf Resort Moment of the Year: Ireland’s Grand Slam (accepted by Johnny Sexton)


Player Development Programme

Members of our 7s squads joined us at Rugby Players Ireland HQ for a Personal Development Day featuring sessions on journaling, breathwork, yoga and and informative workshop on coaching pathways and qualifications. 

Before she took her leave of the HPC, outgoing PDM Carol Keenan also shared her experiences of working with the 7s groups.



Mental Wellbeing

Mark Smyth, Clinical Lead Psychologist at Rugby Players Ireland, who spoke with Alan Dymock at Rugby World Magazine about how the players’ association supports our members’ mental wellbeing especially through experiences of grief. Click on the image to read. 


Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

As she steps up her recovery from a brain haemorrhage, Kathryn Dane continues to blaze a scientific trail with her research on the tackle in the women’s game. Led by the Irish scrumhalf, researchers in Trinity College found tackle-related injuries remain a problem in the women’s game, accounting for up to 67pc of all match injuries. The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine followed responses from female players across continents of Europe, South Africa and Canada.

More here.



On top of the Rugby Players Ireland Awards, several members have been recognised in some way in recent weeks. 

Our Connacht Rugby members gathered to close the curtain for their Player of the Year Awards with Caolin Blade and Orla Dixon named Men’s and Women’s Player of the Year respectively. Niall Murray was voted the Fans’ Player of the Year by the public, while the Academy Player of the Year award went to Hugh Gavin, who was also named U19 Player of the Year.

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Andrew Downes

Dan Sheehan will have overcome the disappointment of not landing the Bank of Ireland Players’ Player of the Season at the RPI Awards by being named the URC Players’ Player by the captains and vice-captains of all participating teams. 

Tom Stewart landed an awards double after being named United Rugby Championship’s NextGen Player of the Season for 2022/23 in addition to scooping the Top Try Scorer Award. John Hodnett was the league’s Tackle Machine for the campaign.

On the Move

A great servant to Ulster Rugby in recent seasons, Sam Carter has departed for Leicester Tigers. Fellow second-row Frank Bradshaw Ryan returns to France to link up with USM Sapiac.

Hugh O’Sullivan has left London Irish for Newcastle Falcons. 

Meanwhile, just shy of 1,000 points in his career, JJ Hanrahan will be hoping to move beyond that tally with Connacht Rugby next season. 



Former Connacht, Leinster and Ulster player Mick Kearney brought his career to an end with Clontarf in AIL Final. Unfortunately for the 32-year-old, Terenure College spoiled his last dance. Robin Copeland, who also turned out for a number of the Irish provinces called time on his career as Soyaux-Angoulême’s season came to an end in France ProD2. 

In Copeland’s former Munster Rugby haunt, we were sad to see Liam (Boomer) O’Connor bow out. The Cork native’s time at the province troubled by injury, restricting him to just two appearances this campaign – one being a memorable outing against a South Africans Select XV at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Academy lock Paddy Kelly has also been advised to retire. However, as he came to terms with his impending retirement, Kelly has been focusing on establishing Vision Solar, a solar installation company based out of Limerick.

Another to have come away with a loss on his final outing was Jordi Murphy. However, the 30-times capped Irish international was afforded something of a swansong as he took to Twickenham to line out for a World XV against the Barbarians. 

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

Brothers Dan and Adam Leavy launched Ogham Whiskey, selling out of the product within hours of its release. 

A founding member of Rugby Players Ireland (then IRUPA), Peter McKenna continues to play a significant role in the players’ association as both legal advisor and member of the Executive Board. This month, Leinster Rugby – with whom he played 41 times between 1997 and 2003 – caught up with him to see where his post-rugby career has taken him. 

Read Pete’s ‘Where Are They Now?’ article here. 

Joy Neville will make history at this years men’s Rugby World Cup when she becomes the first female to officiate at the tournament. 

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

James Coughlan continues his upward trajectory in the coaching game, helping Toulon to Challenge Cup success. His former teammates Ronan O’Gara, Donnacha Ryan and Sean Dougall were to the fore of LA Rochelle’s sensational Heineken Champions Cup victory over Leinster the following day. 

On May 25, Rory Best completed his 330km walk from the Aviva Stadium to the Daisy Lodge Therapeutic facility in Cong, Co. Mayo. The initiative was in aid of children’s cancer services through the Cancer Fund for Children. Best was accompanied by several RPI members at various stages of his journey. 



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