Savannah is known for many things, but the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade (and the festivities surrounding it) might be the best known thing nationally. Along with that St. Patrick’s Day celebration is a two-day sporting event that has remained a thriving product for the last 44 years. Nearly every year since its inception in 1978, the Savannah Shamrocks Rugby Club has hosted the Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Rugby Tournament.
The 2023 tournament is the 44th edition. It is scheduled for March 11-12 at Savannah’s Daffin Park. It is two days worth of rough and rugged rugby and an undeniable park party raging on site before, after and during every match.
Like the SPD festival in Savannah, the rugby tournament is annually one of the largest rugby events in the country. Roughly 80 teams (men and women) descend on Savannah for the tournament. They come from places like Ohio, Michigan, Maryland, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Indiana, West Virginia, Wisconsin and sometimes from as far away as Canada.
Open to the public and free to attend, the tournament spans the length of Daffin Park with matches being played on several fields nearly all day (10 a.m. - 6 p.m.) on both Saturday and Sunday.
Lindsay Schmidt is the Tournament Director this year. She confirmed during a February phone call with Connect Savannah that the tournament field is full again in 2023. Schmidt also said that United Distributing is helping to provide beer and alcohol sales at the event, while six different food trucks will be on site to feed hungry athletes and fans.
Schmidt and the Shamrocks do a lot more than play rugby. They do more than plan and host rugby tournaments too. She pointed to the club’s history of helping grow the game here in Savannah as well as elsewhere. For the last few years (COVID-19 impacted it in 2020 and 2021), many of the club’s members have traveled to the Bahamas in September to do just that. They help organize and teach the game to youth and adults, and they bring with them lightly used equipment and uniforms.
Money for trips and gifts like that come mostly from proceeds the club generates at the rugby tournament as well as from help coming by way of public contributions.
“Certainly if people want to donate lightly used (rugby) equipment for the people (in the Bahamas), they can visit our website for ways to contact us about that,” said Schmidt.
The Savannah Shamrocks Rugby Club consists of more than 50 members, including a really solid (and successful) men’s team as well as the talented women’s squad and an “Old Boy’s” team. Rosters and active players change from year to year, but the foundation has long been solidified. The SSRC competes throughout the calendar year and plays matches mostly in the Southeastern region. Shamrock teams are members of the Carolinas Geographic Union and of USA Rugby.
Although a complete schedule and list of competing teams was not available as of February 21, that information will be coming soon, Schmidt said. To find out anything you’ll need to know, visit RugbySavannah.com and follow them on Instagram.