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Dublin Up: Next stop Wigan in Exiles Challenge Cup campaign

16 Feb 23, 9:31AM 0 Comments

Written by Stuart McLennan

The Dublin City Exiles created history in Round 1 of the Betfred Challenge Cup after they traveled to London, secured a 42-8 victory over the Hammersmith Hills Hoists and became the first Irish team to win a Challenge Cup match.

With regular head coach Matthew Kennerson unable to make the trip to England’s capital, Adam Cox was handed the clipboard and had the pleasure of celebrating the historic victory with his players.

“To be the first Irish team to come away with a victory in the Challenge Cup has been massive for the team and has been a reward for the hard work the club have put in on and off the field,” Cox, who once played for the Adelaide Rams Under 19s back in Australia, told Everything Rugby League.

A part of the Dublin City Exiles club for the last 10 years as a player, coach and administrator, Cox says the win last week is a landmark moment for the Irish club.

“There was a real belief that it was possible, but to actually achieve the historical moment has been the biggest moment in the club’s (23 year) history. Having (former coach) Richard Egan there, the main driving force behind the club since it formed, made it even more special.

“I really think the key to the victory over Hammersmith was the team spirit and the bond the boys have within the team. They played with heart and for each other, with a real belief going over that it was possible. The focus by Matt over the past few seasons has been working on structure and ensuring we don’t forget the little one percenters that can often win you the games. The boys continued to stick to structure throughout the whole match and followed the game plan exactly as we spoke about at the start. If there was one thing that stood out for me, it was the defence from all 17 players. There was a real determination in the line defence and they worked for each other to ensure that it was very hard to breach that line.”

“I think it should also be noted that the work the management team did behind the scenes was immense and it ensured that the players and coaches were left to focus on the match and not worry about anything else but get the win.”

Cox is well aware of his players needing to duplicate the determination and resilience when the team heads to the home of rugby league to play Orrell St James in Round 2 at Wigan but he says they are looking forward to the opportunity.

“We know it is going to be a very different experience and match heading over to the heartland of Rugby League, to face a team with a passion and history in rugby league that Orrell St James has. We know they are a tough team and recent winners of the North West Men’s League Premier Division, so obviously have pedigree in winning. We will spend a bit of time over the next week to research the team and review footage, however in front of their home crowd we know they will be looking to put on a show and we are fully aware it will be a tough physical fast paced match.

“The Exiles boys are well up for the challenge and relish the opportunity to really be tested in a hotbed of rugby league such as Wigan.”

“The support for the team, not just across Dublin, has been phenomenal. We have had players and coaches from all parts of the world reaching out to congratulate the team on a historical moment. The Rugby League Ireland community in general has been great in its support, with coaches and players from all teams around Ireland excited about the win and reaching out to congratulate us. This was also clear in the support we received through our go fund me page to help ensure the team had what it needed for the trip to Hammersmith.”

“As a small community within Rugby League in Ireland, I think it has been seen as a big step forward and win for everyone involved in Irish rugby league.”

Having been involved in the Ireland national scene, as a player, coach and administrator, Cox is optimistic about where the sport is heading in his adopted homeland.

“We are starting to see more players head overseas, over the past few years to try their hand at the sport, with the obvious example of Ronan making the big step into our national squad. We are hoping to build greater pathways and links to clubs within and outside the UK giving players a chance to immerse themselves in the sport. Whilst we still only have a small window of league fixtures here in Ireland, Rugby League Ireland has been working hard to provide further and greater opportunities to domestic based players to ensure they get the experience and opportunities to step up.

“There is a big focus over the next few years to grow the domestic league and provide players with a clearer pathway into overseas based clubs and national squads. I really believe if domestic players see more and more players getting the national team opportunities, the league will grow and develop dramatically.”

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