The San Diego Youth Rugby Club “Mustangs” Under-14 Boys Team (U14s) completed the club’s first ever international tour this past Sunday after a nine-day, three-match journey around Ireland. Despite the strength of their Irish opponents, the Mustangs earned victories in each of their three matches to cap off a remarkable 2017-18 season.
The Mustangs had a very short turnaround upon arrival in Dublin and immediately begin preparing for their first match against the historic Wanderers FC. The wet and chilly conditions did little to stop the Mustangs from running out to a sizable lead before halftime, a lead only compounded in the second half. The San Diego Mustangs walked away victors in their first match, 52-12.
After a few days exploring the Irish capital, the team traveled out west to County Galway to face Monivea RFC, the Under-14 champions of Ireland’s western province, Connacht, and a team that hadn’t been beaten by an American side in over 40 years, if ever. A few area locals made sure to let some of the Mustangs’ parents know that the San Diegans didn’t stand a chance of victory, but the Mustangs ultimately proved them wrong, dispatching the western champions in a strong 52-19 victory.
The team once again took to sightseeing after their match against Monivea, this time on the beautiful western coast of Ireland touring the famous Cliffs of Moher and the small, but beautiful Aran Islands. According to San Diego Youth Rugby assistant coach Guy Hagen, the “trip to the Aran Islands was the most enjoyable [part of the tour]. Some players rode bikes around the island, while some rode horse-drawn carts and others walked. Basically, they were able to run around with their friends on this wind-swept island and see things they’d never seen before like a ruined castle, a shipwreck from the 1960s, stone walled paddocks, and more.“
Having seen part of Ireland’s wild Atlantic coast, the Mustangs consequently shifted focus from the west to the north, heading to Northern Ireland for some sightseeing around the capital city of Belfast and to prepare for their third and final match of the tour against City of Derry RFC. The team toured the famous Belfast shipyards and saw a professional rugby match between Ulster Rugby and Ospreys Rugby of the Guinness Pro14 league before shutting out City of Derry RFC 75-0.
As is traditional in the spirit of rugby, each of the teams San Diego Youth Rugby played put on fantastic post-match hospitality. From the chicken curry meal cooked by the Wanderers in Dublin, to the gracious last-minute hospitality in Derry, to the camaraderie and singing enjoyed at the Monivea post-match celebration, the experience epitomized the connective, inclusive nature of the global rugby community and gave these young boys experiences they will never forget.
Having spoken to the coaches, parents and front office staff at the Mustangs organization, the tour to Ireland was a rousing success, success that the club hopes to replicate with every-other-year international tours at the Under-14 age level.