Yorkshire Irish defeated counterparts Lancashire Irish in the inaugural Clash of the Irish Roses 24-10 at Oldham St. Anne's RLFC.
The match was arranged as a pipe-opener for the Manchester Irish Festival and attracted a number of distinguished guests including Amanda Bane from the Irish Embassy in London and Rugby League Ireland Administration Director Patrick Harkins who made a flying visit from the Athlone in the heart of Ireland in order to be present.
The two sides were led onto the field by a traditional Irish Piper in full regalia and both teams were escorted by Irish wolfhounds Diplomat and Brian Boru, whilst the two teams wore commemorative kits in the traditional Lancashire red and Yorkshire white that were provided by Irish Associations across the region.
The Yorkshire side, coached by Ireland World Cup star Johnny Lawless, led 14-10 at the break thanks to tries from Paul Wadsworth ( Halifax Irish ), John Roadknight ( Dewsbury Celtic ) and Pete Howard ( Siddal ). The home side rallied after the interval before further tries from Chris Norman ( Halifax Irish ) and Jake McCarthy ( Greetland ) settled an impressive victory for the White Rose selection.
RLI official Patrick Harkins commented, "Rugby League Ireland is four years into its development and events such as this are the perfect way for us to make new friends. Irish people have been coming to Lancashire and Yorkshire for a long time and have been welcomed into the communities where they settled. This is an ideal way to connect with Irish people living outside Ireland and celebrating the lasting friendships that have grown as a result".
Hopeful that the match will be the launch pad for a full Irish representative structure outside Ireland in the near future, Harkins added "RLI is focussed upon being successful in the 2008 RL World Cup and becoming an elite rugby league nation at all levels of the game from Professional to Open Age Amateur and Students to Juniors".
Plans are already shaping for next year's game to take place in Yorkshire with Halifax Irish RLFC bidding to host the fixture.
Anyone wishing to become a Friend of Rugby League Ireland, particularly Irish-qualified players and administrators wishing to take part in future events, are urged to contact Rugby League Ireland by emailing their name and address to [email protected] or 'phoning 00353 1202 0056.
Replicas of the commemorative Yorkshire Irish and Lancashire Irish jerseys are also available for ?40 via the RLI website: http://www.rli.ieLike