Donnybrook Cup Press Conference

By Daniel Andruczyk, at Press Conference, Paddy Whack’s Bar, Philadelphia PA, USA.

Friday afternoon saw the official Press Conference of the Donnybrook Cup held at one of the events official sponsors and events venues, Paddy Whacks. The USA Tomahawks are taking on the Ireland Wolfhounds to round out the week’s St Patricks Day celebrations. Three members from each of the two teams were present to answer questions: the USA had David Niu (President and Coach), Apple Pope (Capt.) and Jack Breen (Assistant Coach and Team Manager) and Ireland had Gordon Matthews (Chairman RLI), Alan Robinson (Coach) and Brendan Guilfoyle (Capt.). Proceedings opened with introductions from the team members and then questions opened up with myself throwing an open questions to both teams. I asked about what both teams are looking to take out of this match and how all this fits into their preparations with the Home Nations later in the year (Ireland) and World Cup qualifiers (USA).

Alan responded by saying that it gives the Irish a unique opportunity. “From an Irish Point of view and this time of year just before the season starts, its a good opportunity for us to bring some new players through to our system … and give guys their first taste of a big International event”.

David Niu went on to say that for the USA its “Another opportunity to grow the sport in this country and city. We started developing Rugby League in Philadelphia some time ago … this contest between USA and Ireland dates back to 1995 … so we see history between the two countries with this being the seventh game and we are proud that we can host it in this city again.”

Niu goes on to say that the game gives the AMNRL an opportunity to move forward for this year with exciting opportunities like trying to advance though to their first ever World Cup against Jamaica and South Africa and also the recommencement of last years series against Canada (Colonial Cup) which they are excited about. With this games historical perspective for the league and players it provides an opportunity for something special for the players to push their claim for October and its a great way to kick off the season around a celebratory holiday.

Gordon also put in that from an RLI point of view “We certainly are looking at this as the start of our build up to the World Cup in 2013. This is an opportunity to weld the team together, there are boys that play in the UK and boys that play in Ireland and its a chance for them to play together… Its a big opportunity for these lads to step up to the international stage.”

The Irish said that they certainly have been very welcomed in the city, with opportunities to meet the mayor and also the various events at Paddy Whacks pubs. They have had a great response from the public and they hope that it will translate to a great crowds on Saturdays Match.


The start of the Donnybrook Cup Press Conference, Philadelphia PA, USA.

I asked the two captains what they hoped to achieve from tomorrows match, specifically for the team and themselves. Brendan answered first “From our perspective for the 4 Nations games over the summer, we usually get together the day before, so a game like this with a weeks preparation is important, Alan is able to get things ironed out and to have a good performance, a good team performance at the end of the day ”.

Apple on the other hand said “What we have to worry about is that we have several new guys on the international stage and haven’t played on the Tomahawks before, so the biggest thing for me is I’d like to see our side come together and really play as a 17 man team… every guys doing their part and helping us come together and getting the job done which will only lead to success i our ultimate goal of the World Cup”.

He goes on to say“ Each International that we play will see us perform better and better and play more like a team each game and gives an opportunity for us with so many inexperienced guys to really build a bond in there”.

I also asked him to comment on his Captaincy and if he can see him being the Captain by the WCQ or will someone try to usurp him? “Being selected as captain is on a game to game basis. If you come in and don’t do the job then you’ll be replaced by someone better than you. That’s how I go into every captaincy that I expect on of these other guys to come and try and take it from me… but to answer, yes I want to hold onto my spot!”

When asked about which players fans should look out for, both teams were diplomatic in saying that since both teams have so many new faces all players are important and so no one can really be singled out.


L-R: Jack Breen, Apple Pope, David Niu, Alan Robinson, Brendan Guilfoyle, Gordon Matthews

However with so many new players on the teams, making sure that these players keep their heads in the line of fire is of importance. The two captains were asked about how they make sure their players are ready to play. Brendan’s response was that you tell them to keep their cool and go out there and give it 110%. Apple said to get past your mistakes, they happen and move on, make them at full speen and get past them and move on. He made a very poignant remark in that the sport is not one where you can stand around and wait for things to happen, its a sport where you have to go forward and give 100%. They all are selected for a reason and its their time to show that on the field.

Of course with the massive media blitz that’s been going on, I had to ask David about pre sales and how big they think the crowd will be? David as always was diplomatic in his response “We’ve always been very happy with the fans that have come out to watch these games. We’ve had some great crowds in Washington and in Glenn Mills and Savannah Georgia. So I couldn’t put a number on but there will be plenty of fans for sure, equally cheering for the USA team and the Irish team”.

When asked about the AMNRL’s plans for 2011 David said “We’re looking forward to this being our most exciting year ever… we have a chance to qualify for our first ever Rugby League World Cup which you wouldn’t have expected when this thing all started. We had a few shots at it back in 99 and 95 when we tried to qualify and didn’t make it and of course most recently in 2007. We are in a good place, we played Jamaica and had success against them. The South Africans are working through a program much like the rest of us in developing the sport where they want to be performing at the Rugby League World Cup standard. So that’s a challenge, but and exciting challenge for us to get to October”.

He goes on to say and slightly hints at recent events “We have a domestic Season we have to get through and obviously some more internationals, and to be honest here we are going through a process with some challenges. I went to bet one night with 11 teams and woke up with 26, I don’t know which way you want to look at that. I take it as a backhanded compliment that we started this sport when there was none and got it to a place where it very popular not just for ourselves but other people where they think they move in a direction take the game beyond where we have been able to achieve and if that’s possible its going to be seen over the course of the next couple of months”.

David continues ”From where we sit its business as usual, we have events through till August and Internationals against Canada in August and September and World Cup Qualifiers in October. So its very exciting”.

We do know one thing for sure, Saturdays game will have big hits, this being said no less than by RLI Chairman Gordon Matthews. Gordon in fact was describing the attractiveness of Rugby league for the average fan and for the uninitiated saying that “Compared to Rugby Union and Soccer you find the ball is in play much more on Average… Its great for the fans, its fast, fast paced and high impact, it lends it self very well to the USA fans base and it something we want to capitalise on”.

So that is a summary of the Donnybrook Cup press conference.

Team squads

Ireland Wolfhounds: Simon Deevy, Ross Bergin, Paddy Barcoe, Adam Hughes, Alan Trenier, Brian Flanagan, Joe Smith, Ashley Huck, Peter Howard, Alan McNamara, Brendan Guilfoyle (Capt), Mark O’Neill, Mark Tuohy, Sean Carmody, John Bagnall, Ben Moriarty, Jimmy Giblin

USA Tomahawks: Apple Pope (Capt), Calder Orr, Xavier Lozinguez, Kelly McGill, Conway Maraki, Andrew Kneisly, Mike Cartwright, Mike Tuala, Salesi Tongamoa, Sione Taufa, Mike Brazill, Curtis Cunz, Andrew Malafu, Nate Smith, Charles Cortalano, Sean Taylor, Gareth Baxendale

Referee: Rob Erwin (Aus)


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