Mullingar rugby pioneers central in historic Belfast tag tournament

After only a year in existence the Mullingar Lions disability tag rugby team is to travel to Belfast this weekend (June 6-8 ) for its first international tournament.

Barely four months after the club’s first ever game, it is a measure of its growth in the interim that the club is bringing 28 players, which is more than a quarter of the entire roll at the resource centre on the Delvin Road.

The club came into existence after a chat between local Leinster branch co-ordinator Barry Coade, and Martin Nunan, a referee who works with adults with disabilities at the resource centre.

“In May 2013 we undertook, in cooperation with Mullingar Rugby Club, a new initiative to provide tag rugby, a non-contact sport, to adults with intellectual disabilities and challenging behaviours,” said Mr Nunan.

“At the time, there were no supported programmes being offered by the Leinster branch or the IRFU. Following our chat, Barry made contact with the IRFU to support the development of our programme here in Mullingar,” he continued.

From an initial meeting with David Keane, the social rugby coordinator at the IRFU at the resource centre in Mullingar in May 2013, the club became aware of at least six other clubs - predominately at youth level - offering tag rugby to individuals with disabilities, with each club playing its own rules of the game.

By forming a steering group within the IRFU to streamline these efforts under a single banner, this group managed almost unprecedented cohesion and success in achieving this.

On May 7 the games committee of the IRFU formally recognised the game of disability tag rugby, while just last week its executive ratified the game for individuals with disabilities, which created IRFU history as the fastest programme to go from inception to ratification.

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