Dublin City Exiles become the first Irish club to win a Challenge Cup tie

Drew Darbyshire
Challenge Cup Dublin City Exiles SWpix

Photo: Will Palmer/SWpix

Dublin City Exiles have created history by becoming the first-ever Irish team to win a Challenge Cup tie as they won 42-8 at Hammersmith Hill Hoists.

It is the first time in 20 years that the Dublin name has featured in rugby league’s oldest competition. The City Exiles last appeared in the 2003 competition when they were beaten 56-0 by Birkenshaw back in November 2002.

Their long-awaited return comes after they were crowned 2022 All Ireland Premiership champions. They defeated Longhorns in the Grand Final back in July.

Dublin City Exiles face a trip to Wigan in the second round to take on Orrell St James.

The Exiles may have to launch another crowdfunding campaign for their second round tie, like they did in the first, where they raised almost $5,000.

Speaking about the crowdfunder ahead of the first round, the club said: “All donations are much appreciated; and will go to making sure our players have everything they need to be the first Irish team to win a Challenge Cup game.

It has been a 20 year wait for this momentous occasion.

“We are fundraising for the cost of buses, ferry and accommodation for our mostly young players as we want to put our top team into the competition. Please give generously so we can put our best foot forward to be the first Irish team to get a win in the competition. Galway competed last year but despite having put in great effort, they just fell short.”

Ireland’s Challenge Cup heritage

Ireland’s first ever rugby league club, Dublin Blues, became the first Irish club to enter the Challenge Cup in 1998, losing 32-7 to Dewsbury Moor. The former club of Ireland’s greatest rugby league son, Brian Carney, also played in the 2000 competition where they were beaten 54-2 by Farnworth.

The establishment of the pre-cursor to the current All-Ireland Rugby League Championship in 1997 meant a handful of clubs from Ireland also participated in the Challenge Cup around that period. New Earswick defeated Bangor Vikings 36-20 in York in the 2001 competition.

In recent years, Longhorns – the club where current York forward and Ireland international Ronan Michael was discovered – and Galway Tribesman have flown the flag in the competition.

Longhorns participated in three consecutive seasons from 2018-2020. They lost narrowly by six points to Lock Lane in 2019 and Normanton in 2020.

Galway Tribesman entered for the first time in 2022, expressing a similar ambition to become the history-making first Irish team to win a game in the competition – but they lost 36-10 against Pilkington Recs.

Any participating Irish team will have the disadvantage of having to travel to England for their tie. The Exiles’ motivation for crowdfunding was to try and bridge the gap that creates in terms of progress.

Dublin City Exiles play at Terenure College RFC in the city. They won all six of their regular season games in the RLI Mens Premiership in 2022, which comprised of Galway, Longhorns and Athboy Fighting Irish.

The second-tier RLI Mens Championship includes Dublin City Exiles’ reserve team, Banbridge Broncos and Cork Bulls.

Saturday’s Challenge Cup first round results:

West Bowling 30-12 Waterhead Warriors

Royal Navy 28-16 Barrow Island

Edinburgh Eagles 20-30 Saddleworth Rangers

Brentwood Eels 34-24 Bedford Tigers

British Army 12-28 Ashton Bears

Fryston Warriors 38-22 Thornhill Trojans

Skirlaugh 16-26 Wests Warriors

Westgate Common 36-18 Crosfields

Distington 4-16 Orrell St James

Doncaster Toll Bar 24-36 Royal Air Force

Featherstone Lions 6-20 Great Britain Police

Hull Dockers 54-10 Rhondda Outlaws

Stanningley 38-4 Milford Marlins

London Chargers 32-12 North Herts Crusaders

Wigan St Patricks 22-30 Ince Rose Bridge

READ NEXT: George King hopes World Cup can galvanise rugby league in Ireland