dERRY man Mark Gallagher has led Canadian rugby team, the Montreal Irish, to another league title.
Mark, 32, originally from Foyle Springs, moved to Canada several years ago and lives in Montreal with his wife Joanne. They are expecting their first child next month.
Mark is captain of the men’s senior team and is also president of the club. After leading the club to victory in their domestic league Mark helped to organise a momentous tour of Bermuda where the Montreal Irish played the Bermuda national team.
“The last few months have been amazing,” said former St. Columb’s College pupil Mark. “We won the league in 2010 but last year’s victory was extra special because there were more teams in the league and it was much stronger.”
Mark, who is a centre for the club, said that not only did the seniors win the league title but the third team tasted glory too and the seconds missed out when they were beaten in the final.
“I think all three teams lost one game each throughout the season,” said Mark. “It’s been an incredible year for us. We have strengthened our team with a few players from Ireland and Wales - things are going well.”
Mark explained that the state of the economies in Ireland and the United Kingdom mean that more and more young people want to emigrate.
“Canada has very strong rules when it comes to the banking sector so it means that the recession hasn’t hit as hard here as it has elsewhere.
“The lads who have come over from Ireland and England have really helped to benefit the team. They have been great additions and I think it shows - the team has looked really strong this year.
“It’s been a strange year for me because as a player I want the senior team to do well but as president I want the whole club to do well.
“We had all three finals on the one day. Montreal Irish are only team in the league with their own ground so I had to make sure that everything ran smoothly.
“The seniors played their final and we won so obviously I was delighted but before and after I was running around worrying about everyone else. It’s a hectic role at times but it’s one that I really enjoy.”
Montreal Irish RFC last visited Bermuda in the 1980s and after meeting with a few of the players it was decided that they would try and organise the first tour of the island in over 20 years.
“Many of our old boys were telling us about the times they toured Bermuda. So we decided to go for it and we went to Bermuda for a week in November.”
Mark described the experience as one to remember and revealed that one of the Montreal Irish players got to represent Australia.
“Bermuda hosts a masters tournament for rugby. There were former internationals from New Zealand, Australia and Ireland all playing.
“We got to meet former Ireland internationals Malcolm O’Kelly and Shane Byrne.
“We played against a select team made up of Bermuda police officers and mariners and won.
“The national team played against us in a warm up game in preparation for their big competition game with Australia. When Australia were playing one of their games one of the players got injured. One of our players was born in Australia so they asked him if he wanted to play. He played for about 10 minutes and got to pull on his country;s jersey. The Montreal Irish now have an international rugby star,” he joked.
For further information on the Montreal Irish or to find out how Mark is getting on visit the club’s website - www.montrealirish.com