THIS SATURDAY the eyes of the rugby nation will be fixed on the Six Nations joust between Ireland and England at Twickenham, a match that will feature one of Limerick’s brightest talents in the shape of Keith Earls.
Fortunately, Limerick will also be represented in what promises to be an embarrassingly sub-par contest between an Oireachtas XV and a House of Commons/House of Lords side, this time in the form of Ballyneety native John Hogan.
When he is not working as parliamentary assistant to Fine Gael TD Patrick O’Donovan, John plays as a hooker with Bruff RFC. This St Patrick’s Day, he will tog out alongside TDs such as Sean Sherlock and Richard Boyd Barrett in the annual political rugby clash which will this year take place at Richmond RFC, just down the road from Twickenham. It will no doubt be the closest John ever gets to an international cap.
“There was one attempt made to organise a training session”, he said. “An e-mail went around two months ago saying that training was going to be at a certain time and a certain place. I had my excuses ready to go, but two hours later another e-mail went round saying it had been cancelled due to lack of interest.”
The Oireachtas team are flying over and taking part entirely at their own expense, with no taxpayer money going to waste on what is certain to be a diabolical game of rugby. The Irish side is captained by Fine Gael TD John Paul Phelan.
In a bid to smooth out differences in age, skill and fitness, the match will feature a novel set of rules.
The game will be played in four 15 minute quarters, scrums will be uncontested, players will be forbidden from tackling designated ‘senior’ players, and no one is allowed to run more than 15 metres with the ball.
John is a former Limerick Leader reporter who became well known for his satirical ‘Hooker’s Diary’ columns which poked fun at his fruitless - and ongoing - quest to break into the Bruff first XV.
His rugby career to date has been mildly glittering: he was capped by Munster schools when he was a pupil at Crescent College Comprehensive, and also played for Connacht at under 21 level. Today, he is captain of the Bruff second XV.
Over the past few weeks, while he hasn’t been avoiding training at all costs, John has been helping his friends Maghnus Collins Smyth and David Burns plan their ‘Sand2Snow Adventures’ journey from Turkey to China.
The trek, which will raise money for local charity Self Help Africa, will see the pair cycle across the Middle East, run across the Himalayas and raft down the Yangtze River.
For more information, visit www.sand2snowadventures.com