7 Nov 2018
Barry Coade speaks to RLWC2021 ahead of crucial qualifier
Every club in the UK has an Irish connection
When new Ireland chairman Barry Coade hears from prospective players, sponsors and supporters that rugby league is “a British sport”, he has his response well rehearsed.
“It’s no secret we had huge emigration for years from this country and one of the places we emigrated was the UK”
The 53-year-old career educator and rugby coach says, as he prepares for the Wolfhounds’ tilt at a 2021 World Cup berth when they take on Wales at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground on Sunday.
“We went to London and Liverpool and places like that. Rugby union didn’t invite you in but the working class people of rugby league - it was a working class game - invited us in
“And every club in the UK has an Irish connection. There’s heritage players but also if you go back to the foundation, the likes of St Helens, there’s all Irish people mixed in there.
“They welcomed us with open arms.”
And while this may sound like a romantic creation half-myth in aid of the “Coade war”, acclaimed rugby historian Tony Collins says it’s true.
“Lancashire rugby league towns traditionally had high levels of Irish immigration in the 19th century,” said Collins.
“This was reflected in names of many amateur sides: Widnes St Marie’s, Wigan St Pats, St Jude’s etc. The same in St Helens and Oldham.
“It was similar but not quite as strong in Yorkshire - for example, Dewsbury Celtic.
“The fact that Ireland can always put a decent heritage team together of Super League players is another indication. Also, the RFL Hall Of Fame includes a Murphy, a Reilly and two Sullivans in its 25.”
Ireland have one win and one loss in the current European Championships, meaning the winner of Sunday’s game will claim the 10th spot in the 2021 men’s World Cup in England.
Coade takes over amid persistent reports of an Irish team entering the lower divisions with designs on Super League.
He says: “I’ve been chairman for a couple of months - we haven’t had the chance to even consider that.
“It would be an aspiration of everybody’s - there’s no point saying anything different. Aspirations and dreams are great but making them happen is another thing.
“Let’s creep before crawl. We’ve got a few steps to take yet before we get to that.”