SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE!
March 17th 2012 was the day the DonnyBrook Cup returned to the United States as the Tomahawks-America’s National Rugby League team defeated the Irish Wolfhounds in an entertaining match. As one of the most important dates on the USA’s Rugby League calendar, many were surprised to see the event included a number of Rugby Union matches earlier in the day.
For those in attendance on that unseasonably warm St Patrick’s Day in Philadelphia, PA, the day will not only be remembered for the 38-20 score line. It will also be remembered for the unique memories it created, for those who were able to open their mind to the opportunities that sport can provide…..some of which are highlighted below.
Earlier in the day, the Northeast Irish Rugby Football Club created their own piece of history when they competed in their inaugural sanctioned match against the Hibernians. The young Rugby Club played in one of the curtain raisers and although they won the match, the overall winner was the entire Rugby community. For the Irish’s Mike McManus, the day will long be remembered for the try he scored – the first ever for the newly sanctioned club.
The chance to participate at an event such as the DonnyBrook Cup, can often be the catalyst for a heightened performance. The opportunity to play in front of a larger crowd, at a bigger stadium than usual, provides participants with an experience that some may never enjoy again in their playing careers. For the Northeast Irish team, participating in the day’s festivities, gave them the motivation they needed to perform at their best. As a result, the matchup was embraced by their club and they grabbed the occasion with both hands!
As noted after the match by Northern Irish representative Joe Grohovsky “Withina few weeks’ time, NEI had transformed itself from a motley collection of amateur athletes into a close-knit group of ruggers, determined to compete with the best teams in Philadelphia.”
In the second matchup of the day Monsignor Bonner High School took on St. Augustine Prep high school and once again the feedback from the players was positive. According to St Augustine’s coach Andy Lewis “The St Augustine prep kids loved the day of Rugby at Widener.” Despite being down on the scoreboard 27-5 at halftime, the Hermits rallied in the second half to post two more tries. Ryan Halfpenny, Taylor Hurff, and Senior Jack Bromellwere the scorers, and although they fell short of victory it didn’t seemed to matter….it was that type of day!
But that’s not all! During the halftime of the main event, the kids were invited to take the field and participate in a skills and drills challenge. To see the youngsters running with a Rugby ball in hand was a breath of fresh air, and painted the perfect picture for which the many spectators, players, and volunteers who gave up their own personal time, and money to attend the match were delighted to see.
As rigorous sports lovers we often get caught up in the moment and forget the importance of educating our youth on the value of diversity, being willing to have an open mind, while creating opportunities for inclusiveness, cultural understanding and participation. Sport – like people is not perfect either. It is at times contaminated by individuals who put their own personal interests ahead of others, ahead of the sport itself. A dangerous mistake to make!
In many countries around the world, Rugby League and Rugby Union aren’t mentioned in the same breath together, as the two entities compete usually for the same players, television ratings, and market share. In America however, that rivalry is not present – and nor should it be. Why? Because for the majority of the American sporting community -“Rugby is Rugby” – they don’t know the difference! So rather than making a decision for them, it’s important they’re provided with options for which they can form their own opinion. The DonnyBrook Cup did just that!
As Justin Zadnik of the Hibernians noted after the match “We had a couple guys who never played or even saw any kind of rugby match before and they had a blast.”
The DonnyBrook Cup demonstrated the power sport can have. Through its organization, the event was able to promote inclusiveness, fun, education, and tradition. Not a bad foundation for any sporting program!
It featured two Rugby Union games in the lead up to the Rugby League international match between USA and Ireland. That in itself is no mean feat!
The event was attended by men, women, families of all ages and cultural backgrounds. There were wheelchair Rugby players, Rugby fans, Rugby League fans, and fans that had no idea there was even a difference in the variations of Rugby on offer throughout the day. And for the players who competed in the curtain raisers, or for the children who took the field at halftime, they couldn’t have cared less either!