STEUBENVILLE – The Franciscan rugby club spent this past spring break on a training tour of Ireland.
"We had an absolutely fantastic trip, remarked head coach Dan Kramer. "Everything went right – from all of the travel and logistics to the weather."
Upon arrival in Dublin on March 10, the team and coaches watched Ireland beat Scotland in the fourth week of the 6 Nations tournament at the Guinness Storehouse. From there, the Barons traveled to Ballykelly, Northern Ireland, UK, and checked into the Drummond Hotel.
March 11 marked the first day of competition for the Barons as they faced off against Derry RFC.
"We did not play well as we were still adjusting to new players, new positions, and the jet lag from our trip" remarked Coach Kramer. "Derry RFC treated us to a nice social where we watched Wales play Italy. The Derry RFC president honored us with several gifts and invited our team to return again soon!"
Following breakfast, the next day, the Barons departed for their Giant's Causeway Excursion where they had a tour of the Causeway.
Following the Giant's Causeway, the Barons were then hosted by the Mayor of Derry for a civic reception and were treated to a history of the city by the mayor. Derry was the epicenter for the "troubles" between the Protestants and Catholics in the 60s and 70s. Franciscan then went on a walking tour of the city.
Throughout the week, the Barons had a training session with three profession Irish coaches - James Doherty of Derry RFC, Peter Bracken, the Scrum Doctor, and Matt Brown of Munster Rugby.
"Their sessions were incredible and everyone had many take aways," commented Coach Kramer. "These coaches taught us nuances of the game that we simply don't know in the US. If we are able to implement even half of what we learned, it will advance our level of play significantly."
The third day of the tour, March 13, began with a tour of the Slieve League Cliffs. The Slieve League are cliffs similar to the Cliffs of Moher but at a higher elevation.
"The Gaint's Causeway and Slieve League were absolutely breathtaking excursions," remarked Coach Kramer.
After the Slieve League tour, the Barons left Donegal and headed to Castlebar, Ireland.
On March 14, the scrums and backs were treated to a training session with Peter Bracken before leaving for Croagh Patrick.
"About half the team braved our one day of bad weather and did the pilgrimage hike [of Croagh Patrick]," commented Coach Kramer. "We all gave special intentions to offer up during the hike. It will be an amazing memory for the rest of their lives."
The Barons traveled to the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock on March 15. Franciscan made it just in time for 3pm Mass. This was where the team offered up the intentions of everyone who helped the with this trip.
"We were so fortunate to receive help from friends, family, and alumni to make this trip happen," remarked Coach Kramer. "We even received a tremendous amount of help from people all over Ireland. We offered up our time at Knock in thanksgiving for them."
The Barons had their second match of the week on Friday, March 16 against Corrib RFC in Galway, Ireland.
"We played much better and kept the match close until the very end," remarked Coach Kramer. "We tripped up at times because everyone was trying to implement everything we learned, but we were doing it as individuals and not as one unit. It will take many reps in practice to figure out how to implement everything cohesively. Corrib treated us to a fantastic social following the match. We all ended up in little mixed groups of Corrib and FUS players, just talking about rugby for hours."
The Barons spent their last full day in Ireland on St. Patrick's Day in Galway. Franciscan was able to watch Ireland complete a Grand Slam sweep of the 6 Nations with a win over England in London. "Saturday was the capstone to a near perfect trip. The atmosphere we experienced watching the match was unlike anything our team will experience again in their lives."
Franciscan returned to Steubenville on Sunday, March 18 after a near-perfect trip to Ireland for spring break.
FUS Rugby has so many people to thank for making this trip possible. We could not have done it without our family, friends, alumni, and everyone who generously supported us. We thank Tim Delaney for organizing the trip, Fr. Mike Cisky, TOR, for joining us, and all of the Irish coaches and team who shared their knowledge and spent time with us. We cannot express how grateful we are! All of us will have life long memories from this week in Ireland.