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Killarney-made variant of rugby league set for international stage

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The Killarney-based makers of X-League (pronounced ‘cross’), a limited contact version of rugby league, recently announced a partnership with the sport’s governing body in England. The deal will see international teams compete in a X-League World Cup, which will run alongside the Rugby League World Cup proper in 2021. But how did a sport with Killarney roots go global? Adam Moynihan spoke to the game’s creator, Des Foy, to find out.

 

Hi Des. Thanks for speaking to me.

No problem, Adam.

Can you give me some background on your own career? I believe you played the game at the highest level.

Yeah, I played rugby league from 1980 to ’93. Mostly for Oldham, which is my hometown club. I played for a couple of other clubs as well, Widnes and Huddersfield, and I had a spell in Australia with the Newcastle Knights. I also went on tour with Great Britain to New Zealand, Australia and Papua New Guinea in 1984.

And how did you end up in this part of the world?

Rugby league at the time was sort of semi-professional and most people had jobs as well. I worked for a water company for a few years and around the time I finished playing they were offering us either voluntary redundancy or to move to another office in another town. Me and my wife decided at the time that we’d take the money and run, and we came over here.

My wife’s actually from Sligo originally. She moved to England in her early teens and we met at school. We used to holiday in these parts quite a bit in the summer and we thought it would be a nice place to move. So we got the four kids and came over here in ’95.

25 years ago. So you’re an adopted son by this stage?

I’d like to hope so, yeah! I’ve still got this accent that makes people think that I’ve probably just arrived. But yeah, I’ve lived here most of my adult life.

Tell me about X-League. What is it?

It’s a rugby league variant which is similar to touch rugby and tag rugby. The main difference is that the tackle is made by the defender touching the ball when it’s in the possession of the opposition. Because of that, it introduces a little bit more contact then you normally would get in touch and tag. It’s much closer to the full contact game.

How did it come about initially?

It sort of came about around 2002 when I did a bit of defensive coaching with Declan Kidney at Munster, and a little bit with Matt Williams at Leinster the season before. I was trying to get players to focus on attacking the ball in the tackle. The rugby league tackling style is different to rugby union. In rugby league, stopping the ball is the key thing when you tackle – if you tackle the legs, the ball might still get offloaded so the tackle isn’t complete. So I used it a bit with Munster and when my son was in UCC we were trying to get people to play a bit of rugby league then.

I’m not a big fan of drills so we wanted a game that enabled us to have the feel and timing of a real rugby league match, and also introduce this idea of the defenders focussing on the ball. That’s where X-League came from, really.

You’ve been leading X-League sessions here in Killarney since 2014. Do the rules make it more inclusive than a full contact sport?

That’s very much the case. Personally, I’m in my fifties now so I’m not going to be playing full contact sport of any description! So it has given an opportunity to people like me to keep playing. When we play in Fossa, we have female players, teenagers, lads in their twenties, lads in their thirties, lads in their forties, and then I’m usually the oldest guy!

The reason we’ve pushed it more recently and we’ve changed the name (from EuroTag to X-League) and we’ve got the RFL in England interested is because it’s very inclusive. We came up with this game and it was to try and get people playing a version of rugby league, but we are very much now playing an inclusive version that enables lots of different people to take part.

When you think of rugby, it tends to be men from 18 to 35 and that’s about it. But this is a sport that includes a wider demographic.

You touched on that partnership with the RFL. How significant a step is that for X-League?

I think it’s massive. First of all, they have a budget! They’ll get money out of Sport England over there and finding games that are inclusive and draw people in who had previously gone away from the sport is important. They have a variants officer and he’s going to all the professional clubs to promote the different versions of rugby league. Hopefully we’ll get four or five of them on board this year and maybe more in the future. That’s the plan.  

And there’s a World Cup event on the cards?

Yes, the RFL and the Rugby League World Cup organisation will support us in putting on a competition at the time of the full World Cup in October/November 2021. So we’re planning on doing an event in Sheffield and Doncaster where some of the group games are being played. Over in Warrington there will be a physical disabilities World Cup and up in Newcastle there will be a masters for over 35s.

How many players are involved locally at the moment?

We have around 30 people on our list and we send out the text every week to see who’s available. If we don’t get 10 – if it’s a bad night or people are unavailable – then we don’t play. But we don’t miss many weeks, even when the weather is bad. Of course, new players are always welcome to join us on Thursdays at 7pm in Fossa. It’s a very easy game to get involved in and we’ll be happy to show you the ropes.

 

If you’re interested in taking part in X-League, contact Des on 086 8622522. 

 

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Local activities this weekend for National Heritage Week

A number of events will take place in Killarney this weekend as part National Heritage Week 2022 which runs until this Sunday. This year’s theme is biodiversity and sustainability. Tomorrow […]

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A number of events will take place in Killarney this weekend as part National Heritage Week 2022 which runs until this Sunday.

This year’s theme is biodiversity and sustainability. Tomorrow (Saturday) the Life in the Bogs – Family Funday in Cronin’s Yard, Beaufort, runs from 10.30am – 2.30pm.
Activities include; Bog in a Bottle activity – learn about how bogs are made, Plants of the Bog – learn about the different plants in the bog and how to tell them apart, Pond Dipping in Bog Pool – Use nets and find out what creepy crawlies can be found in Bog pools, Birds and Mammals of the Bog – learn about the different animals that live in our bogs, and a Scavenger Hunt. Tickets are free but bring €2 for parking.

On Sunday the Harpers for Heritage concert takes place at Muckross Schoolhouse with Fiachra Ó Corragáin, Máire Ní Chathasaigh and Chris Newman from 7.30pm to 9pm.

There’ll also be an exhibition from the Killarney National Park Photography Competition based on the theme of ‘Our History, Our Future’ in Killarney House and Gardens while the Me and the Moon will create Bee/Bug hotels and sustainable eco bird feeders today (Friday) and tomorrow (Saturday) from 11am – 4pm at Muckross Schoolhouse.

The Heritage Council is encouraging people to visit www.heritageweek.ie to see what other events are taking place in their locality or across the country. Participants can browse the website and create a bespoke National Heritage Week ‘Events Trail’ to help them plan their week according to their location, their particular heritage interests and their preferred event type, such as a festival, performance, exhibition or re-enactment.

“This year, National Heritage Week looks to the past to create a better future,” Chief Executive of the Heritage Council of the Heritage Council, Virginia Teehan, said.

“The theme of sustainable heritage and biodiversity encourages us all to reflect on how our history and heritage can play a part in protecting our planet. Whether it’s learning a new skill like embroidery, blacksmithing or pottery making; better understanding how to prevent biodiversity loss in our own back gardens or country lanes; or gaining fresh insight into the history of our art, music or the Irish language and sharing this knowledge among friends and family, there are endless ways to get involved. I would encourage people to visit the National Heritage Week website and browse the vast array of events and projects taking place and plan their week.”

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Killarney girl has an important part to play in Rose Festival

By Michelle Crean A little Killarney girl has had her dreams come true after being selected as a Rose Bud in this year’s Rose of Tralee International Festival. Chloe Nott […]

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By Michelle Crean

A little Killarney girl has had her dreams come true after being selected as a Rose Bud in this year’s Rose of Tralee International Festival.

Chloe Nott (7) from Fossa was thrilled to find out that she has been paired with Arizona Rose Sophie Owen.

She’s now super excited as the Festival kicks off tonight (Friday) and is looking forward to being part of the big parades which attract thousands to the streets of Tralee tomorrow (Saturday) and again on Sunday.

“We found out about three weeks ago, she was picked from hundreds from all around the country,” Chloe’s mom Gemma told the Killarney Advertiser.

Last Saturday the Rose Buds came together for the first time in the Meadowlands Hotel in Tralee where they met the Kerry Rose Édaein O’Connell and received their sashes.

Tonight (Friday) they’ll enjoy a party in the Meadowlands and have a busy weekend meeting and greeting people when they take part in the Festival’s activities including a trip to the Kingdom Greyhound Stadium.

“I’m so excited to meet my Arizona Rose,” Chloe, who is going into Second Class in Fossa National School, said.

Gemma and her husband Eric and son Luke (9) went to Reidys in Killarney to tell Chloe the exciting news.

“My mom gave me a rose and told me I was a Rose Bud. After she told me I was bursting with excitement.”

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