The Cayman Islands are an idyllic Caribbean hideaway situated south of Cuba and west of Jamaica. In recent years, it has become home to hundreds of Irish people who left home in search of work.
The majority get jobs in finance and banking but two young men are at the coalface of the country’s development as a rugby force.
Dave Clancy (26) from Limerick City and Dwain McGuinness (30) from Roscommon are integral members of the national association.
Clancy, a sports science graduate from UL, is head of strength of conditioning and oversees all national sides’ training, male and female, while McGuinness is the union’s physiotherapist.
This weekend, the pair are in Asia for the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sevens, the first time the Cayman Islands have competed in a tournament of this magnitude.
It’s a remarkable story given a population base of just 60,000 on the 12 islands that make up Cayman – and less than half are ineligible ex-pats.
“The main sports here would have always been athletics, swimming, football and cricket so to just get rugby registered with people took some work,” explained Clancy of his formative months working on the islands.
“But we’ve made huge strides in a short time-frame and the people here are really grasping the sport. It took a lot of work to promote the sport through schools’ programmes but the love for rugby is now up there with the traditional sports.
“And getting to the Hong Kong Sevens has really captured the imagination of the young people and numbers are growing all the time,” he explained.
With just four men’s teams and nothing remotely related to a professional league, they’re some way off the teams they’ll compete against this weekend,
Cayman will take on the hosts, European qualifiers Germany and African champions Zimbabwe. The other two pools are made up of Japan, Spain, Tonga, Chile, Papua New Guinea, Brazil, Mexico and Morocco.
“It’s kind of a ‘Cool Runnings’ story,” Clancy says, comparing their unlikely rise to that of the Jamaican bobsleigh team who qualified for the 1988 winter Olympics.
“And we’re very proud to be part of it. Look, to even be here on our limited resources is a massive thing. We’re playing nations who have no idea where to even look on a map to find us. And that gives us huge pride and motivation.
“For myself and Dwain, two Irish guys who came here in search of work, it’s been a dream; travelling to the most beautiful places doing something we love. The amount of Irish is growing as well here and every week there’s a new face on Cayman, so maybe in the future there might be an O’Connell or a McCarthy lining out for the country. And we’d be too proud men if that were the case.”
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