By BRIAN DONOHUE
Over spring break the university’s club rugby team, Mother’s Rugby, along with a number of alumni and Professor Michael Spencer of the Department of Historic Preservation traveled to Ireland. The team spent four days in Dublin and three days in Galway. They played two games, both losses.
Coach Tim Brown toured Ireland in 1995 when he was a member of what was then the Mary Washington College Rugby Club.
“Initially, the players seemed surprised that the club had toured so many times in the past and that we have such strong connections in the rugby world,” Brown said.
Brown is a dual citizen of Ireland and the U.S. and through his contacts and with the help of former faculty advisor Dr. Richard Brown, Vice President of Student Affairs Doug Searcy, and Michael Spencer the team received “a million dollar tour.”
The 56 member convoy arrived in Dublin early Saturday, Feb. 27. They checked into the Four Courts hostel on the River Liffey in downtown Dublin. Afterward they met with Kevin Crookes of the Coolmine Rugby Football Club. The team watched the English-Irish national rugby game with their new friend.
“This was our first example of rugby hospitality,” Brown said. “If any students at UMW want to have lifelong friends, anywhere in the world, they need to play rugby at UMW.”
On Sunday the team played an alumni, B-side and A-side, match against Coolmine. Coolmine has an amazing facility in west Dublin where they treated Mother’s Rugby like friends and the matches were of great quality. The A-side played great in the first half. In the second half the team fell victim to a lack of sleep and Coolmine’s superior skill level. They lost the match 5-3. After the game, the Eagles received compliments from the team and its supporters, who didn’t even know we played rugby in the U.S.
On Tuesday the team travelled to Donnybrook, built in 1879 and is one of Dublin’s oldest stadiums, to play Old Wesley.
Old Wesley is one of Irelands most revered clubs and has produced many prominent professional players. When they arrived they were greeted by former Ireland international player and former British Lion, Philip Orr. Only top clubs get to play at Old Wesley and this was the second time Mother’s has had the honor.
The played a great game against Old Wesley, who is two levels above Coolmine. The team tackled well and the charge was led by junior Fitz Maro on that end while alumnus Scott Hoffmann kicked the ball strategically. By halftime, the Old Wesley players and coaches weren’t happy. They managed to give the club a good scare. Harrison Lyman passed the ball to Rex Mahoney and he took it for an uncontested try that would have made the score 14-13 for UMW, but the play was called back and Mother’s Rugby ended up losing the match 13-7.
After the game the team ate dinner with the Old Wesley squad and the two teams exchanged gifts. To honor our team, Old Wesley hung up a UMW rugby jersey on the walls at Donnybrook along with the jerseys of international teams like South Africa and New Zealand.
On Wednesday the team took a bus to Galway. There they met Eamonn Malloy, the director of Connacht Rugby. Connacht is a small team by Irish standards, but huge by U.S. standards. Later, John Dooley of Connacht spoke to the team about match preparation.
“It was amazing to be greeted by players we had seen on TV everywhere we went,” Brown said.
On Thursday the team met with Malloy and Dooley again. The two gave the team a tour of the stadium, its dressing rooms, training facilities and offices. Following this, the team had a hands on training session with Malloy and Dooley.
“As a coach I learned a lot from these pros and I know the current Mother’s filed away all that was said and done,” Brown said. “While Dublin is the capital of Ireland and a bigger city, the players really seemed to like Galway better – it is known as the home of traditional Irish music and all the signs are in Gaelic and English. I think the hospitality of the Connacht team meant a lot to our guys.”
The team returned Friday, March 5. In addition to Brown, the team has added a new coach, Neil Livett, for the spring semester and beyond. They have been working with the players on a daily basis and look forward to great improvement and success.