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Dublin Youth Rugby League creates closer community

Dublin Youth Rugby League creates closer community

Dublin Youth Rugby League founder shows love of Dublin through sport

by  of Dublin Life

For the uninitiated, kindness and rugby don’t seem like they’d be able to coexist.

The uninitiated would be wrong. Or, at least, they don’t know rugby as it's played by the Dublin Youth Rugby League.

When Chris Northup founded the league in 2016, he wanted to bring the sport he loved and grew up playing to the kids of Dublin.

“When I was a kid I’d go out and watch my dad play rugby,” Northup says. “There weren’t many fans in the stands or anything, but they’d just go to different cities to play. It's just this intense physical game. … my dad looked like a god out there, and I had to play.”

Throughout his youth, Northup played rugby. After finishing a long semi-professional career in the sport, he decided he wanted to bring it back to his hometown.

“I loved the sport so much, and I wanted to give kids another sport to join,” Northup says. “Rugby is kind of unique because it’s more of a player’s sport than a spectator sport. It’s really genuine.”

The Dublin Youth Rugby League has doubled in numbers each year, even though the only advertising the league has done has been through an email sent out once a year through the Dublin Football League, a closed Facebook group and by word of mouth. 

“It’s pretty cool that our numbers are doubling every year, even though we really don’t advertise it,” Northup says. “I guess that's a good thing – it means that people are talking about it, and the kids and parents like what we’re doing enough that they tell other people to join.”



So what makes the league so successful?

“There’s a level of confidence and camaraderie that comes with any sport, these kids get to go through life with the identity of a tough rugby player,” Northup says. “That’s been our philosophy from the beginning: Confidence extends into how kids handle things in their life and it’s very powerful and makes a big difference in how kids view themselves.”

Despite the aggressive nature of the sport, Northup and fellow coaches in the league make sure practices and training drills are structured.

“Having a kid get injured is literally my worst nightmare,” Northup says. “My kids play rugby, too, so I’m also scared with having my kids out there.”

To mitigate the risk of injury, most of the rugby season is spent playing two-hand-touch or flag versions of the game, without full-contact tackling. During practices, the players will drill a special type of rugby tackling, which helps protect the head and prevent any serious injury. Only when kids have mastered the safer version of tackling are they allowed to play full-contact.

"We only give one award in this league and that’s an award for sportsmanship,” Northup says. “To me, that means putting your team and the other team’s safety above everything else in the game – not mowing over other kids and injuring them to score a point.”

The league also has co-ed teams and coaches, cheap registration fees to make the sport available for all families, and different levels of play for all levels of athleticism.

Since starting the team, Northup, his fellow coaches and the players have tried to expand the league to as many different people as possible. Most recently, they’re working on getting together a team for people with physical disabilities who want to try rugby.



“At dinner my own kids pointed out that we didn’t have anything for players with physical disabilities and I was like, ‘Oh my God, you’re right,’” Northup says.

So, beginning in mid- to late-July this year, the Dublin Youth Rugby is starting a wheelchair rugby team for people with physical disabilities.

“Even though I got the ball rolling, there is no way that the league would have become anything like what it is without everyone else that’s been involved in the league,” Northup says. “There’s so many things that would not have happened. … None of this would have happened without everyone else.”  

Emily Real is a contributing writer. Feedback welcome at




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