CLUB rugby may have ground to a halt here, but a number of familiar figures are playing leading roles since the start of the Major League season in the United States.
Cork clubs had their seasons written off after an on-off beginning to the new Community League series, effectively provincial leagues, last autumn and the cancellation of the All-Ireland League.
This should have been a celebratory campaign for the feature club competition, which would have marked its 30th birthday in the grand manner, but never even got off the ground.
Despite the world-wide pandemic, rugby in America returned a few weeks ago after the league had to be abandoned around the same time 12 months ago due to the Covid outbreak.
And it’s been an eventful opener in particular for scrum-half John Poland, the former Munster player, who shone with PBC, Cork Constitution and UCC before heading across the pond.
He’s resuming his career in Boston, where the New England Free Jacks are based, with another former Con player, second-row Conor Kindregan, again on the playing roster.
The Free Jacks lost their opening game 42-27 to newcomers Los Angeles Giltinis, who had former Aussie star Matt Giteau pulling the strings at out-half.
And to add to the Boston club’s frustrations Poland was shown a red card mid-way through the second-half, but that was reduced to yellow on appeal.
This made him available for another away game to Houston SaberCats, which went the way of the Free Jacks, who won 32-0 with Poland kicking a long-range penalty.
Kindregan, who missed the game in Los Angeles due to illness, came off the bench and the pair were also part of last weekend’s historic 22-21 win over Utah Warriors.
It was the first game at the Free Jacks’ new home and they go into this weekend’s series of games in second place in the eastern conference though they have this weekend off.
Powerful number 8 Evan Mintern, who was an important part of Con’s many successes, is against Stateside with Rugby Union New York, where former Con and Dolphin prop, James Rochford, is again starting in the front row.
The Big Apple’s representatives, though, didn’t make the most auspicious of starts, losing heavily by 51-28 to New Orleans Gold.
But, they turned it around the following week by overcoming San Diego Legion 36-29 and now play their third game against section leaders Atlanta, who’ve won two and lost one of their three games.
Although New York are currently propping up the other five teams in the group, they’ve a game in hand and will shoot up the table with a victory.