Irish team hoping to make Challenge Cup history

James Gordon
Challenge Cup Wembley SWpix

Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix

Dublin City Exiles have qualified for the Challenge Cup and are aiming to make history by becoming the first Irish team to win a match in the competition.

It will be the first time in 20 years that the Dublin name has featured in rugby league’s oldest competition, with the City Exiles last appearing 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, beating Longhorns in the Grand Final back in July.

The Exiles have now launched a crowdfunding campaign for their first round tie, which will be played away from home, ahead of next month’s draw.

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 1st Irish team to get a win in the competition. Galway competed last year but despite having put in great effort, they just fell short.”

You can donate to the crowdfunding campaign here

Dublin’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. Bangor Vikings were beaten 36-20 by New Earswick 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, losing 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, so the Exiles motivation for crowdfunding is to try and bridge the gap that creates in terms of progress.

Dublin City Exiles, who play at Terenure College RFC in the city, 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.

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