TWO exciting young Limerick rugby players have this week signed for cross-channel Super League giants St Helen’s.
Twenty three-year-old Aaron McCloskey and 21-year-old Ian Cross have both penned deals with the five-time Merseyside-based Super League winners after impressing coaches during recent trials. Both players had combined playing Rugby League with the Treaty City Titans as well as rugby union in the Ulster Bank League in recent seasons. 6’ 7” lock McCloskey has been impressing with Garryowen in recent seasons, while a fellow past pupil of Crescent College Comprehensive, Ian Cross, enjoyed a terrific season with Young Munster in the AIL at full back as the Clifford Park side reached the semi-finals. As both McCloskey and Cross come from a largely rugby union background, St Helen’s plan to immediately place the players in the French domestic league for the remainder of the season, in order to gain important match day experience before returning to St Helens for pre-season training for the 2012 season. Both Aaron and Ian recently made their Ireland ‘A’ debuts and are likely to feature for Ireland in the Autumn Internationals against Samoa and France in Thomond Park. St Helen’s were one of a number of Super League clubs who attended Rugby League Ireland’s inaugural Talent Identification Academy that took place in Limerick last May where both players were identified as potential future stars and given a trial with the Super League heavyweights. The Academy was the brainchild of Brendan Guilfoyle, Development Manager, Rugby League Ireland and was part of the governing body’s efforts to continue to grow the game nationally and improve the Ireland international team ahead of the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.
Mike Rush, High Performance Manager with St Helen’s added: “Both Aaron and Ian have been a credit to themselves and their families while attending the first trip to St Helens, both players have excelled in relation to their previous rugby league experience and hopefully they can make the next step in professional rugby league”.
Gordon Matthews, General Manager of Rugby League Ireland added: “Everyone involved is delighted for both Aaron and Ian. The fact that one of Super League’s most prominent clubs, St Helens has signed both lads is a testament not only to their individual talent and commitment but also to the general high quality of player we know exists in Ireland. I hope this will encourage more and more young players to attend next year’s Academy.” Rugby League Ireland currently registers 20 clubs throughout the country and their three provincial league season runs over 14 weeks. RLI recently unveiled a bid to host games in the Rugby League World Cup 2013 in Thomond Park, in conjunction with Shannon Development and The Shannon Region Conference & Sports Bureau.