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Rugby league in Ireland to expand with two new domestic teams

Ireland's domestic competition will be strengthened by the addition of two new teams and the return of three others when it kicks off in May.

In Northern Ireland, Belfast Eagles, who have been running junior rugby league up to now, have formed an open age side and will join the existing three Ulster teams to make a four-team championship.

In the south, Galway Bay Pirates will make their debut, initially playing friendlies, and will be dual registered with neighbours and reigning champions Galway Tribesmen to assist their development.

"There is a feeling of nostalgia and progress for the upcoming season," said Ulster provincial official Steve Hogan.

"Limerick's finest, Treaty City Titans, return after a troubled 2016 season which culminated in the team standing down mid-season and are joined by Ballyfermont Bears from West Dublin and Waterford Vikings.

"On top of the eight-team competition in the Republic of Ireland, there has been an upsurge of 150 per cent in competitive team numbers and, along with the Pirates, there may be further developments in the very near future in terms of additional non-competitive teams."

Expansion comes on the back of the national team qualifying for the 2017 World Cup with the help of an increasing number of domestically produced players.

"Belief in Ireland is that the game is on the up and with the Wolfhounds at the World Cup, there is genuine excitement from all involved," Hogan said.

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