Rugby league in Ireland

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Rugby league in Ireland
Country Ireland
Governing body Rugby League Ireland
National team Ireland
Nickname(s) Wolfhounds
First played 1934
National competitions

Rugby league is a team sport played in Ireland on an all-Ireland basis.


In May 1934 Wigan beat Warrington 32-19 in an exhibition match in Dublin. Twenty years later, in May 1954, Warrington were again defeated by Halifax in both Belfast (34-15) and Dublin (23-11).

Several Irish rugby union players have crossed the Irish Sea to play in British Championship, most notably Irish forwards Robin Thompson, in the 1950s, and Ken Goodall a decade later.

The first club side to actually play in Ireland, Dublin Blues, were not formed until 1989. They consisted mostly of rugby union players who wanted to test themselves in the other code. The Blues competed against touring teams from Britain scoring victories over British amateur opposition.

In early 1995 the Rugby Football League development arm financed the position of a Development Officer for Ireland, providing a boost to the development of the game. This laid the basis for the formation of the national Ireland side, which played its first ever game on St Patrick's Day 1995, in Washington DC, defeating the USA 24-22.

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.

Governing body and competitions[edit]

Main article: Rugby League Ireland

In Ireland governing body is Rugby League Ireland (RLI).

Current teams:

Leinster League[edit]

Division 1[edit]

Division 2[edit]

Munster League[edit]

Ulster league[edit]

Division 1[edit]

Division 2[edit]

Past All-Ireland Champions[edit]

Year Winner
1997 Dublin Blues
1998 Northside Saints
1999 Dublin Blues
2000 Churchtown Warriors
2001 Cork Bulls
2002 Dublin City Exiles
2003 Dublin City Exiles
2004 Clontarf Bulls
2005 Treaty City Titans
2006 Treaty City Titans
2007 Treaty City Titans
2008 Carlow Crusaders
2009 Treaty City Titans
2010 Treaty City Titans
2011 Treaty City Titans
2012 Country Cowboys
2013 Treaty City Titans
2014 Barnhall Butchers
2015 Treaty City Titans

Ulster/Northern Ireland champions[edit]

Year Winner
2009 Ballynahinch Rabbitohs
2010 Ballynahinch Rabbitohs
2011 Ballynahinch Rabbitohs

Provincial League Champions[edit]

Year Winner Runner-up
2010 Munster Leinster
2011 Leinster Ulster
2012 Ulster Leinster


In 2011 an academy was set up in Limerick where talented players would be identified to sign with Super League clubs, 4 were eventually signed to St Helens R.F.C., Castleford Tigers and Leeds Rhinos respectively.[1]


There are two weekly rugby league newspapers in the UK Rugby Leaguer & League Express and League Weekly and two monthly magazines, Rugby League World and Thirteen Magazine. Most of their content covers the sport in Britain, Australia and New Zealand but Irish rugby league is also covered. These publications are usually only available by subscription in Ireland.

International rugby league magazine covers all rugby league internationally and has featured Ireland's domestic season, road to the world cup and interviewed Luke Ambler.[2]

A rugby union publication called Emerald Rugby covers rugby league in Ireland each month.

BBC Sport own the rights to broadcast a highlights package called the Super League Show which was first broadcast in Northern Ireland in 2008. Prior to this it had only been broadcast in the North of England.[3] Rugby League Raw is not broadcast in Northern Ireland despite the BBC owning the rights to do so. The BBC covers the Rugby League Challenge Cup from the rounds in which the top clubs enter.

BBC Radio Five Live and BBC Five Live Sports Extra carry commentary from a selection of Super League matches each week,.

Sky has the rights to show live Super League games; one or two live matches are broadcast often fronted by Mike Stephenson and Eddie Hemmings. Sky also hold the rights to show the Rugby League Tri-Nations live, whilst highlights are shown on BBC Sport. Australia's National Rugby League and State of Origin were shown until 2005-06 season when Setanta Sports outbid Sky for the rights.

Setanta Sports Ireland broadcast highlights of the 2005 and 2006 pre-season Dublin challenge matches, and the 2005 European Nations Cup, on its Sports Weekly and Sports Monthly programmes.

Manchester based Channel M show some National League and amateur rugby on their Code XIII programme.

The national team[edit]

There are in fact two Ireland teams: the full Ireland side is dominated by players of Irish ancestry from the European Super League and the NRL, whilst the Irish Wolfhounds side is made up of players from the domestic Irish competition.

Until recently the Great Britain team were known as 'Great Britain and Ireland' and Irish players were able to play for them. Brian Carney (rugby footballer) is a rare example of a player who played in the Irish league and then gained a professional contract with Super League club Wigan Warriors, he went on to play for Great Britain and Ireland.

Ireland also has a strong students Wolfhounds team who competed in the 2008 Students world cup and finished 2nd in the student's 4 nations tournament in 2009.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-09-27. Retrieved 2011-08-07. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Super League Show to get repeat". BBC Sport. 2008-02-11. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 

External links[edit]