A one-sided loss to L.V. Rogers last year at the B.C. high school rugby championship in Abbotsford wasn’t the outcome the Okanagan Mission Huskies were looking for.
But what resulted from their meeting on the pitch with the Nelson-based school, members of the Huskies are likely to remember for a lifetime.
The L.V. Rogers’ team had taken a trip to Ireland earlier in the year for a series of exhibition games, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
To members of the OKM squad, it sounded like a great idea.
“The Nelson team had been to Ireland to play and they were telling us about what a great time they had,” said Huskies’ coach Ryan Holly. “One of our boys said ‘Why can’t we do the same?’
“So we asked around and found out there was a lot of interest from our players and parents. We kind of scrambled to get things set up before school ended in June, got things up and running, and now it’s reality. We’re excited to be going.”
Twenty-one Huskies players, two coaches and five chaperones will be in Ireland March 12 to 20 for the exhibition tour.
OKM will play games in three major areas of Ireland—Dublin, Tipperary, and Galway City.
Holly expects his players to learn plenty in a country where rugby is considered a major sport.
“It’s a place where people are passionate about the game, it’ll be a really neat environment for the boys,” said Holly. “We’re going to play three matches, our goal is to learn a lot. We’re not really going with the mindset of winning, it’ll be tough. But if we do manage to sneak one out, that would be great, too. It’s all about the experiences we’ll have.”
The last time an OKM team crossed the ocean for a rugby tour was 1979—the same year coach Holly was born—when the Huskies travelled to the U.K.
“As a coach it’s something I always wanted to do,” said Holly. “The boys and parents were so keen about it, it made it a lot easier to plan for with such an enthusiastic bunch. It’s just something that doesn’t happen very often. The kids are pretty excited.”
The Huskies are holding one last event to raise funds for the trip to Ireland.
A banquet will be held this Saturday at Big White inside the Happy Valley Lodge.
A fun rugby game will be held in the snow at 3:30 p.m.
Doors for the banquet open at 6:30 p.m., with dinner at 7:30 p.m. The evening will feature a fund raiser auction, and entertainment by local celtic music group, The Malarkeys.
Tickets are $45 for adults and $20 for players.
For more information on the banquet and auction, contact Di Ballingall at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (250) 878-1477.