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The London Irish
The London Irish began as a rugby club for men exiled from Ireland. It is now a professional team with players from as far away as Tonga. The London Irish play against teams from all over the United Kingdom as well as the rest of Europe. The name is somewhat misleading, as the team is no longer located in London, but rather in Reading about one hour away. The London Irish still hold on to their roots as an amateur club with a huge presence at The Avenue where you can find people of all ages enjoying the sport.
In 1898 a group of exiled Irish sportsmen formed the London Irish Rugby Club. This group was a place where Irishmen living in London could go to be with the peers and just enjoy the sport. For many years the club's future was uncertain due to the war for Irish independence. Tensioned lessened after the Irish Free State was established in 1923. Both World Wars also saw a period of very little rugby for the London Irish. In 1931 The Avenue became the permanent home of the London Irish. The team continued to play competitive matches as a club, but in 1996 they officially tuned into a professional team. In 1999 they said goodbye to their long term home at the Avenue and moved to Madejski Stadium in Reading. The team plays in both the Aviva Premiership Rugby as well as the Heineken Cup.
Since 1999 the London Irish have been sharing their home with Reading Football Club at Madejski Stadium. This stadium, which is known for its modern amenities and handicapped accessible seating is about one hour outside of London in Reading. It is possible to take the bus to Reading, or the train to Reading station where a shuttle will take you to the stadium. Driving to Madejski stadium is an option, as there are paid parking lots. If you want to enjoy a London Irish match, and then spend the night, there is a four star hotel, as well as a conference center inside the stadium. Madejski Stadium has the capacity for over 24,000 supporters.
The Avenue is the historic home of the London Irish and it continues to be an important part of the club. The London Irish began playing at The Avenue in 1931 and continued there until 1999. The Avenue, which is located in Sunbury-on-Thames is home to the club's amateur league. The amateur league takes players of all ages, from kids to adults. In addition, the London Irish themselves still use The Avenue as their training grounds. The London Irish Amateur Club welcomes players and visitors into the warm atmosphere found at The Avenue.
St. Patrick's Day Party
It's no surprise that St. Patrick's Day is one of the biggest days of the year for the London Irish. Not only do they play a competitive rugby match, but they throw a huge party as well. There is of course Irish music, which plays from morning until evening. There are activities for the kids like bouncy castles as well. You can buy special packages for the day that include tickets to the match as well as lunch and drinks. It's a great day to drink a Guinness and watch some high quality rugby.
If you want to spend the night before or after a London Irish match in Reading you should stay at the Millennium Madejski Reading Hotel. This hotel is part of the complex that includes the stadium. The hotel is upscale and features all the amenities you could want such as a spa, fitness centre, and swimming pool. Even if you are not spending the night you can take in a nice meal at the hotel's restaurant Cilantro.