Earlier today, a group of tag rugby enthusiasts assembled in Fairview Park to throw together a series of ad-hoc matches. While certainly, such a sight isn’t exactly new – after all, a group meets up most Sundays to play practice matches and has done so for a good three years at this point. While these meetings are usually fairly light-hearted affairs, today though, there was a slightly different atmosphere as those involved were present to mark a very specific anniversary.
Exactly one year ago, the Irish tag rugby scene lost a very good friend and one of its most enthusiastic players/supporters when Michelle Lawlor tragically passed away. At the time, the news devastated many in tag circles and the loss still weighs heavily to this day. To commemorate Michelle’s life and her boundless enthusiasm for the sport, two of her great friends, John Gray and Regina Lennon, came up with a very suitable tribute; to run an anniversary tag rugby tournament in Michelle’s honour.
While notice was relatively short, and weather forecasts were very much pointing to wind, rain and mud, a group of about 30 tag rugby players (enough to make up four full teams) as well as various well-wishers and spectators amassed in Fairview Park at around 11:30am. It was a real group effort, with people from all over Dublin, and beyond, braving the elements and bringing cones, spare shorts and all manner of other tag rugby paraphernalia to ensure that the day was a success.
It was a true case of fortune favouring the brave, with the weather being mild enough to make for good tag rugby conditions. The rain never increased beyond the level of mild drizzle, the wind was never so strong as to impair passing and the ground was soft without being overly slippery – given how the weather has been panning out over the last couple of weeks (not to mention the monsoon-esque torrents that lash down as I type this), one couldn’t have hoped for any much better.
More important than the tag itself, the first annual Michelle Lawlor Memorial Tournament (as it has been unofficially dubbed – there have been others organised in her name, but this is the first time on her anniversary itself) was an opportunity to raise some money for Autism Ireland, a charity which was very close to Michelle’s heart as she spent much of her adult life working closely with special needs children. While no fee was charged to play in the tournament, word was spread beforehand that donations would be gratefully accepted.
A final total of €355 was raised for Autism Ireland on the day – a wonderful tribute to Michelle and a testament to the good work of John, Regina and everyone else who took part in the event.
As someone who shared, and I suppose in a way continues to share, a great friendship with Michelle, I’d like to extend my personal thanks to everyone who was around today – it was a wonderful feeling to see so many turn out in honor of one of my best friends.