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Tuesday 2 September 2014

Queering the rugby pitch against all odds

Published 22/07/2007 | 00:00

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NIAMH HORAN

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FORGET fluffy feather boas and sky-high heels, Ireland's only gay rugby team is all about power and endurance.

In less than four years, the Emerald Warriors have gone from playing rugby as a hobby to representing Ireland on an international level, and a film detailing the highs and lows of life on the team is to be screened next month.

Queering the Pitch is a story about a group of young men from various backgrounds who have overcome all the obstacles to succeed at the traditionally virile game.

Director Tom Maguire explained how the short feature started out as a promotional video to recruit new players, until the footage began to show signs of having much greater potential.

"When some of the boys started to tell their stories and describe how much the team actually meant to them it began to grow into something much more than a promotional video.

"The players effectively portrayed themselves as a group of reluctant heroes, because they had become something that they didn't expect. They joined the team for sporting reasons, but when it began to develop a very high public profile - because of its unusual nature - they suddenly found themselves thrust into the limelight.

"From there, they ended up adapting to those circumstances and embracing the situation, rather than shying away from it."

Mr Maguire went on to explain how being part of an all-male gay rugby team has its pros and cons.

"People's perception of the team had to be overcome - there have been misconceptions, sniggering and a bit of giggling going on, but that has dwindled now that our profile has increased around the country and we have started to improve as a team.

"Once we go out on to that rugby pitch, you wouldn't know the difference between us and a heterosexual team - it's not as if we're all out in high heels and feather boas," he said.

The director also said that the team have received increasing support from the Irish Rugby Football Union.

"In the beginning, the IRFU may have been a little bit cautious about this strange creature in their midst - but now they are 100 per cent behind it and Philip Brown, the group's CEO, has been extremely influential in finding our current trainer, who coaches at international standards."

The team has represented Ireland at European level and at international level at the Bingham Cup, a competition named after a September 11 hero Mark Bingham. They have won the bid to host the Bingham Cup in Ireland in 2008.

Queering the Pitch will be screened on Sunday, August 5, in the Irish Film Institute, Dublin, as part of Gaze, the Dublin International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

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