Ireland stages Wheelchair Rugby League Celtic Cup for first time

History will be made on Saturday (8 June), when Ireland host the Wheelchair Rugby League Celtic Cup, marking the first ever games of the format played in the country. The matches will take place at the Kingfisher Sports Centre at Galway University in the West of Ireland.

 

Ireland will break further new ground as, for the first time, the majority of their squad are domiciled there. Player/head coach, Wigan’s Phil Roberts, has named debutants Ellie Sheehy and Maurice Noonan, while Cian Horgan and Melanie Griffith both return having made their debuts at the 2023 event, as Rugby League Ireland eyes the launch of its inaugural domestic competition.

 

“With so many players new to the sport, we’ve really pushed their tactical and technical learning this year and are delighted with the squad’s progress and how they have invested in this process,” Roberts said. “This is the first wheelchair international event that Rugby League Ireland have hosted at an exciting time in the development of the game here, with some major announcements coming in the near future. However, our sole focus now is the opportunity we have at the excellent University of Galway facility, in what I am sure will be a fantastic event.”

 

Holders Wales go into the tournament as favourites as they look to secure an eighth consecutive title, but they know they have their work cut out after being held to a 30-30 draw by Ireland last year. They will also be missing several key names who starred in their series win earlier this year in the USA, with Jodie Boyd-Ward, Andrew Higgins, Martin Lane, Gary Preece, Harry Jones and Stephen Halsey not making the trip.

 

Every Welsh wheelchair club is represented in the squad, which sees Richard Carver return to international duty after a three-year hiatus. Jess Booth and Martin Turner are in line to make their debuts, while experienced campaigners Scott Trigg-Turner and Mason Baker are named as co-captains for the competition.

 

Alan Caron, Wales Wheelchair head coach, commented: “After a great year of international rugby league already, we are looking forward to the next challenge of the Celtic Cup. With several key players taking time out, it gives us a chance to see some of the next generation players in competitive action. Scott and Mason have stepped up showing great leadership among the players old and new.”

 

Scotland have not won a Wheelchair international since September 2015, when they beat Ireland 32-16 at the European Championship. Their head coach Mark Roughsedge has named two debutants, Calum Japes and David Hill, with experienced campaigners such as Graeme Stewart and Daniel and Michael Grant returning. Scotland’s domestic competition provides six of their nine players.

 

“The players have worked incredibly hard to be selected,” Roughsedge noted. “The competition for places across all positions has given the coaching team some real selection headaches. I’m looking forward to seeing how we perform in what will be tough tests against a strong Ireland squad who will fancy their chances on home soil and favourites Wales, but it’s a challenge we are really looking forward to.”

 

FIXTURES

10.30am – Ireland v Scotland

12.30pm – Scotland v Wales

2.30pm – Ireland v Wales

 

IRELAND SQUAD

Cian Horgan, Ellie Sheehy, James McCarthy, Maurice Noonan, Melanie Griffith, Oran Spain (domestic players), Joseph Calcott (Halifax Panthers), Peter Johnston (Argonauts), Phil Roberts, Toby Burton Carter (Wigan Warriors)

 

SCOTLAND SQUAD

Gregor Anderson (Dundee Dragons), Connor Blackmore, Calum Davidson, David Hill, John Willans (Edinburgh Giants), Graeme Stewart (Glasgow Rugby League) Daniel Grant, Michael Grant (Gravesend Dynamite), Calum Japes (York RLFC)

 

WALES SQUAD

Richard Carver (Argonauts), Lee Sargent (Cardiff Blue Dragons), Scott Trigg-Turner (Cardiff Blue Dragons & London Roosters), Philip Davies (Hereford Harriers), Jessica Booth, Martin Turner, Mason Baker (North Wales Crusaders), Alex Powell (Torfaen Tigers), Mark Williams (Wigan Warriors).