A Letter from Ireland:
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United Surnames of Ireland

The Rugby Surnames of Ireland. Nothing brings out a loyal following like a sports match: the roar of the crowd, the elation of the win, the agony of the defeat. In this letter we will show how Ireland’s National Rugby team can leave aside “provincial politics” to make a power house team from the four corners of Ireland.

Céad Míle Fáilte – and welcome to your Letter from Ireland for this week. How are things in your part of the world today? We’ve just changed our clocks here in Ireland last night – so we are now officially in summer “time”. Nice! Even the weather is playing ball with a nice sunny day all over.

I’m having a cup of Lyon’s tea as I write, and I do hope you’ll join me with a cup of whatever you are having yourself as we start into our letter. Today, let’s focus on a recent battle that was fought between two close neighbours – Ireland and England.

You see, just last weekend – the Irish and English Rugby teams met as part of the Six Nations Rugby tournament, the six nations being France, Italy, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England. England have a super team at the moment, and have just completed 18 consecutive wins – and now they were looking for a 19th AS WELL as a Grand Slam.

So, they came to Dublin the day after Saint Patrick’s Day to face an Irish team that were hurting from recent losses.

What could go wrong for England?

The United Surnames of Ireland.

The Irish Rugby team is quite unusual on the world stage – it comprises players from all the four provinces of Ireland. In essence, this means that the international game of Rugby unites the political entities of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland – which field a single combined team. That’s sports for you! Imagine if Australia and New Zealand were to field a single rugby team (heresy!), or perhaps the USA and Canada came together for a soccer team?

Now, let’s have a look through the surnames of the starting Irish players from last week – just to show what a “rainbow” of backgrounds make up such a united Irish team:

  • Jack McGrath: McGrath comes from the Irish “Mag Craith”. They are a literary family in Munster and a separate ecclesiatical family in Ulster.
  • Johnny Sexton: Sexton can be an English name, but in Ireland it is usually from the Irish O Seasnain and comes from Cork/Limerick/Clare as well as Monaghan.
  • Kieran Marmion: Marmion is usually an old Irish Gaelic name from around Counties Louth/Down/Armagh.
  • Rory Best: Best is an English name that is prevalent in Ulster.
  • Tadhg Furlong: An old Norman County Wexford name. By the way, Tadhg is pronounced “Tie-g” and is normally anglicised as Timothy.
  • Donnacha Ryan: The most numerous surname in County Tipperary. Donnacha is pronounced “Dun-a-ka” and is normally anglicised as Denis.
  • Iain Henderson: An English name very prevalent in Ulster since the 1700s.
  • Peter O’Mahony: Found all over Munster – especially in Cork. In Cork, we pronounce it “Maa-hunny”.
  • Sean O’Brien: The family got it’s name from King Brian Boru – and came out of County Clare originally.
  • Robbie Henshaw: Very rare in Ireland – of English origin.
  • Garry Ringrose: Of English origin – in County Clare since the 1600s.
  • Keith Earls: Of English origin – in Galway since the 1300s.
  • Jared Payne: Of English origin – scattered around Ireland since the 1300s.
  • Simon Zebo and C. J. Stander: Their families are recent arrivals in Ireland.

So, I think that covers just about all the four corners of Ireland. Are any of these surnames on your Irish family tree? Do leave your comments below and let me know.

Finally, when two different “countries” come together as one team, there are some issues to be resolved. Which flag do you use? Which national anthem?

For the anthem, the Irish Rugby board solved this by commissioning a new anthem: “Irelands Call” in the 1990s. It’s a rousing song – and reminds us of what we have in common on this island of Ireland. Here we have the very first public performance of that song:

Wasn’t that nice stuff? You might also have recognised Andrew Strong there from the Commitments movie.

So, as you might have guessed – Ireland beat England 13-9 (sorry to English fans!) – and put an end to their unbeaten run. In Dublin. On Saint Patrick’s Day weekend. I’d like to leave you with just some highlights from the game:

That’s it for this week – a short look at a United Ireland of surnames on the Rugby pitch! As always do feel free to share your stories, comments and Irish surnames in your family.

Slán for this week,

Mike & Carina.

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