It came together quickly; towards the end of a successful 2023 U18 season, the coaching staff asked the question “Can we do a tour in the spring?” By September we had 25 players committed and we were on our way to Ireland in March 2024.

Knowing our opposition would be tough, we put together a winter schedule for the players to get them fitter than ever. A 12 week strength and conditioning program was run by Ryan MacSween out of Primal Gym; each Sunday morning 20 players would run, sweat and push harder than they ever have. By February Head Coach Andrew Steele had the squad shaking out the rust and running their attack system at the Metro Sports Dome every Wednesday evening.

As we got closer to flying out, last minute itinerary changes were handled by Assistant Coach and travel pro Eric Barber directly with our tour operator InspireSport UK. By Saturday March 9, it had all come together with an incredible jersey ceremony at the Club and the (now) 30 players, 9 supporters and 3 coaches were off to the airport for a red eye flight to Dublin. We didn’t get there by ourselves; to honour the memory of John Foggarty, the Rugby Alumni donated funds to pay for our incredible custom kit designed by Kukri North America. To provide financial assistance to those players in need, Stuart Statton quickly stepped up to deliver through the Bill Webster Fund. This support and assistance from the Balmy Beach Rugby community was incredible and humbling before we even stepped foot on Irish grass.

And when we finally took to the pitch against Terenure College, the boys represented us well. After 3 days enjoying the sights and culture of modern and ancient Dublin, we took to a rainy pitch to face a senior Terenure side. We had visited the college a few days before to sneak in a pre-game workout, and were already aware of their winning history and schoolboy professionalism. A quick trip to a Leinster Schools semi-final the day prior proved the point as we watched their U16s dominate rivals Blackrock. From the first whistle, Terenure showed why they are a top Irish school: pace, power and poise was the rule of thumb. Our boys attacked well, gaining the red zone quickly and often, but a well-trained ‘Nure side pushed them back. We matched their physicality without issue; competing well at the scrums, lineouts and rucks – but it was in the “finer details” that we learned our lessons.

After some quick goodbyes and kit swaps, we jumped on our bus to drive across the island to remote Connemara where Irish Gaelic is still spoken. Two nights at the Connemara Hostel beside Killary Fjord gave the boys some downtime to enjoy the natural beauty of the area and bond as only a rugby team does. Cold immersion dips in the fjord, hiking the Diamond Hill Loop in Connemara National Park, and an afternoon in Clifden gave the team a taste of rural Ireland before we would head to Galway for our final match.

Did I mention the rain? It rained constantly, often, and to varying degrees; until we went to Galway. The bright sun and blue sky was a welcome change as we arrived in the seaside town and prepared for our match against Galwegians RFC.

Galwegians welcomed us to their 102 year old club, sending out their senior team coached by Beach player Tiarnan Neville. The lessons learned at Terenure were put to use as the Beach scored early and often, using their pace, work rate and skill to take a stunning victory against the local boys in blue. Galwegians were all class; clapping the boys off the pitch, and setting up a hot meal in their club hall. After some gifts were exchanged for man of the match, the coaches and supporters settled in at the club house to enjoy some quiet social time while the players mingled with their hosts.

Super Saturday dawned next and we were on our way back to Dublin to “soak up the Six Nations” as Ireland played Scotland at Landsdowne Road. The boys enjoyed re-connecting with the sights of Dublin as we walked with thousands of other rugby-mad fans through the streets to the park. The atmosphere was electric the day before St Patrick’s, with the spirit inside Aviva Stadium more than matching the occasion. The boys sat within metres of some of the best rugby you can watch; seeing first hand the power and skill of Test Rugby players. After Ireland won their Championship, we were treated to Scottish players coming into the stands near our seats to greet their wives, and stop for the occasional photo with some young Canadian fans.

The flight back to Toronto the next day was quiet, players and supporters exhausted from the quick 9 day tour. On behalf of the coaching staff, we would like to extend our thanks to the parents and supporters who helped make this tour a success, UP THE BEACH!!

Coaching Staff:
Andrew Steele, Head Coach
Eric Barber, Assistant Coach and Manager
Chris Kalbfleisch, Forwards Coach

Special Thanks to our Sponsors, Partners and Supporters:
Balmy Beach Rugby Alumni – for their commitment from planning to takeoff and the tireless work of Myles Martin and Gerry Allen to make it happen.
The Bill Webster Fund – and the continued, unwavering support of Stuart Statton for junior sports at Balmy Beach
Ryan MacSween – for his powerful and innovative Strength & Conditioning program
InspireSport UK and Joseph Gilbert and Ben Mills for their incredible pre-tour planning, and on the ground support.
Kukri North America and Dan Gordon for his constant attention to detail and custom designs to help our squad look and play better than ever.

Chris Kalbfleisch
Director Junior Rugby
Instagram @beachjrrugby