Rugby League Ireland

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Rugby League Ireland
Rugby League Ireland logo
Founded 1988
RLIF affiliation 2000
RLEF affiliation 2003 (Full member)
Responsibility Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland
Headquarters Dublin, Ireland
Key people Dr Michael Molloy (Chair)
Competitions Ulster Championship
Munster Championship
Leinster Championship
Website [1]
Republic of Ireland
As of 30 June 2009

Rugby League Ireland (RLI) is the internationally recognised governing body for the development of rugby league football in Ireland,[1] having secured official recognition from the RLIF in 2000. It is recognised within the Irish Sports Council and took over the running of the international team entirely in 2008 for the World Cup.


Modern-day rugby league in Ireland began in 1989 when Brian Corrigan founded the Dublin Blues, consisting mostly of rugby union players who wanted to stay fit over the summer. The Blues competed against touring teams from Britain and surprised many of the touring sides with the quality of their play, scoring many memorable victories over British amateur opposition.

In early 1995 the British Rugby Football League development arm financed the position of a Development Officer for Ireland, providing a massive boost to the development of the game. In the same year Ireland formed its very first competitive team to play against the USA in Washington DC on St. Patrick's Day. Ireland won 24–22.

A strong student's framework was also established with teams representing Ireland at the Student's Rugby League World Cup in Australia in 1992 and the UK in 1996 comprising Ireland based and UK based players. In 1996 the tournament was based in Warrington, England and several members of the Irish national champion Dublin Blues represented the Ireland Student Team against USA, Western Samoa, New Zealand, Japan and Wales. These included Phelim Comerford, Gavin Lee, Robert McDonnell, Paul Ryan, Dara Maccarthy and Sean Cleary. In addition Gavin Gordon of the Bangor Vikings and London Broncos formed part of the team. The highlight of the tournament from an Irish perspective was a spirited performance against the eventual runners-up, Western Samoa, which saw the difference between the 2 teams being a single score until 10 minutes from time.

In 1996, the inaugural Ireland "State of Origin" series was established between the North of Ireland and Southern Ireland where representatives of the club teams engaged in the All-Ireland competition played for each region over a 3 match competition. The inaugural winner was the Southern team. Some of the players involved in the State of Origin series from both regions over the next few years included some of the original stalwarts of Rugby League in Ireland: Eric Doyle, Phelim Comerford, Rickey Smith, Innes Gray, Brian Carney, Sean Cleary, Gavin Gordon, Peter McNamara, Dara Maccarthy, Gavin Lee, Paul Ryan, Conor O'Sullivan, Neil Ryan, Ernie Hendy, Dave Moore, Garret Molloy, Mick Molloy and Mick Browne.

In 1999, an Ireland Amateur team played in a tri-angular tournament against Wales and Scotland.

Competitive matches were established between teams in Leinster and Ulster: Schoolboy matches were played between Dublin and Belfast schools, Open Age Clubs competed against each other in the All-Ireland Challenge Cup. Teams included Belfast Wildcats and Bangor Vikings from Ulster. From Leinster there were Dublin-based Dublin Blues, North Side Saints, Tallaght Tigers,[2] Churchtown Warriors, Seapoint Sharks and Bray-based East Coast Panthers. From Munster the Cork Bulls were formed under the guidance of Ex-Dublin Blues stalwart Peter McNamara. Northside Saints and Cork Bulls had their successes but the long-established Dublin Blues were always pre-eminent and there or thereabouts when it came to the trophy presentations.

The modern-day Rugby League Ireland was formed in 2001 initially in Leinster and Munster conferences, prior to this the competition was known as Ireland Rugby League,[3] though after a season the league reverted to a national competition for two seasons before the conferences were reintroduced for 2004.

In 2006 the Leinster and Munster conferences were abandoned in favour of an all-Ireland league, but conference play was reintroduced for the 2007 season, this time on a North/South basis, below the Elite division.

For 2008 two national divisions operate, the Carnegie League and the Emerald Rugby National Conference.

In 2009 the Emerald National Conference has been replaced by the Emerald League run on a merit league basis [2]. However, the Emerald League is unlikely to run in 2009 and it is hoped it will run in the future. Also a separate Northern Ireland league has been re-established.

In 2010 the Provincial Conferences were re-instated with the Leinster, Munster and Ulster Conferences. A total of 17 teams competed during the season.

The Conference Champions were:

  • Ulster – Ballynahinch Rabbitohs
  • Leinster – Dublin City Exiles
  • Munster – Treaty City Titans

The same format of provincial competitions has run since 2010 and remains in place as of 2014.


Four Provinces Flag of Ireland

The Irish rugby league team draws its players from across the Island of Ireland. At the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, the Ireland team entered the field of play at the beginning of their matches with the Four Provinces Flag of Ireland.[4]


SRL Leagues
Name Tier Established Winners
Ulster Championship 1 2008 Ballynahinch Rabbiohs
Munster Championship 1 2008 Treaty City Titans
Leinster Championship 1 2008 Barnhall Butchers

Irish National Team

Irish National Team
Badge of Irish National Team team
Nickname Wolfhounds
Governing body Rugby League Ireland
Region Europe
Head coach Mark Aston
Captain Liam Finn
Most caps Bob Beswick (16)
Top try-scorer Phil Cantillon (9)
Top point-scorer Liam Finn (64)
RLIF ranking 9th
First international
 United States 22–24 Ireland 
(Washington D.C., US; 17 March 1995)
Biggest win
 United States 6–64 Ireland 
(Dublin, Ireland; 10 May 2004)
Biggest defeat
 Russia 64–6 Ireland 
(Dublin, Ireland; 16 May 2004)
World Cup
Appearances 3 (first time in 2000)
Best result Quarter-finals, 2008

The Ireland national rugby league team, known as the Wolfhounds, represents Ireland in rugby league football. The team is organised by Rugby League Ireland. The representative team is dominated by players from the European Super League and sometimes includes players from the Australasian National Rugby League. Ireland is also represented by Ireland A ,an amateur side which is made up of players from the domestic Irish competition.

Since Ireland began competing in international rugby league in 1995, it has participated in the 1995 Rugby League Emerging Nations Tournament, the 1996 Super League World Nines, and three Rugby League World Cups2000, 2008 and 2013. They have also competed in the Rugby League European Nations Cup and Victory Cup. Ireland A compete annually in the St Patrick's Day Challenge in the Amateur Four Nations.

Irish players have in the past been selected to play for the Great Britain side, one recent example being Cork-born Brian Carney. However, since the Great Britain team was split into individual nations in 2007, it is unlikely that this situation will arise again.

See also


  1. Hickey, Julia (2006). Understanding Rugby League. UK: Coachwise. p. 11. ISBN 978-1-905540-10-5. Retrieved 20 February 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Tallaght Tigers
  3. "History of rugby league in Ireland". Rugby League Ireland. Archived from the original on 17 January 2010. Retrieved 17 January 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links