Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

The Long Journey Home

Posted on 29 January 2020 by Hamish Percy
Dublin , Ireland – 6 November 2018; Sean O’Brien during Ireland rugby squad training at Carton House in Maynooth, Co. Kildare. (Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images) 20 years playing at the Madejski Stadium in Reading, London Irish are moving back home.

London Irish rugby club was founded in 1898 by a group of Irishmen living in London, united by Irishness and a passion for rugby. Moving forward in the club’s history they thrived at Sunbury, where the club trains in the present day, before eventually moving to the Madejski in 2000. However, as they moved away from their historic roots, their Irish identity and London connection slowly deteriorated.

The Exiles will now be moving home though, re-establishing themselves closer to their historic base as they move to play their rugby at Brentford’s new Community Stadium from the start of the 2020/21 season. They are not just returning to London, they are further embracing their Gaelic roots, something they have also sought to do by bringing in more Irish personnel. Current co-captain and Irish legend Sean O’Brien, alongside former Ireland head coach Declan Kidney are just two of the big Irish names who have signed for Irish in recent years and O’Brien believes that the move back will certainly bolster the Irish connection for the club.

“There are so many people over here that really want to support us and get involved in what we are trying to build,” O’Brien said.

“Even going for coffees around the place and lunches there is always an Irish person around so we are really trying to get that connection back with those expats that are over here and get a bit of a boost going again for the club.

“The move absolutely will strengthen the connection, there is no doubt about it. The Madejski has been good to London Irish over the years but from what I’ve seen since coming over here is that it is very far out for fans.”

Embed from Getty Images

The move was great news for the whole London Irish family, their amateur side is one of the largest in London, a community club who predominantly live in the West London area. Now, the thousands of members of London Irish’s amateur club will be within touching distance of the club’s new state of the art stadium.

The rewards are already showing for the club as well, with the move already financially benefitting the Exiles through increased sponsorship opportunities. The lure of living and playing in London has also already attracted experienced overseas talent with Irish acquiring experienced Australian internationals Sekope Kepu, Nick Phipps, Rob Simmons and most recently Argentina’s most-capped player Agustin Creevy.

With a capacity of 17,250, outstanding transport links and excellent brand-new facilities the stadium will be a perfect fit for the club’s bright future.
Video below.