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Emerald Warriors Continue To Prove How Inclusive Rugby Can Be

Emerald Warriors Continue To Prove How Inclusive Rugby Can Be
By Oisin Gaffey Updated
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The Emerald Warriors are Ireland's first LGBTQ+ Inclusive Rugby Club, founded almost 20 years ago in 2003.

Ahead of an open evening for new members tonight, I had the opportunity to talk with club member Graham Flaherty about what makes the club so special and the importance of LGBTQ+ representation in sport.

Who are the Emerald Warriors?

The Emerald Warriors was established to provide members of the LGBTQ+ community a place to play rugby. Flaherty describes how over the past 20 years the club has 'grown to have two full-contact teams that compete in the Leinster Metro Leagues'. Similarly, the Warriors have tag rugby teams to cater for all levels of experience and confidence.

Founded to offer an inclusive safe space for those wanting to play rugby, Flaherty describes the makeup of the club:

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We have people from all genders and backgrounds in the club now. It's a really diverse club that's grown to over 200 members.'

Flaherty describes his experience in joining the club. After Dublin hosted Europe's largest LGBTQ+ Inclusive rugby tournament -the Union Cup - he was inspired to join the club.

'I decided to get involved with the Warriors the next season and within a few weeks I was playing in Metro League matches and I haven't looked back since.'

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He talked of how as a spectator, the atmosphere in 2019 was 'absolutely amazing', saying:

'I really wanted to be a part of that.'

The Emerald Warriors were founded on the values of inclusivity and diversity, offering their club as a space for anybody who wants to play rugby. Flaherty highlights these values when asked about what separates the Emerald Warriors from other rugby clubs.

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It's a different environment from what I played in when I was a youth on straight rugby teams. There's less 'laddish behaviour', it's a totally different atmosphere. It's completely open and welcoming and that's what people really enjoy about it, even people who aren't gay. We have a few allies in the team who  play just because they really liked the atmosphere within the team and the vibe down at training sessions

How can you join?

The Emerald Warriors will be hosting their Autumn open evening on Monday 3rd October. The club welcomes all newcomers of any ability and background and would love to see as many new faces as possible!

The evening begins at 7pm at The High School, Rathgar and is open to anyone wanting to play contact rugby or tag rugby. The club have expressed that it is open to members of the LGBTQ+ community and beyond, with Flaherty adding, 'it's also open to allies'.

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He states that it is open to all levels of experience, whether you're a complete beginner or you're looking to get back on the rugby pitch. The warriors have 2 men's contact rugby teams who compete in the Leinster Metro Leagues as well as a tag division which is mixed gender.

Flaherty emphasises the importance of Tag rugby, saying it 'can be a great stepping stone for people to get into Rugby initially' whilst also being favoured amongst their older members. He discussed the social aspect of the club, saying:

It's great craic, its great fun. It's a great social aspect.'

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Whilst there is no women's contact rugby team yet, Flaherty says, 'We'd also like to have a women's contact team going forward, just to make our club more diverse'

He highlights the more social Pavilion membership, saying that it's another great opportunity for people to be involved in the club without necessarily playing any rugby. He says it's 'more of a social membership for people to come along and be part of the club and join social events in the club. We also find that Pavilion members also get involved in the administration and the running of the club.

READ HERE: 'When The Underdogs Opportunity Came Up, I Just Changed My Life'

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The Importance of Representation

Leinster senior rugby player Nick McCarthy publicly came out as gay in June 2022, becoming one of the first active male athletes to come out. He was widely supported by his teammates and coaches alike, receiving much praise online for his announcement. When asked about the significance of this event, Flaherty responded:

'It's so important. It was absolutely phenomenal when Nick McCarthy came out.

To actually have a professional sports person in rugby come out as gay, it sends out such a great message for any young players so that they know it's absolutely okay to be themselves on the rugby pitch, and that they're totally accepted.

'I think it's amazing how Nick was supported by his teammates and hopefully we'll have more role models coming in as well. It's moving in the right direction and it's only a matter of time before we have more role models.'

What next for the Emerald Warriors?

After the disruption of the last few years with Covid 19 and various lockdowns, it is great to have the consistent return of sport. Not being able to train or play matches for months has been a struggle for all clubs in the country, but Flaherty acknowledges how great it is to be able to play again.

When asked about the aspirations of the club, he replied:

'Back in August we competed in the Bingham Cup in Canada and we brought back the Bingham plate, we finished 5th place out of 58 teams from all over the world. These successes are stepping stones for us, we feel that the future is really bright. Going forward we want our two teams really competing in the Metro Leagues. We are looking at having a women's full contact team as well going forward. In our long term strategy, we want to have our own home grounds as well.

The Bingham Cup is a tournament whereby the world's leading LGBTQ+ Inclusive rugby clubs face each other in a competition, with teams competing from across the globe.

The Union Cup is taking place in Birmingham in April 2023. Flaherty highlights this cup as something the team is working towards.

 

SEE ALSO: Massive Blow To Connacht's URC Hopes As Bundee Aki Banned For 8 Weeks

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