On Friday, November 4th, over 175 friends and supporters of The Ireland Funds converged in Chicago to celebrate The Young Leaders Ireland vs. New Zealand Rugby Weekend.
Guests arrived at The Gage for the first of a series of event revolving around the match. The City was already in a celebration mode on the heels of the historic Chicago Cubs World Series Championship parade Friday afternoon.
Guests enjoyed cocktails and hors d’oeuvres while mingling with rugby legends including Paul O’Connell, Doug Howlett and Shane Horgan.
The energy and excitement in the room was palpable as National Director of The Young Leaders Pat Tully brought everyone to attention and welcomed them to the opening night celebration.
Tom Hayes, CEO of Corporate Banking at Bank of Ireland, continued the welcome by stating that they were proud to support Irish Rugby and proud to support the work of The Ireland Funds.
Siobhan Gallagher, Director of The Young Leaders, Ireland then spoke about the money raised from the weekend going to great causes in Ireland including The University of Limerick Foundation.
Rob MacGoey, Partner, PWC and New York Young Leader then took the microphone and introduced rugby legends Paul O’Connell of Ireland and Doug Howlett of New Zealand. Rob led a fun conversation centering around the rivalry of Ireland and New Zealand as well as their camaraderie as teammates on Munster. Rob brought the conversation back to philanthropy and their work with the University of Limerick Foundation.
Saturday began with guests gathering at the Game Room in the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel for our pre-match reception.
The guests arrived and were each given The Ireland Funds Rugby Weekend commemorative scarf courtesy of Bank of Ireland.
The guests played bocce, billiards and enjoyed cocktails while mingling with rugby legends Paul Wallace and Hugo MacNeil. We were also honored to have Ireland’s Ambassador to the United States Anne Anderson in attendance along with David O’Sullivan, European Union Ambassador to The United States and Ireland’s Minister of Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross.
Pat Tully again welcomed the guests and then introduced Kieran McLoughlin, Worldwide President & CEO of The Ireland Funds, who spoke about the great day of rugby ahead, the legends in attendance. He then introduced Minister Ross.
Minister Ross spoke about how sport can bring the Irish diaspora together and pointed to the record amount of Irish who traveled to Chicago for the rugby weekend.
Pat then introduced Ger Gilroy, host of Off The Ball on Newstalk Ireland. Ger introduced the panel of Irish rugby legends, Paul Wallace and Hugo MacNeil and immediately asked the guys for their prediction on the match. Ger then asked Hugo about Ireland’s bid for the Rugby World Cup in 2023. Hugo requested the support of the diaspora and painted a vibrant picture of what the World Cup would look like across the island of Ireland.
Paul added some brilliant analysis of the match and also shared some colorful stories from his own career to the joy of the Irish crowd.
From there the “tailgate” atmosphere continued and guests made their way to Soldier Field for the match.
After The Match
Following the match, a jubilant Irish crowd gathered at Gibson’s steakhouse to celebrate an historic victory against New Zealand. For the first time in 111 years, Ireland had beaten New Zealand and The Ireland Funds Young Leaders were together to witness the feat.
After cocktail hour, the guests sat for dinner and Pat Tully welcomed those gathered who were beside themselves with joy after the victory. He introduced Kieran McLoughlin who congratulated the Irish on the victory and introduced Ambassador Anne Anderson, who thanked so many Irish for supporting the team and flying the flag for Ireland on such an historic occasion.
After dinner, Pat Tully led a conversation about the philanthropic side of rugby and the growing business of rugby in the US with Mark Griffin, CEO of Play Rugby USA and Rob Cornelius, President of USA Rugby Sevens. Mark spoke about bringing the game to tough inner-city areas around the US that would never otherwise see the game and how Rugby has made a difference in those areas. Rob spoke about the growth of the game in the US through Rugby Sevens as a lean and fast game that American audiences are falling in love with.
The conversation was followed by a spirited live auction including an Ireland team signed World Cup jersey and a G2G vacation club package.
Thank you to our sponsor, Bank of Ireland and our speakers throughout the weekend: Paul O’Connell, Doug Howlett, Hugo MacNeil, Paul Wallace, Mark Griffin, Rob Cornelius, Ambassador Anne Anderson and Minster Shane Ross. As well as our moderators, Ger Gilroy and Rob MacGoey.
Thank you to all The Ireland Funds Young Leaders who traveled to Chicago to cheer on the home team. It was a highlight to come together and mark an historic November for Chicago and a weekend of joy for Ireland.