Galway Tribesmen preparing for historic Challenge Cup debut

Ryan Guilfoyle Galway Tribesmen
Photo courtesy of RML Media and Galway Tribesmen

Irish champions Galway Tribesmen will make their Challenge Cup debut this weekend, just 10 years on from when the club was founded.

The Tribesmen were invited into this year’s Challenge Cup after winning the 2021 All-Ireland Championship; a competition which features 12 clubs.

They will make a long coach journey and a late night ferry over to England ahead of Saturday’s first round tie against Pilkington Recs. Pilks are one of the most famous amateur clubs in rugby league.

On their historic Challenge Cup tie, Galway player Ryan Guilfoyle told Love Rugby League: “It is starting to feel more real the closer we get. I don’t think it will feel totally real until we get on the bus and ferry and start travelling there.

“It is a little bit surreal at the minute. We play in the Irish league and there wouldn’t normally be this much publicity around the match. We are a little bit starstruck in the element of what we are dealing with now. It is starting to feel real and it feels amazing to be apart of such an amazing prestigious competition.”

“It is such a pinch yourself moment”

Guilfoyle continued: “It is hard to imagine that the club is only 10 years old and we are competing in the Challenge Cup. The club didn’t win a match in the first year they played and I think it was the second season in which they won their first match. It was a difficult road and I don’t think anyone 10 years ago would’ve had the foresight to see the current crop of players playing in one of the best rugby league competitions in the world.

“To be playing against such a prestigious side like Pilkington Recs in the Challenge Cup… It is such a pinch yourself moment.

“There will only be one ever first team in Ireland to win in the first round of the Challenge Cup. We want to be that team. You only get one opportunity to write history and you can’t re-write it.”

The Galway Tribesmen are Europe’s most westerly rugby league team. They play in one of the picturesque places you will ever see a rugby league pitch.

Guilfoyle added: “We play on the western seaboard on Galway Bay. It is literally next stop America.

“We play on a council pitch, so it is a public park. It is on the promenade so it has actually increased our publicity over the years. You deal with all weathers. You can play on our pitch and deal with all four seasons in one day! It is one of the most picturesque places you will ever see rugby league being played.”

“Rugby league in Ireland is a sleeping giant”

Galway Tribesmen home ground
Photo courtesy of Galway Tribesmen

Guilfoyle, who has been playing for the Tribesmen for seven years now, believes there is plenty of potential for rugby league on the island of Ireland.

Rugby league has already enjoyed a meteoric rise in recent years, with there now being a 12-team competition and a women’s league.

He added: “It is a completely different sport from when I first started. I think there was five teams when I started and now there’s 12.

“If you were to break it down statistically, there is more than 100% growth already for number of teams. There are now women’s teams in their own league.

“I think rugby league in Ireland is a sleeping giant and I’m a firm believer of that. We have natural athletes and we also have so many top sportspeople in Ireland that are slowly starting to see that there are opportunities in rugby league. It is increasing the standard of the domestic league.

“I think to put rugby league on the map, something big has to happen and someone needs to send shockwaves around; and I think Galway Tribesmen are lucky enough to have that opportunity on Saturday.

“I think a win on Saturday would send shockwaves around and let people know that Ireland can play rugby league.”

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