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Galway hosts first ever Wheelchair Rugby League international in Ireland

The first international Wheelchair Rugby League match to be played in Ireland took place in Galway.

Three games in the Wheelchair Rugby League Celtic Cup were held in University of Galway Kingfisher Club on Saturday June 8.

Ireland, Wales, and Scotland battled it out with the home team looking to win the annual competition for the first time since 2015.

Jim Reynolds, chairperson of Rugby League Ireland, lives in Newcastle in Galway City and was instrumental in bringing the tournament to the City of the Tribes.

It has been held in England, Wales, and Scotland but never in Ireland.

Not to be confused with ‘Murder Ball’ or Wheelchair Rugby which sports enthusiasts may recall from Paralympic Games, Wheelchair Rugby League was developed in France 20 years ago.

It is a wheelchair version of rugby league – a rugby ball is used (unlike a volleyball-type ball in wheelchair rugby), the ball must be passed backwards as per rugby league (it can go forward in the wheelchair rugby), and you must ‘ground’ the ball to score a try.

Tackling in Wheelchair Rugby League involves ‘tags’ – like tag rugby, although it is a contact sport. Teams are mixed, with men and women. Each of the three nations has a squad of ten players, and up to five of them are allowed to be able bodied, who compete in wheelchairs. This was allowed to encourage more teams to participate in local areas of France, where it was invented.

In previous years, Ireland’s team players were mostly based abroad but most on the current squad are based in this country.

All wheelchair sports are controlled through Irish Wheelchair Association, and it has become more popular here in the last two years.

This Celtic Cup kick-starts the beginning of a national league in Ireland with four teams, one from each province, competing against each other from next September.

Galway resident Jim Reynolds, chairperson of the organisation for the past four years, said it was an honour to bring the Celtic Cup to Galway.

Matches last 80 minutes in two halves. The first game Ireland versus Scotland is at 10.30am; followed by Wales versus Scotland (12.30pm) and Ireland versus Wales, the defending champions (2.30pm).

“It’s a really exciting sport. The World Cup was held two years ago, and the BBC as part of their broadcasting deal, showed Wheelchair Rugby League matches – viewership figures went through the roof and took everybody by surprise,” said Mr Reynolds.

“It is a fantastic sport. My aim is to grow it as fast as possible across the country. It’s a blood exciting game, and the fact that it is the very first time hosting it in Ireland, and it’s in Galway and not Dublin, it would be great if people came to support and shout on the Ireland team. They’re individuals who have their own stories about how they ended up in wheelchairs and it would be great to see them proudly putting on the green jersey,” he added.

Pictured: Galway bound…the Irish Wheelchair Rugby League squad.


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