Highlights: Winter 2022
Hall of Fame
In early November we had the pleasure of inducting Tommy Bowe and Fiona Coghlan into our esteemed Hall of Fame. Held at the InterContinental Hotel in Dublin, the duo were joined by family and friends at a special ceremony.
Both Coghlan, who becomes the first female to be inducted, and Bowe join the likes of Keith Wood (2004), Ronan O’Gara (2016), and Brian O’Driscoll (2018) on an illustrious list of previous winners.
Dip-In for Laura Lynn
Our sincerest thanks to members across the country who braved the elements to help launch ‘Dip-In for LauraLynn’ in aid of LauraLynn, Ireland’s Children’s Hospice. From Seapoint to Salthill, players got in on the action despite the freezing conditions. The initiative forms part of Rugby Players Ireland’s partnership with LauraLynn, established in support of Executive Board Member Garry Ringrose‘s continued championing of the charity.
Our thanks also to former player Steve Crosbie and Fad Saoil Saunas for being on hand to bring everyone’s temperature back up in the aftermath! You can still support the cause here!
In other news involving our members’ charitable engagement, former RPI Chairperson Rob Kearney handed over €226,434 to the Children’s Health Foundation at Crumlin. The amount was raised at Kearney’s testimonial dinner recently held in Dublin.
Congratulations to Josh van der Flier who rounded out a superb calendar year by being named the World Rugby Player of the Year for 2022. The Irish flanker pipped his teammate and previous winner Johnny Sexton to the award. Meanwhile, Terry Kennedy scooped World Rugby’s Men’s 7s Player of the Year title. Sexton and van der Flier were also named in World Rugby’s Dream Team alongside Tadhg Beirne and Tadhg Furlong.
Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe (Women’s 7s Player of the Year), Linda Djougang (Women’s XVs Try of the Year), Mack Hansen and Dan Sheehan (Breakthrough Player of the Year) missed out in their respective categories but deserve great credit for being in the mix. So too must James Culhane who was nominated for the RTÉ Young Sportsperson of the Year Award, with van der Flier also in contention for the senior title.
Elsewhere, two of Rugby Players Ireland’s members were nominated in the United Rugby Championship’s inaugural Unity Awards. On the back of his work in the Belfast community and with Tackle Your Feelings, John Cooney was the ultimate winner in the category. Cooney was shortlisted along with Alex Soroka who has earned great praise for his advocacy on the unfolding events in Ukraine.
Several players reached significant milestones in their careers recently. Conor Murray became Ireland’s latest centurion when named to start against South Africa in November. Mark Roche and Jack Kelly marked their 100th appearance on the World Series during Ireland’s journey to bronze. Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe enjoyed her 50th with a hat-trick of tries.
At the other end of the scale, Jack Crowley, Jeremy Loughman and Cian Prendergast won their first Irish senior caps against Fiji, a game in which Tadhg Furlong captained his country for the first time. Joe McCarthy‘s Test debut came against Australia the following week. A little further afield, Vakh Abdaladze made his Georgian debut.
Elsewhere, Tom Daly, Cathal Forde, Kiran McDonald and John Ryan became fully fledged Barbarians!
Sadly others have endured a more difficult time of late. Thoughts are with Martin Moloney who suffered an ACL injury and will be out the the forseeable, while James Tracy has had to call time on a career that saw him win 141 caps for Leinster Rugby. The Kildare man was also capped by his country, scoring a try on his debut against Canada. As a Rugby Players Ireland Player Development Representative for a number of years, James has been an invaluable guide for his players’ assocation. We wish him well.
Player Development Programme
It has been a busy period for our Ulster Rugby Player Development Manager Pamela Gilpin. Following on from her role in Rugby Players Ireland’s Venture Leadership programme, Pam was central to discussions about leadership education for athletes at the #PROLead Dissemination Conference with EU Athletes.
Pam was also invited to speak about the PDP on The Red Hand podcast, where she was joined by Paddy McAllister in speaking about personal development in rugby and its broader application. You can listen to the chat here.
Sadly, we said goodbye to Professor Roger Downer in November. A former President of the University of Limerick, Professor Downer was a great supporter and advocate of our Player Development Programme. His passing was acknowledged in this tribute by The Irish Times.
Mental Health in Rugby Study
Thanks to the work of Dr Deirdre Lyons, Dr Philip Clarke of Derby University and Dr Robert Dempsey of Manchester Metropolitan University, Rugby Players Ireland released findings that promoted guidance to mental wellbeing services across the world of sport. The paper has been published in the Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology.
Irish XVs and 7s player Brittany Hogan also participated in a discussion facilitated by Mark Smyth, RPI’s Mental Wellbeing Service Lead, on the role mental health plays in sport at the Psychological Society of Ireland’s annual conference held in Portlaoise.
Tackle Your Feelings
Connacht Rugby Player Shane Jennings popped by his alma mater at Garbally College in Ballinasloe to impart some advice to the students in the management of their mental wellbeing.
Up the road, Jennings’ captain, teammate and fellow TYF supporter Jack Carty was proud to welcome the support of Marist College who launched this season’s cup jersey with Tackle Your Feelings proudly emblazoned across the chest.
After several months of consultations and cooperation, EU Athletes has published a Common Position Paper of the Member of European Elite Athletes Association. The Paper presents the agreed positions of player unions and associations representing over 25,000 athletes in various sports and countries across Europe on 12 topics that have been identified as fundamental for professional and elite athletes.
While we were delighted to see Andrew Conway, Jack Crowley and Jack O’Donoghue sign extensions to their Munster Rugby deals, we were sorry to see that John Ryan will once again depart the province. We wish him well on his move to Super Rugby with the Chiefs.
In Belfast, Rob Herring, Cormac Izuchukwu, Alan O’Connor, Marcus Rea, Tom Stewart, Nick Timoney and Kieran Treadwell all signed new deals with Ulster Rugby.
November also saw the launch of the Women’s XVs High Performance Programme. Our congratulations to Natasja Behan, Enya Breen, Kathryn Dane, Méabh Deely, Linda Djougang, Dannah O’Brien, Maeve Óg O’Leary, Leah Tarpey, Kayla Waldron and Dorothy Wall on their contracts.
Denis Fogarty speaks about how he coped with the loss of his father at just 23 and how the skills learned through rugby are now being put to use in his role as Regional Development Managerwith FREE NOW. Read it here.
Fergus McFadden and Devin Toner lined out alongside current Irish 7s international Bryan Mollen at Croke Park for the Croke Park Challenge for the Warrior for Humanity movement. In recent weeks McFadden was also involved as Pieta House launched their Hope Over Silence campaign which hopes to ensure everyone feels connected this Christmas. If you or someone you know needs help, please Freephone Pieta’s crisis helpline on 1800 247 247, you can also text HELP to 51444 (standard message rates apply).
We were saddened to learn of Doddie Weir’s passing in late November. Back in 2019, with Shane Byrne in command, we worked closely with Doddie’s team in the running of the annual Ireland (plus a few Scots) v England Legends game which was played in aid of the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation and the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association.
For the first time in three years, the staff at Rugby Players Ireland managed to get together in-person for Christmas. Kris Kindle over Zoom is now a distant memory, thankfully. Hard to believe where the past few years have gone.
We’ve also summarised the calendar year in our Annual Review which you can see here.
Wishing everyone a Happy Christmas!
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