Rugby League in Ireland first took root in 1989 with the formation of the Dublin Blues club side who soon developed an excellent reputation for providing touring amateur sides with competitive fixtures.
In 1995 the RFL appointed a Development Officer for the Emerald Isle and the international team played its inaugural game that year in Washington DC against the USA on St Patrick’s Day. The Irish won a thrilling contest 24-22 and then proceeded to impress in the 1995 Emerging Nations World Cup before losing out in the final to the Cook Islands by 22-6 at Gigg Lane, Bury.
A burgeoning domestic competition began to take shape with clubs established right across the Republic and Northern Ireland and the reputation of the Irish ‘Wolfhounds’ national side continued to grow with an eighth place finish in the 1996 Super League World Nines.
A growing number of England-based Super League players made themselves available though the grandparent rule and standards continued to progress leading to the Wolfhounds taking part in the 2000 World Cup where they topped their group before eventually losing to England 26-16 in the last eight. The 2008 World Cup saw Ireland once again top their group after a victory over Samoa and a narrow defeat to Tonga but Fiji eventually put paid to their hopes of progression to the last four with a 30-14 win in the semi-final eliminator.
The domestic game has quickly evolved with the establishment of an Elite League and regional conferences designed to encourage the development of new club sides.