Cork on a rugby high

By Katie O'Keeffe

A rugby buzz has swept across Cork as the Mixed Ability Rugby World Cup is well and truly underway.

After 4 years in the making, seeing off stiff competition from other would be-host countries and waiting out a global pandemic, the International Mixed Ability Rugby Tournament (IMART) is on track to be a great one.

IMART and Mixed Ability Week (MAW), which had originally been scheduled for June 2020, was launched last Sunday evening to much fanfare and crowds at Musgrave Park.

The games will end tomorrow, 10 June.

Alan Craughwell, founder of the first mixed ability rugby team in Ireland, Sunday’s Well Rebels, and of Mixed Ability Sports Ireland, spoke of the ethos of IMART and how its representation in Cork began: “Mixed ability rugby and mixed ability sports are providing real opportunities for people with and without disabilities to experience social inclusion.

“Sunday's Well Rebels became part the rugby family at 'The Well' in 2014, when I approached the club with the idea. Since then, the team has flourished.

“From the early days of 13 players, we now have more than 50 active players. It is a great example of real inclusion to see players with and without disabilities training, playing and, of course, socialising alongside each other every Friday night and feeling like valued members of Sunday’s Well Rugby Club,” he concluded.

More than 4,000 people were in attendance for the opening ceremony including visiting teams from more than 14 countries.

It featured a parade of nations and acts including soprano Majella Cullagh with the Band 1 Brigade, Altan, Celtic Steps and Code of Behaviour. Tributes were led by An Taoiseach Micheál Martin who acknowledged “mixed ability sport as a movement.”

Munster Rugby Captain, Peter O’Mahony, who is involved in IMART 2022 said: “I’m proud to support the International Mixed Ability Rugby Tournament coming to Ireland for the first time.

He continued: “Mixed ability gives everybody the opportunity to be a rugby player regardless of size, shape or ability.

He added: “This is an incredible opportunity to celebrate our core values, welcoming teams from around the world to experience our legendary Irish hospitality!"

It's not just about the rugby at this year's International Mixed Ability World Cup, the organisers have incorporated a conference on ‘The Future of Mixed Ability: For Sport and Beyond’ which took place this week at the Mardyke Pavilion, UCC.

The focus was on exploring the insights, impacts and development opportunities for other sports such as boxing, floor curling and rowing, all of which are being demonstrated in Cork this week.

The contributors not only included leading Irish and international academics and experts in the field, but delegates also heard from the 'lived experience' of those with disabilities as they shared their stories at the Cork conference.

Whilst the conference sets the tone for the serious endeavour and pursuit of advancing equality, inclusion and diversity for those with disability, the social scene demonstrates the people-centric and fun element of such a significant tournament.

The events continue for the rest of the week with matches and entertainment from 10am-10.30pm.

Match attendance is free and so is the entertainment which starts each day from 2pm and runs until 10pm with bands and performers like the Lee Sessions, Aaron O’Sullivan and Andy Dunne all playing as well as The Offbeats, James O’Sullivan and The Old Moderns.

The closing and prize-giving ceremony will be officiated by Matt Cooper on Friday and will have The Pearls on board to end the tournament on a high that evening.