London Irish: Rugby Roots From The Green Emerald Of Ireland
London Irish History and Highlights
London Irish are a professional rugby club that ply their trade in the highest level of the sport in England, the Premiership Rugby.
A team rich in history, as their name may suggest, their Irish roots have played a big part in how they were formed and where they are as an organization today.
The men have predominantly played in a green kit and also host London Irish Amateur RFC, a non-professional team who have supplied London Irish with players who have worked through the ranks.
Founding and Early Years
London Irish were founded over 124 years ago, in 1898. A group of Irishman took inspiration from other clubs such as London Welsh and London Scottish to form a rugby club for exiles that resided in England, offering them a home away from home.
Known as the ‘founding fathers, the men came from an array of powerful roles in those times, ranging from a doctor, a lawyer and businessmen who all shared their love of rugby.
Their first match was later that year in September, and following the recruitment of Irish international Louis Magee, they defeated opponents Hammersmith 8-3. The arrival of Magee, who had such a strong influence within the club, meant the team would ensure fixtures were a regular occurrence, going on to play Wasps, Saracens and Blackheath.
The team continued to grow and played a total of 28 matches over ten years before heading to France on their first journey abroad. Unfortunately, the war that would follow took the lives of many club members, and it took until 1923 before the club could restart, but far from where they finished.
Wins and Losses
When you have a long history in a certain sport, it only makes sense that a team will have its fair share of ups and downs, and London Irish is no different.
Before becoming professional in 1996, the team won the Surrey Cup a total of 5 times, albeit being more of an amateur competition.
However, in the professional era, the men in green have struggled to add to the trophy cabinet. And even when they have, they’ve been unable to show any sort of consistency their fans would have expected.
Arguably, their greatest triumph came in the 2001-02 season when they won the knockout competition, the Premiership Rugby Cup (known as the Powergen Cup that year), overcoming Northampton Saints in a dominant display, 38-7.
There were almost within reach of their first Premiership Rugby title of the modern era in 2009. Instead, they finished 3rd in the league table, conceding a league-low 386 points, allowing them to win the title via the play-offs.
They lived up to their defensive reputation in the semi-final by defeating Harlequins 17-0. This sent them through to the final against league winners Leicester Tigers, known as one of the greatest teams to have played in the league, where they lost by a single fight in a grueling match, 10-9.
The team moved to the Madejski Stadium in 2000 as they sought to share a ground to save themselves financially. They were close to agreeing on a deal with Chelsea Football Club to share their ground, however, a late proposal by another football team ended that.
They settled at Reading Football Club’s ground and played there for 20 years, despite it not being a typical rugby town. However, it was announced that after long negotiations, London Irish would return to London for the 2020-21 season, sharing a pitch with Brentford FC. This was a move that was popular with everyone involved at the club.