In the U S of A this weekend, the Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival will be in full swing. Celebrating all things Irish since 1982, this event has grown from 3,000 visitors in its opening year, to more than 30,000 annually, making it one of the biggest and best Irish festivals in America. So whilst our friends over the pond will be drinking Irish coffee, listening to pipe bands and more this weekend; I want to celebrate the Irish players weíve had playing in our great sport.
Since the introduction of SuperLeague we have had many players of Irish decent, who held, or hold down various positions for their clubs. Players like Ryan Sheridan, Barrie McDermott, Tommy Martyn, Luke Ambler, Phil Cantillon, Neil Harmon, Francis Cummings, Gary Connolly, David Barnhill, Pat Richards, James Lowes, Jamie Mathiou and many more.
However, none of them compare to the greatest Irishman to play the sport in the modern era in the shape of former Great Britain International Brian Carney. Whilst there are tries of his against Leeds I would rather forget, I donít let that get in the way of appreciating his ability to do spectacular things on the rugby field. His greatest moment probably came at 33 minutes into the 2005 Tri Nations game between Great Britain and New Zealand, when he picked up a pass from Chev Walker and ran half way down the field to the try line, after dodging Manu Vatuvei and Brent Webb in the process, making it 24 - 0 to us. Unfortunately he went off injured later in the game but more than made up for his bad start to that particular tournament.
Whether or not Brian Carney is the greatest Irishman of all time to play the game is up for debate. I wasnít around to see the likes of former Wakefield captain Bob Kelly and Thomas McKinney playing in the 1950s. All I can say is a big English thank you to the Irish for their contribution to the game and long may it continue, as I do hope to see an Irish team in SuperLeague one day.
Until then, Iíll just keep dreaming.