Sheffield Forgers hooker Michael Delamere was a member of the victorious Ireland side that captured the Lough Leane Trophy last year in his home town.
Delamere, better known as Delly, is a familiar figure on rugby pitches across both codes in Sheffield. As well as turning out for the Forgers, he also plays the 15-a-side code with Hallamshire RUFC.
But it was X-League that gave Delly (pictured above, back row, third player in green and white from left) the chance to take his talent to international level.
An Irish passport holder, thanks to his mother’s parents coming from the ‘Ould Sod’, the Forger was delighted to pull on the green and white jersey.
“Winning was absolutely class,” he enthused.
“It was great to beat the English twice and send them packing in their own backyard.
“It was a really special moment for me personally, singing the Fields of Athenry and jumping up and down with the boys was great and something I’ll remember for a very long time.”
The tournament was the first time that Delly had played X-League, and he thought that the game’s accessibility was a major part of its appeal.
“I really enjoyed X-League as a game,” he said.
“It’s got a little bit of the ‘thud’ of rugby league, in that you have that contact that you really want but it also allows you to have that pace.
“It was great that some of our players were older fellas, but it allowed them to play because it’s a really skilful game.
“Your ball handling has to be on point, and you can still be excellent at it by knowing how to move the ball and keep that space between you and the defender.
“I think it’s great and we should be doing it everywhere.”
The Forger also enjoyed being part of an Irish squad that showed great spirit and togetherness, despite only coming together as group on the day of the tournament.
“The Irish set-up was really nice, welcoming and friendly,” he explained.
“We were quite a spread-out bunch, having never played together before.
“Before the match, we sat and talked about our links to Ireland with our families and stuff, and our links into X-League and how we had got there. It just really started to gel us together.
“There was a big emphasis from Dec Foy on the day to just go out and have fun, to express ourselves and play it in the way it’s suppsed to be played.
“It was a great way to bond the lads together and we felt like we were a team from the off, even though we were just chucked together at the last minute.
“Overall, it was just a smashing experience.”
You can read more about the victorious Irish side and X-League’s roots in County Kerry in the forthcoming March issue of Forty20 magazine – in shops soon!