An unusual �roses� match takes place at Oldham St Annes Amateur Rugby League club on Sunday, February 20th. To celebrate the long-standing contribution of the Irish community in the North of England to the sport of rugby league, teams representing the Irish clubs of Lancashire and Yorkshire will play for the Michael Davitt* Challenge Bowl.
The match, staged by the Irish Democratic League clubs in partnership with Rugby League Ireland, is also intended to boost Irish identification in England to help secure a future supply of players for the Irish national rugby league team, the �Wolfhounds�.
The trophy will be presented to the winning team by Ms Amanda Bane of the Irish Embassy in London. The Man of the Match medals will be presented by Coun.Kay Knox, Deputy Mayor of Oldham. Ms Bane is also secretary to the Dion Committee The teams will wear the Irish national home and away kits and will be piped onto the field by Mr.Bernard Prendergast, of the Liverpool Irish Pipe band. Also in attendance will be �Matt�, the official mascot of the Irish Wolfhounds team.
Mr. Dave Southern, Chairman of Rugby League Ireland, said in a statement: �This match, we hope, will strengthen the already existing ties between rugby league and the Irish clubs. Dewsbury Celtic, Halifax Irish and St Josephs, Huddersfield will be representing a Yorkshire select IIIX and St Annes of Oldham will have the honour of representing Lancashire. In future, if this goes well, we would wish to form rugby league teams at other Irish clubs, particularly in Lancashire.�
The match is being staged in Oldham at the request of the newly-formed Irish Society in Oldham, whose treasurer, Mr. Sean Hussey, is also a leading member at St Annes. This event is being seen as a pipe-opener to the 2005 Manchester Irish Festival and will be the first-ever �Irish Roses� rugby league match.
Contacts: Dave Southern � Rugby League Ireland 00353 087 672 7911. Chris Clegg � Lancs IDL clubs 01282 602186. Sean Hussey - Oldham Irish Society 0161 620 9207.
Notes * Michael Davitt (1846-1906) was a leading Irish patriot and writer of the 19th Century. He grew up in Haslingden, Lancs and was a key patron of Irish sports. # The Dion Committee is the organisation set up the Irish govt to fund Irish emigrant Welfare and Advice Servives. The IDL clubs have recently had grants awarded to recognize their services to the Irish community in Britain for over a hundred years.