How rugby lessons are building bridges

With Irish rugby (currently) on the up with [url=]3 wins[/url] in the Autumn International series, yesterday’s Observer reported how one school in County Armagh is beginning to [url=,,1957368,00.html]break down the barriers[/url] existing between GAA and rugby in Northern Ireland. (My thanks to Aaron S for pointing out the story)

  • Dr Strangelove

    I think it is appalling that Catholic schools in the North do not teach rugby to the pupils. Having the current Magnier’s League Champions and European Champions from the Island means there is a fantastic chance to build solid foundations in the sport across all the community.

  • Stiofán de Buit

    Good to see some people working to break down the barriers.

    Let’s hope it moves further – with Rugby being run on an all-Ireland basis, and so only one Irish team to support, it has more chance of being a bridge-builder than Footie.

  • Cahal

    “I think it is appalling that Catholic schools in the North do not teach rugby to the pupils.”

    I think it is appalling that State schools in the North do not teach GAA to the pupils.

  • Cahal

    Actually, I don’t really care.

  • Brian Lamb

    Armagh is the hot spot for this kind of thing –City of Armagh Rugby Club runs a mini rugby section with particpation from all the local primaries and over 120 kids every Saturday.

  • Yokel

    Yay Cahal…more people who dont care, thats the spirit

  • Greenflag

    With Ireland in form defeating South Africa , Australia and the Pacific Islands in quick succession hopes are rising for the 6 nations and World Cup 🙂

    If RC Schools in NI take up the sport this can only add depth to the Irish team and lead to longer term rigby success . Cooperation between the GAA and IRFU can only be good for the sport . With England scheduled to play in the 6 nations against Ireland in Croke Park 2007 is already looking like one of Ireland’s best ever years in rugby:)

  • willowfield

    A very positive move by the school in question.

  • feismother

    I read that article yesterday and They’ve been playing Rugby in St Columb’s College in Derry for a number of years now alongside Soccer and Gaelic. It could be the same in many other schools for all I know.

  • Southern Observer

    Was there not a guy called Seamus Mallon (not the politician ) playing for Ulster?

  • slug

    Let us hope that this helps bring together the two sides of NI’s community into a more organic whole.

  • Michael Robinson

    “Was there not a guy called Seamus Mallon (not the politician ) playing for Ulster?’

    Yes – he now plays for Northampton Saints (

    He was a decent enough player but would struggle to make the current Ulster first team. A pity, because Trimble and Mallon in the centre for Ulster would have been a sub-editor’s dream…

  • Patrique

    The politician was a noted GAA player, and may have played for Ulster.

  • Patrique

    And before the opening of St Pat’s Maghera, instead of travelling to Belfast or Derry, many of the GAA fraternity went to Rainey Endowed, and graced the rugby team with honour.That’s when Rainey were a force at Rugby.
    And just think how Peter Canavan may have performed at scrum half, or Anthony Tohill at number 8.

  • George

    “I think it is appalling that Catholic schools in the North do not teach rugby to the pupils”

    Personally, I think it is appalling that Protestant schools in Leinster have the nerve to let on that they are teaching rugby to their pupils.

    Do the pampered students of High School, St. Andrews, Wesley etc. even know what the LSC looks like I ask myself?

    Be warned Nordies, once those competitive buckos in Armagh start playing for keeps with the oval ball, they’ll be dominating in no time.

    You Methodist chaps will be sick to the back teeth of this “progressive development” in 10 years, harking back to the good old days of merely battling with Campbell College for all the glory.

  • Henry94

    Ruby is completely integrated in the south. Clearly this school is preparing for repartition.

  • againstthehead

    I seem to remember years ago the dungannon rugby team and gaelic teams played a game 1 half each of rugby and gaelic. I seem to remember the rugby boys winning both halves…

  • willowfield

    Does anyone know why RC schools in NI don’t play rugby, yet there is apparently no theological objection to the sport in the South?

  • El Diablo

    why RC schools in NI don’t play rugby, yet there is apparently no theological objection to the sport in the South?

    In fact in many such schools it is a religon in itself. Is it true that there are NO RC schools in the North teaching Rugby? That’s incredible.

  • Billy Pilgrim


    “Does anyone know why RC schools in NI don’t play rugby, yet there is apparently no theological objection to the sport in the South?”

    Clearly it has nothing to do with theology. Actually, I don’t think you’re on the right track talking about there being an “objection” to rugby in Catholic schools here. I don’t think there is any “objection” – I think it’s simply a case that schools have sporting traditions – some stronger than others – and those traditions are the deciding factor in what sports people play. This is not actually a bad thing – sporting traditions in schools are wonderful.

    El Diablo points out that in some schools (say, Methody, Inst, Campbell, RS Dungannon, RS Armagh, Ballymena etc) rugby is like a religion. The same is true of many RC schools, except that in the likes of St Colman’s Newry, St Pat’s Armagh/Maghera/Dungannon/Cavan, Omagh CBS, Abbey CBS Newry, the “religion” is Gaelic football.

    I remember in my own school (St Pat’s Armagh), the year after I left there was an attempt to start up a rugby team. Initially there was great enthusiasm and lots of fellas joined up. I believe they even played a couple of practice matches with the neighbours at RS Armagh. After a while though, the experiment simply petered out and most of the lads went back to playing Gaelic.

    Now, this wasn’t a question of anyone “objecting” to rugby. The experiment petered out for very mundane, sporting reasons. This is not to say that there won’t some day be a rugby team at St Pat’s – in fact I think it’s fair to say that rugby is widely admired there, and followed with some interest. But the reality is that within the school, another sport already a very proud, powerful and storied tradition stretching back generations. (In 2003 St Pat’s Armagh set a new record with no fewer than SIXTEEN ex-pupils taking part in the All Ireland final – 11 Armagh, 5 Tyrone players. That’s the stuff dreams are made of – and it’s the kind of stuff that has made St Pat’s a great GAA institution for generations.) Any new sport vying for attention against such a wonderful tradition is, of course, facing a huge challenge. (Just as I’m sure a GAA team being set up in Methody would be unlikely to cause the scales to fall from the eyes of the rugby-playing fraternity there.)

    The same is true of any number of other RC schools across Ireland. (And I’ve only named the main MacRory powers – there are lots of smaller schools that compete at lower levels that also have proud traditions.) It’s not like these proud traditions have been built on some “objection” to other sports. But there IS room for rugby in RC schools, just as there should be room for Gaelic games in schools where they are not presently played.

    Then maybe some bright St Patrick’s Day we’ll see St Colman’s Newry playing in a School’s Cup Final at Ravenhill while, across town in Casement, Campbell are challenging for the MacRory.

  • Dec

    Clearly it has nothing to do with theology.

    Correct and it’s certainly extends beyond Catholic schools. Do Boys Model or Ashfield play Rugby. In school sports, individual schools tend to excell at particular sports often to the detriment of others. St Malachy’s have a pretty good record in football and basketball but are pretty useless at Gaelic (though the Martin O’Neill-inspired MacRory Cup era still glows brightly after all these years). Similarly Boys Model have an exceptional football record but haven’t figured in too many Schools Cup finals at Ravenhill.

    Quite simply, class is an important factors. It should be borne in mind that in most of the North’s Catholic Grammar schools the class spread amongst pupils is a lot wider than the Methody’s and Inst’s of the world.