London Irish Tour 2019: Report and Pics

London Irish Tour 2019: Report and Pics

(14 May 2019)

As one old salt said, “You’ll be tired after a rugby tour”, and yes, that’s true for this year’s Salmo tour to the London Irish Mini Festival. Exhaustion is fitting, but so too are the great memories of what has just passed; tiredness will fade but not the recollections which will remain strong.

So where to begin with this tour report? Where indeed? Shall we begin with the last minute panic while packing our cases the night before the early morning start and not knowing which flight you were on? Or do we go back to the previous Tuesday evening when the U11 and U12 players were presented with the tour kit by three Leinster players? Or, maybe back to this time last year when the then U11, now U12, parents and coaches began sketching together the plans for the following year’s trip?

The tour has a long and treasured history, as well as the relationship between our two clubs. It all began on the 29th March 1985 when our very first tourists departed from Kilternan, then wearing the proud Palmerston FC colours, for the annual London Irish International Mini Rugby Festival at their grounds The Avenue in Sunbury, south west of London. In subsequent years a team from London Irish came on tour themselves to Dublin, hosted by DLSP families, for a yearly U12s tournament at Kirwan Park with the Exiles as our special guests. What started out as a nice idea grew into a strong tradition. Some of the players on that first tour went on to become parents and then coaches at Salmo who now bring their kids on the tour to London.

Planning for this year’s tour started almost immediately as our buses were leaving for Gatwick airport following the London Irish mini festival 2018. This year’s group of U11 and U12 parents who came together to not only organise the tour but the following year's U12s home tournament as well. It's a huge effort for which we're all thankful to all involved be it in a small or large way. We're especially thankful to the organising committee. At the core and main were Finbarr O'Brien, Chris Browne and Steve King. They could not have done all that was needed to be done without the services of Paul Neary, Stephen Flood, Clodagh Delaney, Paul McInerney and Paul Hannan who each put in hundreds of hours to get and keep the show on the road.

This will possibly be the best Salmo tour ever, so a big thank you to those above and also to Brian Holland, Chris Moore, Damien McCabe, Des Cunningham, Greg O'Leary, James Forde, James O'Friel, James Mulhall, Katie Heskin, Michael Shannon, Olivia Leigh, Phil Donohue, Ronan Greany, Steven Barrett, Tara Burke, Tom Hennessey, and Trevor Lucy. And we must also mention all of the U11 and U12 coaches, those who helped with pitch setup and pitch supervisors at the home tournament, and the cake sale ladies, and Vicky Higgins and Stephanie Cook at too.

With everything now in place, our labours were now ready to bear fruit on Tuesday evening, April 23rd, before the tour with the presentation of the kit to the touring players. Leinster players, Tadhg Furlong, James Tracy and Ciaran Frawley, who generously gave up their time were on hand to make the occasion extra special for the players. You could feel the excitement building within the function room at Salmo that evening. The anticipation was now ratcheted up another level as our players got their new tour kits and bags and reading the 2019 tour programme.

Friday morning, April 26th, finally arrived calm and still. The 186 tourists were flying out of Dublin. After an uneventful flight our two planes landed in Gatwick. There we were met by four buses to bring us on our onward journey, a nice relaxing day-out, for some, in Thorpe Park. From there it was a short hop to Sunbury-on-Thames to check-in at the hotel before finally making out way just up the road to London Irish at their newish clubs grounds, Hazelwood, to meet up with the London Irish families.

Upon arriving at Hazelwood last year for the 2018 tour we observed that many of the London Irish kids were at football practice with Gael Londain GAA. Some of the Gael Londain coaches, like the Salmo coaches, are also rugby coaches so the idea to maybe play a challenge match the following year took hold. And so it happened, the matches ending diplomatically in draws.

Following the match the coaches, players and parents retired to the club house to meet-up properly with the London Irish folks and families until it was time for the players to depart with the billeting families. The bereft travelling parents and coaches were left to their own devices and console themselves until the Saturday morning when they would meet up with their youngsters again.

Saturday, April 27th, was a rest day of sorts (needed for some after the night before) though most planned an activity filled day like a trip into London to see the sights, or back out to Thorpe Park because one whole day isn’t enough for some, or to Mercedes World to give the young fella his first taste at driving a car over their 4x4 course, or to Twickenham Stadium the scene of many a wonderful Irish victory, or like many a trip out to Reading to see London Irish play their last game of the season against Ealing in the Championship League.The kids departed once again with the London Irish families, and the parents and coaches settled in to a most enjoyable dinner and afters in the club’s function room.

It was a real early start for all on Sunday, the actual day of the London Irish mini rugby festival. The first task of the day was to get a brew on in the DLSP marquee. Yes, you read right, we hired a big tent, and all decked out in Salmo bunting and flags. We were all very proud of our big tent, it was a fantastic focal point and it meant too that the players had all the comforts available to them for the long day of rugby ahead.

Under 11s entered three teams into the festival, The Cheetahs, The Lions and The Tigers, playing 12 matches on the day, 4 per team. All the teams started fantastically well with 3 wins for the Salmo lads. Real teamwork and confidence across all 3 pitches saw some great tries in the opening games, brilliant rucking and using the full width of the pitch. The coaches were unbelievably proud of all the boys’ performances. The day’s rugby finished up for Salmo with an impressive 9 wins from 12 games played with The Tigers finishing the day with an unbeaten record.

The U12s fielded two teams, DLSP Lions and DLSP Stags, in the B section, and both teams performed very well. The Lions played tough opposition in the form of Dolphin 1 from Cork, Clontarf 3, London Irish Geese, and Kingston RFC who are near neighbours to London Irish. The Lions had a great win against Clontarf but fell short against the others. But they did win their playoff match against Teddington, another close neighbour to London Irish. The Stags fared better against their opposition with wins against London Irish Wanderers, Dolphin 2, and Sundays Well. They drew a very tight well contested game against Hitchin RFC, a club 35 miles north of London. Stags would have won their group but for tries scored which was just less than the aforementioned Hitchin. Unfortunately the Stags lost their playoff game against a sizable Farnham team.

With the rugby finished it was time prepare for our departure. There was tidying and gathering-up to do and once finished our priorities switched to seeking out the London Irish parents to have a final chat and goodbyes. The hospitality of the host families over the weekend was second to none and they created a home from home for our players which was as always so generous of them. Before we knew it, sadly, it was time to go.

It was with mixed emotions the four DLSP buses pulled out of Hazelwood for the long journey home. The U11 players were already looking forward to next year. The U12s feeling a mixture between the realisation that this is the last mini rugby they’ll play and the satisfaction that they had a great weekend. And the parents, coaches included, all smiling with contentment, it was indeed a great weekend. Long may this tradition continue!

The Salmo Tourist 2019

DLSP U12s and U11s would like to give warm thanks to all our sponsors without whom this tour to London Irish would not have been possible.

The Emporium Company -
I360 Medical - 
Lahinch Coast Hotel -
Permanent TSB -
Beacon Hospital -
HAS Medical Billing -
Tim Dooley Construction Ltd, Marley Grange, Rathfarnham
Bank of Ireland GIVETOGETHER -
Frank Keane BMW -
Provident CRM -
Sandyford Toyota -
MC2 Accountants -
Hermitage Medical Clinic -
Dublin Bus - 
GoldCore -
Rockcourt Financial Services Ltd -

We have some great photos from the weekend with thanks to Paul Finlay, Paul Hannan and Greg O'Leary for kindly making them available for us to display here! Make sure to click through to see both pages!

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