Drop in Playing Numbers

DLSP Dundalk

In the Village magazine this month, former Leinster player Jim O’Callaghan’s outlined a key issue facing those involved in developing rugby around Ireland.

The article Rugby Surrendered its Social Benefit, discusses the rapid decline of rugby at amateur level pointing to the American football model as the possible direction we are heading.

This week, KnockOn.ie’s Alan Deegan went in search of some numbers to see if it is true. Are player numbers declining at amateur level? What he found was alarming to say the least.

UPDATE: We’ve had a few comments highlighting the fact that a clean up of the player registration system could be a major factor in the decline. We’ll be investigating that a little more next week.

Last season was hugely successful for the professional game at the highest level in Ireland, but in contrast it appears that participation rates of adult men playing rugby has fallen off a cliff.

Using figures from the IRFU Annual reports there was a drop of 23% in men playing the game last season, and an even more staggering 48% drop in the last 5 seasons.

Ulster League Kicks off

Caption: Action from last weekend's friendly between Ballymoney and Omagh which the Tyrone club won 39-23. Pic: Uel McDowell, Ballymoney RFC website.

The Kukri Ulster Qualifying League kicks off on Saturday August 29th with four games. There is a slight change to the format this season. The Conference league overlapping means that each weekend, two of the ten teams in Q1 will not be in Qualifying league action but instead will be facing Ballynahinch or Belfast Harlequins 2nds in the Conference league. We’ll have more on this in the season preview.

The important things to note are that the season is a long one and starts early with four straight weeks of action up to September 19th. Ards and Omagh are the new boys. Ards, having dropped out of the AIL and Omagh having gained promotion thanks to their Qualifying League 2 triumph last year.

Caption: Action from last weekend’s friendly between Ballymoney and Omagh which the Tyrone club won 39-23. Pic: Uel McDowell, Ballymoney RFC website.

Connacht Senior Update

Kolo Kiripati offloads to Graham Lynch

The Connacht Senior League is now two weeks old with Buccaneers storming clear at the top of the pile after two impressive early season wins.

Judging form is difficult at this stage, as both Galway sides seem to be a long way off their best, yet Saturday’s 73-17 win for Buccaneers over their old foes Galwegians has to be filed in the ‘unprecedented’ bracket.

Galwegians will play in Division 1a next season after their historic Division 1b title winning season while Buccaneers, under new coach Brett Wilkinson, will be involved in Division 1b. The midlanders also beat Corinthians 41-7 in round one and seem set to top the table. 

Leinster Senior Results

Pic: Old Wesley RFC facebook,

Leinster Rugby Club Results – 22nd August 2015

The Leinster Senior League Cup and Shield competitions are up and running after a near full programme of action on Saturday.

In Section A, newly promoted Old Wesley are off to a good start thanks to their home win over Skerries. UCD and Clontarf meet on Monday evening in the final opening round game.

Old Belvedere’s away win at Lansdowne was probably the most eye catching result in Section B.

Leinster: Senior Cup & Shield


Competitive pre-season rugby kicks off in Leinster this weekend with 20 All Ireland clubs in action, most on Saturday.

The competition as usual is split in two, as teams compete for either the Senior League Cup or Shield. This season 12 sides have opted for the Cup competition with the remaining eight competition for the Shield.

Once we reach the knockout stages, the trophy becomes a target for clubs but there is no question that during these opening three pool games, the aim for most coaches will be to ease back into competitive rugby and develop patterns.

Nonetheless here’s our quick preview, group by group.

Caption: Action from last season’s UBL Final which Lansdowne won. Beaten finalist Clontarf are the reigning Leinster Senior League Cup champions. Pic: Voicu Duma.

Leinster Senior League Cup

Section A

Old Wesley v Skerries (Saturday 2pm)
UCD v Clontarf (Tuesday 7:30pm)

The action kicks off in Donnybrook on Saturday as new second tier side Old Wesley will look to kick off a big season with a win against a Skerries side that only just missed out on joining them in Division 1b last season.

Towns Cup to Expand?


There could be a significant change to the make-up of the Towns Cup in the 2015/16 season if an expansion proposal, currently being considered, gets the go ahead in Leinster.

Junior Clubs in the Metro region have put together a plan to join the competition for the very first time.

The seven clubs (listed in the proposal) are currently part of the Leinster provincial leagues but ineligible for a competition that is historically reserved for clubs outside the metropolitan region.

Ulster Are Champions


A grand slam is a fine way to end a long wait for a Junior Inter-Provincial title and Ulster completed the job on Saturday with a highly impressive 20-7 victory over title holders Leinster at Ashbourne.

From the very outset of the competition, Ulster have been a team on a mission under the guidances of Jason Morgan having made some impressive progress over recent years.

The opening day win over Connacht set the tone and last weekend’s big win against Munster meant they were favourites on Saturday.

Leinster 6, Ulster 20
Connacht 33, Munster 40

Shannon 33, Clonmel 19


Munster Junior Cup Final

Shannon 33
Clonmel 19

Shannon are Munster Junior Cup champions after over 160 minutes of one of the more absorbing finals in the long history of the competition. After last week’s draw in Thomond Park, the action moved to Cork on Sunday and proved no less dramatic but this time, the Limerick men proved that bit stronger than the reigning champions Clonmel.

The majority of the scores might have come in the first half on Sunday but the drama rarely dipped below compelling during the entire contest. Shannon led by 13 at half time but were pegged back to seven in the second half before winger Greg O’Shea scored a vital try just shy of the hour mark that ultimately put the game out of sight.

Lansdowne 18, Clontarf 17


Ulster Bank All Ireland League Final

Lansdowne 18
Clontarf 17

Lansdowne Scorers Mark Roche, Joe Mc Swiney  :  Pen: Scott Deasy(2) ;  Con: Scott Deasy  ;
Clontarf Scorers: Matt Darcy  :  Pen: Rob Keogh (4) ;

By Aaron Clarke at the Aviva Stadium for KnockOn.ie.

A late Scott Deacy penalty helped to ensure the Ulster Bank League division 1a trophy would remain in Dublin 4 for another season as Lansdowne defeated Clontarf 18-17 in the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

Both sides began the final with a high tempo. Clontarf captain Sean Cronin attempted to put pressure on the Lansdowne back three with some high testing box kicks combined with a strong chase line, however the Lansdowne back three showed they were up to the task at hand.

The first score of the game arrived shortly after kickoff when Lansdowne’s Tyrone Moran knocked the ball on after some great team play down the right wing, from the resulting scrum Clontarf were awarded a penalty, Rob Keogh duly stepped up to convert from distance.

Junior Inter Pro Update


It is the final weekend of action in the Junior Inter-provincial and Ulster are on course for a long awaited title having come up just short in recent seasons.

Jason Morgan’s men need just a single point from their trip to Ashbourne this weekend where they’ll face a Leinster side chasing a first win. Even if they fail in that regard, the title will still be theirs unless Connacht manage a bonus point win and bridge a 37 point gap in the points differential or Munster win bridging a 65 point difference.

Leinster v Ulster, Ashbourne, Saturday 2:30pm
Connacht v Munster, Creggs Saturday 2:30pm

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