The Tiger Rugby team spent the 2017 Spring Break on a rugby tour across Ireland. The trip began on Friday March 31st 2017 as the team departed Chicago’s O’Hare Airport for Dublin Ireland. Once on the ground after a 6 hour flight, the 35 players and 65 family members were shuttled to Aviva Stadium in Dublin where they watched the Home Irish team Leinster Rugby take on the Wasps from England in a sold out Aviva Stadium that seats 52,000 people. As the week progressed, the team did some sight seeing around Ireland where they saw the Dublin Castle, Christ Church Cathedral and found some hearty Irish food. On Monday, the team had a great practice at Donnybrook Stadium where they received coaching from the Irish professional team coaches at Leinster Rugby along with the former IRFU Coach Jerry Murphy.
Tuesday started with a tour of Croke Park in Dublin. Croke Park is an Amateur Hurling and Gaelic Football stadium that seats 82,000 people. Next, the team visited the Killkenny Castle where they toured the castle and the quaint town that surrounds it. Finally, it was time for Rugby. The team took part in their first game of the trip on Tuesday. They traveled to Oak Park in County Carlow where they faced the 18u team. The tradition of the County Carlow Football Club was impressive considering the club was established in 1873. The Tigers jumped out to an early lead and held on to win the match 46-19. Tries were scored by Michael Nettleton, Mason Thomas, Angelo Howze, Jake Winkle, Nathan Gray, Seth Sontich, Tyler Denson and Drew Schneider. Nettleton also added 3 kicks. The JV team competed but came up short 24-14. Tries were scored by Cormac Beesonand Aaron Gray. 2 kicks were added by Matt Hohlt.
Sightseeing dominated Wednesday as the team left Dublin and headed west. On the trip to West Ireland, the team visited the Barack Obama Visitor Center (yep Barrack Obama… right in the middle of Ireland!). They also made a stop at the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher. After a long day of travel, the team set up camp in Galway Ireland.
Thursday started with a trip to Limerick Ireland where they visited Bunratty Castle. It was then time for more Rugby. The Tigers faced a great challenge as they faced off against the Crescent College Comprehensive School. Crescent College is a high school in Limerick Ireland who typically compete for championships in their home country. The JV team played a tough battle but came up short. Scoring for the JV team was Zach Patterson and AJ Rivera. The Varsity Tigers jumped out to an early 7-0 lead and kept it close early only to have the home team take a 22-12 lead early in the second half. The Tigers hung tight and fought back in dramatic fashion to tie the game after official time had run out. Michael Nettleton hit the kick after a Seth Sontich try to take the lead back 34-32. That kick turned out to be the final play of the game and the Tigers got the win! Scoring in the varsity game for the Tigers were Angelo Howze, Michael Prewitt, Michael Johnson, Seth Sontich (x2) and Michael Nettleton with 3 conversion kicks and one penalty kick.
Friday was a free day spent in Galway shopping, exploring, eating, sightseeing and hanging out with great company. The street performers were the stars of the show and mashed potatoes and puree soup finished the day for dinner!
The final game was played on Saturday against the Castlebar 18Us. The hectic and busy pace caught up with the varsity players as they took their first and only loss of the trip. The Varsity team lost 25-15. Scoring trys for varsity were Nettleton, Mason Miller and David Cheung and Nettleton adding 2 kicks. JV also lost but played a great game. The very long drive back to the hotel took us through beautiful country side where we saw Croagh Patrick Mountain, Killary Harbor, Ashley Falls and the Town of Westport.
The Team traveled back to Chicago O’Hare from Dublin on Sunday, April 9th. Highlights from the trip were the first-hand experience of spending time in a country where Rugby is so prevalent and taking part in the Rugby tradition of leaving it all on the field and having time to interact and meet the players after the game, the “Social” or “Craic” the Irish call it. The weather only was a headache the first two days of the trip with rain and cold temps, after that it was better than typical, partly cloudy skies and in the 50’s. Many thanks to Ireland for being a great place to visit and special thanks to our tour guides Desmond Murphy and Sean Townsend for their work in making this trip such a great experience for the team!