Last week I finally went to watch a rugby match for the first time. The match was between Leinster Rugby vs. Scarlets at the Royal Dublin Society (RDS), with Leinster winning 36-19. I was able to go to the match through FIE, and I’m really happy that I managed to go with a bunch of my friends here in Dublin.
Throughout my time here in Dublin thus far, I was kind of told that rugby was the least popular sport that is played in the country mainly due to the game’s historical origins with England. In a way, there’s more attention given to Gaelic sports such as hurling and football because they are historically considered “Irish.” However, I don’t think that’s necessarily the case, especially in the modern era. One of the immediate things that I noticed at the match last week was how crowded the stadium was. I don’t know if there was an empty seat that night. Granted, Leinster is currently ranked number one in the European Rugby Club Rankings, which probably is playing a big factor right now in interest towards rugby. However, there was just so much energy and emotion going on during the match that I think some people might be underestimating just how popular rugby is in Ireland.
I think another thing that I found really interesting was how attentive the crowd was to what was going on in the match. There was one point towards the beginning of the match in which one of the Leinster players was preparing to score a field goal, and for nearly a full minute there was absolute silence in the stadium. Everyone in the stadium was anxiously waiting to see the outcome of the play. I’ve been to multiple professional sports matches throughout my life – baseball, football, American football – and this definitely was the first time I’ve witnessed something like this. I think this really exemplifies how pivotal sports are to Irish culture.