Back in January, Aran Islands native and rugby player Paul Mullen joined the Houston SaberCats and the USA rugby team to continue pursuing his passion for the sport all while embracing his new Texan home.
Mullen, 26, started playing rugby when he was 13 at the Glenstal Abby School in Co. Limerick, marking a humble beginning to his love of the game. He played there from 2004 to 2009 and then went on to play at The King’s Hospital School in Dublin until 2010, helping them rise up to win the Leinster Schools Senior League final against Newbridge College.
He proved himself to be at the top of his game at home, having taken part in the Munster rugby leagues for his age in his late teens and even played for the Munster-Connacht team against the Ulster-Leinster joint squad in Dublin.
Congratulations to Old Boy Paul Mullen on his first cap for @USARugby! Well done also to good friend of @GlenstalRugby Programme @GregMcWilliams1 on another quality attacking performance! #RFT https://t.co/bvNICTpQZz— Glenstal Abbey Rugby (@GlenstalRugby) June 11, 2018
However, when the time came, Mullen decided to go off to college in the United States in 2011, pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Marine Engineering Technology at Texas A&M University. In 2015, he continued his studies and soon received his Master’s Degree in Marine Resources Management; Mullen has certainly proven himself on and off the field!
During this time, he played for the Houston Athletic Rugby Club and eventually the Galveston Rugby Club, even finding the time to play for the Texas Rugby Union All-Stars in 2014. Mullen even had the chance to become a referee for the union.
When playing for Galveston, Mullen felt a great sense of community and friendship with his fellow teammates, especially since they all shared his love for rugby. This newly-found camaraderie made Mullen truly feel at home in America.
“For someone like me, a foreigner coming to a new country, I can relate to all these guys because I play rugby. So straight away, you’ve got friends… I like that I can travel anywhere in the world and basically have a group of friends pretty fast,” Mullen told the Galveston News in 2017.
Comghairdeachas le fear Inis Mór, Paul Mullen a bhain a chead chaipín náisiúnta le foireann Rugbaí Na Stáit Aontaithe @USARugby ina mbua ar an Rúis aréir. @CLGOileainArann @GlenstalRugby @Munsterrugby @Hou_Sabercats pic.twitter.com/nBeesK9pEc— RnaG Spórt (@SportRnaG) June 11, 2018
Having proven himself as a top player for the SaberCats since he joined earlier this year, he was subsequently chosen to be a part of the US Eagles, the United States national rugby union team, for tests in June. So far, he has played against Russia on Saturday, in Denver, Colorado, and is expected to play against Scotland on June 16th and Canada on June 23rd.
While rugby is massively overshadowed by American football in the U.S., great players like Paul Mullen demonstrate that the game is alive and well, even an ocean away.
Would you like to see Rugby take-off in America?