'The other clubs in Cork are delighted to see a new club popping up'
The Cork Hellhounds are a new LGBT-inclusive rugby club.

MANY WITHIN RUGBY had great fears about clubs surviving the pandemic but Cork Hellhounds RFC, an LGBT-inclusive rugby club, was actually founded in October of last year.

Earlier this month, the Hellhounds officially became a member of the Munster Branch of the IRFU in a move that club founder and president Adam O’Brien says “opens the gates to everything else.”

Having had initial plans put on ice by the lockdown, the Hellhounds are now training away twice a week – Tuesdays and Sundays – on the Munster Rugby pitches in Mahon. They have about 25 players and numbers are growing each week, with people arriving from as far away as Killarney, Bantry, and Limerick.

O’Brien first picked up a rugby ball three years ago with the Emerald Warriors, an inclusive rugby club based in Dublin’s LGBT community, and was passionate about starting something similar when he moved back to Cork last September.

He made contact with the Gay Project in Cork and was soon on a call with a group of locals who wanted to be part of the new club – as well as dialling up friends from the Warriors and International Gay Rugby for their advice. They trained briefly in December but things are now really kicking on for the Hellhounds, whose name was “designed by committee,” while the club’s eye-catching logo was produced by vice-president Scott De Buitléir.

O’Brien loved his time with the Warriors and hopes the Hellhounds will provide a similarly welcoming atmosphere for new rugby players.

“I wasn’t thrown in the deep end with the Warriors and I wanted to bring that to the Hellhounds down here so it’s very much catered towards brand-new players starting off,” says O’Brien.

“I really like the Warriors’ organisation and professionalism and I loved the sociability most of all. Mates are made for life quite quickly in Warriors and we want to bring that into Cork.

IMG_1685 The Hellhounds train at the Mahon pitches in Cork.

“The Warriors are doing a lot for LGBT rights, flying that flag, and it would be great to evolve into that and take leaves out of their playbook.

“For now, it’s about concentrating on the rugby and building up the numbers, getting that group of friends and get everyone mingling, especially after the lockdown.”

Hellhounds are an all-inclusive club open to anyone regardless of sexuality or gender identity, with O’Brien pointing out that “there’s no barrier that you have to be part of the LGBT community – we’re open to everyone and try to cater for everyone.”

O’Brien says his experiences of Irish rugby are that it is inclusive but he feels the Hellhounds can help to encourage, promote, and grow rugby among the LGBT community.

“There is that argument that creating a club like ours is sort of saying that other clubs aren’t as inclusive or diverse but it’s not necessarily that – it’s more being around far more like-minded individuals, basically.

“Being around people within the community itself opens you up a little bit more. I would know plenty of people in the LGBT community who play with other clubs where they feel there’s no need for calling yourself an LGBT-focused club because other clubs have no barriers to entry. There are no barriers here either.

“I just see this as a social club – it’s like going to the bar with a group of friends rather than going to a bar by yourself where you don’t really know anyone.”

The Hellhounds hope to be part of the Cork Pride Festival from 24 July, with the club having put forward a proposal to run a tag rugby tournament at the Mahon pitches as they look to continue to build their profile.

IMG_2015 Hellhounds plan to enter competitions in the 2022/23 season.

Long-term the goal is to have grounds of their own – rather than renting, as is the case now – as well as the playing numbers to run two teams for men and two teams for women, mimicking the Emerald Warriors by having a more serious ‘play to perform’ side and also a social team for beginners.

For their first season in 2021/22, Hellhounds will just focus on training as they build up towards full contact rugby and work hard on their skills, with the potential for a few friendly games before they enter the local Cork competitions in 2022/23.

Being accepted as a member of the Munster Branch of the IRFU was a proud step along the pathway for the new club. O’Brien says the welcome so far from the rugby community has been warm.

“Munster Rugby and the other clubs in Cork are delighted to see a new club popping up and delving into a new cache of players, more games, more nights out, more rugby.”

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