CANADIAN GLORY

If Derry man Mark Gallagher ever decides to write a book, the year 2010 would surely make an interesting chapter.

Mark, (32) from Foyle Springs has been living and working in Canada si,nce 2007 and this year he helped Montreal Irish Rugby Football Club to their most successful season since the club was formed in 1957.

Mark, a former pupil of St. Columb's College, is club captain and president. Since joining the club in 2007 he has not only assisted them in their on-field glory but he has also helped them to develop and grow the club.

"I'm just lucky to be involved with such an amazing club at a time when everything is going in the right direction," said Mark.

"This is honestly all down to the good work done by previous presidents and coaches who helped to turn us from a social side into a top flight club. I just joined at the right time. As President, I now have a huge responsibility to keep the 'Irish' moving in the right direction and not let their good work go to waste. I'm really hoping to develop and expand our junior programme in 2011 to help with this."

Mark, who used to play for City of Derry RFC, recently returned home where he married his fiance Joanne Galloway over Christmas.

"The last year was truly historic," said Mark. "We took three teams to three finals and won two championships."

The Montreal Irish team's achievements are truly outstanding as they were only promoted to the Quebec Rugby First Division last season after winning the second division.

"A lot of hard work has gone on at this club," said Mark. "We went from being promoted to winning the championship in a matter of months. The team and everyone involved have just been excellent. If it wasn't everyone working together and singing off the same hymn sheet then none of it would have been possible."

For the last ten years, St, Anne's RFC have completely dominated Quebec rugby. The Montreal Irish beat their rivals in two of the three finals they reached and Mark said that their glory could arguably be viewed as a turning point for local rugby.

"We have some really talented players at the club and everyone gave it 100 per cent this year. It's because of this attitude that we were so successful. I'm not the only Irish lad in the team. We have guys from Bangor, Cork, Galway and Offaly all playing for us. We all take such great pride representing the team."

Earlier in 2010 Mark was made President of the Montreal Irish and as a result he got to meet the new Irish ambassador to Canada, Dr. Ray Bassett.

"It was a really proud moment for me because I got to present Dr. Bassett with a club tie. It was big deal for the club because so much hard work has gone into getting us to where we are today so for us to get the recognition that we did was just great."

When he's not playing rugby for the Montreal Irish, Mark works for a renewable energy company called TCI Renewables.

"There's myself and three other guys from work who play for the team. They're really good players and everyone at work has been really supportive throughout the season."

Mark added that the club are always on the look out for new talent and said that if anyone from Derry is thinking about moving to Canada they should get in contact with the club.

"With the way things are back home in Ireland we have been getting a lot of emails from people interested in coming here to work. We've had a few people from Derry show an interest and I would say to them that if they do decide to come over they'll be made to feel more than welcome."

The Montreal Irish are currently in the middle of their off-season but pre-season training will begin in March. Mark already has his eyes set on going one step further in 2011.

"Next season is going to be very important," he said. "Obviously we want to defend our two titles but it would be great if all three of our teams could win their respective championships. It would be the icing on the cake.

"St. Anne's RFC are our big rivals so it was good for us to get a few over on them last season. We all know what it is we have to do this season and I have no doubt that when the guys come back for pre-season training in March they'll be ready to go."

For more information on the Montreal Irish Rugby Football Club visit the club's website: www.mirfc.ca