Later this month the Eastside Banshees rugby club out of Minneapolis, Minnesota will embark on their long-awaited tour to the West of Ireland
For most of the 58 tourists, this will be their first rugby tour, in addition to taking their first steps on Irish soil. This trip is significant, being the clubs first tour in nearly twenty years, underlining the recent growth and direction for a team that has current and historical ties to the Emerald Isle.
The Eastside Banshees RFC are the result of a 1988 merger between the Twin Cities Irish Banshees and Eastside RFC, both clubs formed in the 1970s. Today’s version of the club will see the team regularly don the kelly-green jerseys of the Irish Banshees, and you’ll find two shamrocks proudly positioned on the club’s crest, adopted the last time the club was in Ireland in 1994.
In the last eighteen months, the club has seen a sharp rise in membership and participation on and off the field, having fielded two full squads previous fall. This growth is further emphasized by the final number of tourists exceeding expectations at fifty-eight, an impressive feat for any rugby club regardless of origin or level.
Like other clubs in the American rugby landscape, the Eastside Banshees have Irish links throughout their playing and coaching personnel, a key factor on this trip. Two of the three matches on tour will be based in Galway. Current Head Coach Ciaran Kelly’s family hail from Monivea, County Galway, where the first game will take place against Monivea RFC on March 30th. Further matches include Galwegians RFC on April 3rd and later down in Limerick against Garryowen RFC on Saturday, April 6th. A trip to watch Munster v Cardiff Blues in Cork will also be on the cards.
Minneapolis-St Paul may not be the first place in America you associate with the Irish diaspora; however, the Twin Cities do have a strong footprint around Irish culture. This tour will see the Eastside Banshees embrace that side of their club’s identity regardless of their individual heritage. Along the way, they hope to find out what Ireland - and its rugby community - has to offer.
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