1 March 2013 No Comments by The Northern Standard

A new sporting dimension to the strong and still evolving bonds forged between Co Monaghan and those of Monaghan descent in Canada will be marked next month with the visit of the Miramichi Valley High School Rugby Club for a ten-day sojourn that will coincide with local St Patrick’s Day festival celebrations.
The official guests of Monaghan Rugby Club, the 25 players, accompanied by coaching personnel and their High School Vice-President, will be prominent guests of honour in the Monaghan Town St Patrick’s Day Parade and will also participate in the parade in Ballybay.
The party will also be joined by a prominent dignitary from Miramichi, the city’s Tourism Officer, Mr Peter Murphy.
The team are following in the footsteps of the Nelson Doyle Dancers from the same city who captivated the large audiences who witnessed them perform during their visit to the North Monaghan area last year.
Local co-ordinator of the visit is former Monaghan Co and Town Councillor Willie McKenna, who has played a pivotal role in developing the links between Monaghan and Canada in recent years.
Mr McKenna explained to The

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Northern Standard this week that the genesis for the rugby team’s visit came about in July 2011 when he was in Miramichi as guest speaker at a major Irish cultural festival. He attended a breakfast hosted by the City Council and when Peter Murphy told him of the club’s desire to visit Ireland, Mr McKenna set the wheels in motion.
The party will arrive at the Four Seasons Hotel on Wednesday, March 13, and the following day will enjoy their first training session at the Monaghan Rugby Club grounds preparatory to a match against the local B side. A civic reception has been arranged for the new Garage Theatre premises at Knockaconny on Wednesday evening, to be hosted by Monaghan Co Council.
On Friday, March 15 the Miramichi party will visit both Monaghan Collegiate School and St Macartan’s College, and will get the opportunity to try a sport of a different code when they take part in a Gaelic football match.
That evening sees a major social highlight of the itinerary when the High School youngsters are the special guests at a welcome disco in the Four Seasons Hotel (see advertisement elsewhere this issue). A general invitation is going out to the young people of the Monaghan area to come along and enjoy a lively social evening with the Canadian sportsmen and provide them with a traditionally hearty local cead mile failite.
On Saturday March 16, a match will take place between the A teams of Monaghan Rugby Club and Miramichi Valley, after which the participants will adjourn to the clubhouse to enjoy the Ireland v Italy Six Nations international on the big screen.
The following day, St Patrick’s Day, sees the visitors march proudly as guests of honour in both the Monaghan and Ballybay parades.
On Monday, March 18 they will visit the Titanic Museum in Belfast before playing a match against Armagh RFC. The following day they will enjoy a tour of Northern Ireland, and on Wednesday a visit to the Ulster Folk Park preludes a competitive encounter with Omagh RFC.
Prior to their return to Canada, the Miramichi team will play a match in Dublin against St David’s of Greystones and will also be the guests of the Canadian Ambassador to Ireland, Loyola Hearn, at a special reception in the Canadian Embassy in Dublin.
With the heightening profile of the Monaghan-Canada link comes an appreciating commercial value to the North Monaghan hospitality sector, which will be further enhanced in September when three separate Canadian tours will visit the locality: from Miramichi, from Fredericton in New Brunswick, and from Prince Edward Island.
There will be an average of 40 people participating in each tour.
Mr McKenna also disclosed to The Northern Standard this week that he has been contacted by Enda Roche, a radio producer, who is planning a documentary on the Irish connection with the South American nation of Chile, which will give some prominence to the role played in that country’s liberation by Don Juan McKenna, whose connections to the Monaghan area have recently been brought to light and celebrated.

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