Portumna man starring for Bermuda national rugby team

Date Published: {J}

THERE are not too many places in the world that can brag of two rugby internationals playing for two different countries, but the townsland of Gortanumera, just three kilometres outside Portumna, can certainly lay claim to such a boast.

Every rugby enthusiast is aware of the pedigree of Connacht captain John Muldoon – who secured his first international cap against Canada in May, 2009 – but what some may not be aware of is that one of his former team-mates at Portumna, David Rourke, is currently a member of the Bermuda national rugby team.

Indeed, Rourke, who has lived on the Caribbean island for the past four years, won his third international cap for Bermuda in a test game against the Cayman Islands just a fortnight ago. Having trailed their hosts 15-7 at half-time, Bermuda scored 19 unanswered points in the second period to claim a great victory.

No doubt, it is unusual that two friends would end up playing for two different countries thousands of miles away, but such has been the journey both men have taken. “Yeah, John is one of my best buddies from home,” begins Rourke, as his voice travels down the delayed line. “I grew up with him, and I played underage with him. In fact, we played with Nenagh U-20s for a year. All those boys used to play for Nenagh and they dragged me along.

“Originally, I just started playing rugby in secondary school (Portumna Community School). Unfortunately, my hurling skills weren’t up to scratch most of the time; rugby suited my style more appropriately. I played in college, for a couple of years in GMIT. We won the All-Ireland Division 2 title twice. I can’t remember the years, but I think it was 2000 and 2002.”

However, when Portumna Rugby Club reformed in 2002, after a gap of 40 years, Rourke and company returned to their native habitat. “It was a brand new club, we were all in the same boat, and we really hadn’t a clue what we were doing,” laughs Rourke. “But it was good fun anyway. The club has come on a long way since, but it was all a learning experience for everybody back then.”

In any event, it wasn’t rugby that took the second row forward to Bermuda. Having graduated from GMIT with a Bachelor of Business Studies degree in the summer of 2002, he worked as a trainee accountant with a Galway City-based firm before qualifying in June 2006.

“Once I qualified, the next step was to go to Dublin,” continues the 29-year-old, “but I did not want to do that. So, I applied for jobs all over the Caribbean. The first one I got was in Bermuda, and I took it. Originally, it was just for one year, but the lifestyle was too nice. I had to stay for a few more.”

Through work, he began to take an interest in the local rugby scene and, in particular, Mariners Rugby Club, which is just one of four on the small Caribbean island. Rourke is one of two Irish men at the club; the other being Meath native Gary Brady.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.