Sunday’s Well Rebels home after week to remember

Over the weekend, the Sunday’s Well Rebels, Ireland’s only mixed ability rugby team, returned home to Cork after their successful Mixed Ability Rugby World Tournament campaign in the UK.

Sunday’s Well Rebels home after week to remember

The Rebels beat the host team, the Bradford and Bingley Bumble Bees, in a thrilling final on Friday.

In the run up to the event, the IRFU took to Twitter to wish the Rebels well. Irish players Simon Zebo, Tommy Bowe, Peter O’Mahony and Jordi Murphy also expressed their support. In a video message played on the bus to the grounds, Zebo told the team, “I just want to wish ye the best of luck in the final. Congrats on getting there, but you still have one game to go. We’re all rooting for ye.”

The final marked the conclusion of a week long celebration of mixed ability rugby.

Close to 400 players from all around the world participated in the event. Some travelled from as far a field as Argentina to take part.

Almost all were gathered to watch the clash between the Rebels and the Bumbles.

“It was amazing to see the support from the other teams. There were hundreds of people there singing Ireland’s Call as the Rebels took the field.

“It’s something the lads will remember for the rest of their lives,” says Alan Craughwell, a manager for the Cope Foundation instrumental in setting up the Rebels. “This event proves how sport and rugby can tackle limiting assumptions people may have about disability.”

After putting in stalwart performances, both Steve O’Leary and James Healy were recognised as joint men of the match.

James Mulcahy, the Sunday’s Well Club Captain and one of the Rebel second rows, said after the game: “the Bumbles were a great side.

“It was almost impossible to distinguish between the facilitators and the players. They pushed us hard until the last moments of the game.”

“It’s an incredible feeling. There are hardly any words I can think of to sum up this victory”, says player Richie Philpott.

“We represented Ireland from start to finish and becoming world champions speaks volumes for our efforts.”

Maeve Darcy, the former Munster lock and the team’s coach, says: “The fact that a team from one club can go out and not only compete, but win a world tournament against regional and national mixed ability teams, is comparable to Munster beating the All Blacks!”

All the teams from the competition met in the centre of the field for the awarding of the cup.

Bradford and Bingley RFC President Roger Carrington praised everyone involved in the “historic event” for what they were doing for inclusive sport as he handed the trophy to Rebels captain Danny Lynch.

The focus of the Rebels’ management has now turned to pushing the game at home.

Darcy calls the victory, “another chance for the rugby circle in Ireland to extend again and increase playing numbers, volunteers and for the spirit of the game of rugby to touch more peoples lives.”

Craughwell adds that “hopefully we can inspire others clubs around the country to get involved in setting up a mixed ability side.”

With a second team expected to launch in Belfast later this year, Darcy is cautiously optimistic for the games’ future.

“The only way for this game to succeed is for it to fall under the umbrella of the IRFU,” she says.

“Just look at how women’s rugby has developed since it has been fully stream lined with the national unions.

“The RFU and SRU are supporting the mixed ability game, so I’m hoping its just a matter of time until we follow suit.”

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox