RYAN Guilfoyle hopes to get Irish eyes smiling even more brightly by being part of Galway Tribesmen’s history-making Challenge Cup win.
That comes after a self-funded 10-hour trip which sees the amateurs get into St Helens at 2am tomorrow (Sat).
Then there is the 24-hour wait for what should have been PCR test results to get back into their homeland, a condition that was scrapped after the journey was booked.
And if the Tribesmen, who were drawn at home, seize their moment by beating Pilkington Recs, they would have to do it all again for round two as they had to commit to playing games in England.
“It’s a bit of a journey,” said Guilfoyle. “We’re on the western seaboard, so the nearest airport would be either Shannon, Knock or Dublin.
“Dublin would be best with availability but it just didn’t work out, so we’re having to go by boat to allow the lads to work today and it’s close to a 10-hour trip.
“We leave at 4pm today to arrive at 2am tomorrow. It’ll be a bus to Dublin, then the boat to Liverpool, then we’re driving to St Helens.
“We’ll be knackered but the buzz and excitement is getting a lot of lads through it. It’s not ideal but with the way funds are, a lot of it is self-funded, these are the things we have to do.
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“The lads have contributed to the trip but a couple of sponsors have helped us. There was an online fundraising page, with the general rugby league community being amazing then there’s a grant from the Rugby Football League.
“And we have to stay tomorrow night as when we booked the trip, you had to do a PCR test to get back into Ireland. We were going straight from the game to get them.
“But we’ll be in St Helens come what may and the big thing is there will only ever be one first Irish team to win a game in the Challenge Cup.”
Galway’s side is made up of players from all backgrounds, from students to plumbers, builders, military personnel and Guilfoyle, who works in the marketing department of Galway County Council.
They follow Longhorns as All-Ireland champions entering the Challenge Cup – and what they did propelled the game further.
Huddersfield youngster Ronan Michael made waves last year by becoming the first Irish-born Super League player since Brian Carney in 2009.
And half-back Guilfoyle, 25, believes the 13-a-side code is growing as he added: “Rugby league might not be massive here but this is a huge opportunity.
“When you compete with the likes of football, GAA and rugby union, it’s always difficult but the game’s improved significantly in the last couple of years.
“Longhorns’ participation in the Challenge Cup really raised the bar as everyone else could see the carrot being dangled in front of them.
“And a lot of people are realising there are opportunities in rugby league.”