Jump to main content


‘Our Aim Is To Provide A Quality Experience For Players With A Disability’ – McKay

Players from each team pose for a group photo after the festival 28/5/2023

IRFU Disability Tag Rugby Festival, IRFU High Performance Centre, Blanchardstown, Dublin 28/5/2023 Players from each team pose for a group photo after the festival Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Tom Maher

Earlier this week we caught up with IRFU Disability and Inclusion Officer David McKay to discuss the importance of International Day of Persons with a Disability on 3rd December and to look back at the last year and what the plans are for 2024.

David what’s the importance of the 3rd of December?

The 3rd of December is International Day of Persons with Disabilities, a day to recognise the achievements and contributions of people living with disabilities worldwide. It is also a day to raise awareness, understanding and acceptance of disabilities within rugby by showcasing activities of our clubs and the work of the IRFU in this area. My role is to support the significant work our volunteers do in clubs do to make that a reality.

What disability offerings do the IRFU offer?

Currently we have 51 disability sections, divided into three categories:

We have 40 disability tag sections across the 4 provinces. Tag rugby is a fast and exciting non-contact format of the game that encourages the positive development of running, balance and handling skills for players with physical, sensory, or learning disability.

We have 10 Mixed ability rugby sections, 7 male and 3 female. It’s an amazing format of the game and arguably captures everything that is best about our sport. Teams are made up of non-disabled players and players with varying disabilities.

We have 1 Visually Impaired Rugby team that is part of Old Wesley RFC. The game was developed to cater for people across the spectrum of sight loss, from B2 to B5. There are 7 players on each team with varying levels of sight loss, and tackles are ‘touch’ only.

Find out more in this video – click here.

What’s been the highlight in the last year?

I am very lucky to have many highlights but if I had to pick my top 3 they would be:
Seeing all the tag clubs at the IRFU High performance centre in May for the Wooden Spoon Tag Rugby Festival. It was the first time any of the clubs had been there and was great they could experience what its like to train and play at the same place our international teams train. It was also great to see the likes of experienced players and teams from Newforge Taggers and Seapoint Dragons, who have been going for 13+ years integrating and sharing knowledge with newer players and teams from Edenderry, Arklow who have only started.

Take a look back at the festival here.

I was lucky to be a part of the coaching team with the Old Wesley VI team and we travelled to our first tournament in Toulon, France during the world cup. It has been amazing to see the improvement of the players and watch their confidence grow. Equally heartwarming is facilitating the players to be part of a team that has provided a new format of rugby in Ireland. Many of these players never expected to be part of a team sport and therefore is a very rewarding training experience.

Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Seeing the impact and development of mixed ability rugby in Ireland since the IMART World Cup Tournament in Cork in June 2022. We had 4 male and 1 female team compete and today we now have 7 male and 3 female sections. A special mention has to go to the Sundays Wells Rebels, two-time male mixed ability world cup winners, who were the pioneers that brought mixed ability rugby to Ireland. They have just celebrated their 10th anniversary which is an amazing achievement for all involved.

IMART Inspiress Growth In Mixed Ability Rugby

What the plans for the rest of the season?

My hope this year is to further increase playing opportunities and give a quality experience for players with a disability. To create volunteering opportunities for players to move into other areas of the game within their clubs. With additional players coming into the game, it is important to build capacity in rugby volunteers by continuing to develop resources and providing education sessions to meet their needs.

I will also be working on securing funding to host festivals and coaching conferences. I would like to further breakdown barriers so that we can continue to grow the number of females with disability playing the game.

What should a club do that’s interested in setting up a disability section?

For clubs thinking about setting up a disability section we have developed guides which can be found on the website. I’d especially advise clubs who are interested to take a look at the 2 case studies with Clondalkin RFC and Portadown RFC on advice they would give to clubs.

Portadown Panthers Case Study

Condalkin RFC Case Study

We aren’t asking every club to have a disability section, that wouldn’t be sustainable, but we have identified certain areas within our provinces where no offering is available. For clubs that are interested please contact me and for clubs that have a disability section in a nearby club, its about to signposting interested players to existing teams.

IRFU Disability Tag Rugby Festival, IRFU High Performance Centre, Blanchardstown, Dublin 28/5/2023Academy Award winning actor James Martin (right) of Newforge Taggers celebrates with teammate Ross Stewart during the festivalMandatory Credit ©INPHO/Tom Maher

What advice would you give volunteers looking to find out more on how to support players with a disability?

I think a great place for any volunteer to start is by completing our free disability awareness training. It’s a good introduction with plenty of free resources available at the end of the course.

Disability Awareness Training Course – click here

We also have plenty of resources available on the website – click here.

If you have a specific question or want to find out how to get involved, please email me directly here