Off to a Roaring Start

2019 - 2020 Season

By Ryan Caldwell

The Washington Irish came barreling out of the gate in 2019, with both teams establishing themselves in competitive position to push for playoffs in the spring. D3 is on top of the table with and 8-0 record, and D1 is in the hunt for a South division playoff berth with losses only to table leader Potomac Exiles and North division leader Rocky Gorge. D3 boasts statement wins over longtime division contenders Washington Renegades and Western Suburbs, as well as current second-place Severn River, and both teams joined forces for a victorious doubleheader over local rivals NOVA on September 21st.

“All season, we’ve emphasized the need to work together as a team to achieve our goals,” said Club Captain Chris Curtin. “I think our on-field results show what happens when we put in the work, push each other, and trust in each other. Every player out there is making plays and tackles to get us to where we need to be.”

Though new players, including John Stapleton and Darien Pickett from Old Glory, Steve Nabors, late of Renegades, and Javier Villar-Sanchez of Spain, have made an impact, much of the Irish improvement has been of the homegrown sort. Veteran Irish players including James “JMac” McIntyre, Jay Topshe, Mark Seiss, and Frank Hollowell have all contributed hard minutes as the Irish have ascended the standings, while younger players including Julian Graham, Matt Horrigan, and John Pitsenbarger have continued to improve.

“It’s a tremendous feeling to be out here every week,” said D3 Captain James “JT” Thompson. “There’s nothing like wearing the crest and trusting in your mates to win the day.”

The Irish are running Head Coach Toga Fanueli’s system with aplomb, while the influence of Assistant Coach Darryl Cross on defensive structure and alignment has been felt throughout the squad.

“We’ve had a great start to the season,” says Curtin. “We look forward to a playoff push in the spring!”

A Note from the President

By Packy Griffin

Congratulations to you all! This year marks the fortieth year as a club for the Washington Irish! In 1980, a few visionary pioneers who shared a love for our sport founded a community that has grown into the club we celebrate today. For four decades, members of the Washington Irish have demonstrated competitiveness on the pitch and unrivaled community off of it. I believe there is more to celebrate today than ever, and I hope you feel proud of the literal blood, sweat, and tears that have led us to this milestone.

For those who have followed the Washington Irish through the fall Mid-Atlantic Conference season, you’ll recognize the efforts of our boys to uphold our strong history on the pitch. With only three matches remaining, the club boasts a combined record of 10-3! The Division 1 side sits in second place in the MAC South, having played two fewer matches than the leaders of the table, and the Division 3 side is unbeaten atop the MAC Central table. We’re aiming to pick up where we left off in the spring and finish the 2019-2020 season strong, and I encourage all of you, near and far, to support our boys!

While it’s an exciting time to be Irish, the broader rugby community has much to celebrate as well. Eyes are turning toward our sport close to home and around the world. Nearby, Old Glory DC prepares for their inaugural season in Major League Rugby, and rugby veterans and debutants alike were fixated on the ongoing World Cup action in Japan. Throw in the success of the USA Eagles Sevens teams, both women and men, and the approaching 2020 Olympics, and it becomes readily apparent how swiftly rugby is growing throughout the United States and beyond. The Washington Irish strive to be the gold standard of club rugby in the nation’s capital, and we continue to welcome players and enthusiasts of all experience levels and backgrounds to our sport.

On behalf of the Washington Irish Executive Council, our captains, and our coaching staff, thank you for your continued support. We hope you feel a tinge of pride every time you see the signature Irish green on the pitch, or when you don the crest yourself. We hope to hear from you soon, and that in this, your club’s fortieth year, you’re able to celebrate all of the memories past, the success of our present, and the club’s aspirations as we look toward our future. Enjoy the Irish Rag!

Up the Irish!

Irish Life Events

Since Our Last Edition
  • Mark Opdyke and Corinne Walters got married.
  • Dan McCullough and Taisha Paredes got married.
  • Joe Edwards and Maura Collins got married.
  • Jason Werden and Erin Hemphill got married.
  • Ryan Sullivan and Alex Palmer got married.
  • Ted Arthur was promoted to Senior Advanced Intelligence Analyst at FireEye.
  • Elliot Rozen finished a Master’s degree in epidemiology at Columbia University and spent the summer doing research in Kazan, Russia.
  • Jay Topshe and wife Gabi welcomed daughter River Jane Topshe.
  • Tim Donovan and wife Kathleen welcomed daughter Sinead Clare Donovan.
  • Duma and wife Karen rescued 12 dogs from Puerto Rico in the aftermath of 2017’s hurricane.

Sevens Season Success

By Julian Graham

Following a fantastic spring rugby season, the Irish took to the field again with a simple goal: make 7s fun again! In total, over 40 Irishmen came out to represent the 7s team on the summer circuit recording 3 podium finishes and emptying countless coolers of assorted beverages.

The season kicked off at the Slug 7s, where the Irish dispatched all would-be challengers (including Rocky Gorge, twice) in the group stages and all the way to the final. It was here that we unfortunately made another discovery: spending an entire day drinking has a negative effect on fitness. Washington Rugby, who had employed a more sober approach to the tournament, eked out a narrow victory, but the Irish were the winners in spirit and spirits.

Rites of Summer was a momentous tournament for a number of reasons that extend beyond our on field success (but I’ll come to that later). It was at this tournament that we discovered that John Pitsanberger (did I spell it right? No, and our apologies to Mr. Pitsenbarger –ed.) is lethal from 30 yards. It was at this tournament that we discovered William Shaw has wheels. The Irish came 2nd in the pool after losing to NOVA in the group stage; naturally, NOVA was our semi-final opponent. A tight back and forth game finally broke in favour of the Irish with two breakaway tries and a touchline conversion to put the Irishin the clear by two scores, taking the lessons defeat and flipping them into a comprehensive victory. A celebratory round of White Claws followed, but we were ultimately defeated by a collection of college kids too young to appreciate the sweet refreshing delights of a spiked seltzer on a 95 degree day. Oh and James Bragan had a sidestep in the final that would have made Shane Williams blush.

A logistical disaster ensued on each of the following weeks, and while it's not fair to assign blame, both were entirely my fault. However, in the first one, the Irish did manage to score the only try of the day against tournament champions NAV.. How? Pedro Hernandez pulled out one of his customary moments of magics to chip through, and the ball rolled into the try area where a galloping Ryan Marchbank, hair flowing effortlessly like the Nile, surprised the NAV defender and touched down. (Reference to an obscure match from when Julian was 5 years old deleted –ed.)

The next week, someone, I won't say who, forgot the jerseys so we became the Wilmington Irish for a day. A debut 7s performance for Christopher Kerwin ended with an assist on what can only be described as a try from the end of the earth, although I can't really remember much of it because I was on the bottom of a ruck.

Finally, the big one, NOVA 7s in Leesburg. For this we needed every man and, more importantly, every tent available. We got over 30 Irishmen and 10 tents. Tent city was born and so began a day of 7s in 110 degree heat. Our social 7s side put in strong performances throughout the day, including from people who had never played 7s before. I want to give a particular shout out to the demolition derby at the scrum where new man Shawn Dawley combined with Steve “Duma” Johnson and Ben Ortiz-Ulloa to drive the opposition 10 yards off their own scrum. The club side went strong, finishing tied for 1st in the pool but losing in the semi final to a club I'd never heard of. Ultimately, we finished 3rd on the day, our 3rd podium for the year.

Finishing in the top 3 is good; developing ball skills and basic rugby knowledge is better; but making 7s fun again, that's the best. These were our 3 objectives for the summer and I think it's fair to say, mission accomplished. See you next year!

Back in the Day Cafe

From the Archives of Steve “Duma” Johnson

Fort Knucklehead

Jerry Crute, our treasurer is un-able to file a report due to the general disarray of the clubs books. He promises to have things sorted out after the tournament, when coincidentally he is moving to Rio. Watch this space.

Meet The New Guy

  • This weeks new guy is Dan Hunter.
  • Height: Yes
  • Weight: That too
  • How he came into the fold: Played years ago with Cecil. Recently met said miscreant in a bar, and was convinced to come out.
  • Playing Experience: A couple of years at college with Jack.
  • Favorite Movie: Pulp Fiction
  • Favorite Color: Green
  • Okay so this feature was a bit lame, I’ll try harder in the future.

Irish Winning Tradition

It is a tradition of the Irish that after every match the Irish wins, the players get together on the pitch, and sing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”. We have many new players who do not know the words to this great and glorious song; thus, they are provided below:

“When Irish eyes are smiling, sure tis like the morning spring, in the lilt of Irish laughter, you can hear the angels sing.

When Irish hearts are happy, all the world seems bright and gay; but when Irish eyes are smiling, sure can steal your heart away.”


By Ryan Cadwell

The Washington Irish are proud that John Adams, Kevin Hilton, and Mike McGavick were inducted into the Irish Classics on June 8. All three were critical pieces of the club’s early years, with Adams and McGavick as Founding Members of the club. A great deal of where we are as a club dates back to the culture that they and others built in the 1980s and 1990s, which we are deeply indebted to them for.

On the pitch, Jager Hill was unable to pull out any last-minute heroics this year, and the Overs rolled to victory over the Unders. We appreciate everyone who showed up to support and enjoy a weekend. Special thanks go to our Classics inductees and to Roger Chaufournier, who did much of the work to put the weekend together.

Kevin Hilton
John Adams
Mike McGavick