Pint of plain changes hue in celebration of Union Cup

Richie Fagan, John Noone, Megan Fogarty and Oran Sweeney. Picture: Dan Sheridan.

One of Dublin’s most iconic landmarks has been painted in the rainbow colours to celebrate the hosting of amateur rugby’s Union Cup at Dublin City University on June 8-9.

The gates of the city’s most famous brewery have been given an unprecedented makeover to mark Guinness’ sponsorship of the Union Cup, a biennial two-day competition for inclusive rugby teams from across Europe.

Host club Emerald Warriors said that the success of the same-sex marriage referendum in 2015 has greatly boosted the numbers and confidence of its players who largely, but not exclusively, come from the LGBT+ community.

Founded in 2003 and now with 150 members, they train in St Mary’s RFC in Templeogue and, for the first time, fielded two teams in Leinster’s Metro League this season, where their ‘firsts’ were runners-up in Division Nine.

Their fullback captain Oran Sweeney played gaelic football for Steelstown Brian Ógs in Derry and also lined out for the county at under-age level, but switched codes when the commute to club training became too much after moving to Dublin in 2017.

Sweeney said:

I joined initially to try a new game and meet new people but, the longer you’re involved, you realise it’s much bigger than a rugby club

“We have members who wouldn’t have participated in PE in school, who’ve had really, really tough times growing up. We’re giving them an avenue to participate in sport and some of those are actually the best players we’ve got.”

The 2019 Union Cup has attracted a record 45 teams from 15 countries. It will also include its first women’s section and is supported by the IRFU which is providing all match referees.

Richie Fagan, president of Emerald Warriors and chair of the Union Cup, said “we are setting the template for how it will be run in future. It started in 2005 with seven teams so it is becoming a very serious piece within the LGBT+ sporting arena.”

He said the need exists for ‘inclusive’ teams and sports events because “the statistics are frightening and they don’t lie. Sport England research found that only 17% of the LGBTQ+ community is involved in competitive sport.”

Emerald Warriors previously hosted the Bingham Cup, the so-called ‘Gay Rugby World Cup’, in DCU in 2008 when it had only 32 teams. That had grown to 74 teams last year when the Warriors’ finished seventh in Amsterdam.

For ticket and tournament information see www.unioncupdublin.ie.

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