Inter-District Championship: Sam Cardosi and eclectic Caledonia Reds plot title defence

Currie Chieftains' Northern Irish back-rower qualifies to play for defending champions through his Dundonian heritage

Caledonia Reds back-rower Sam Cardosi takes the field ahead of last season's Inter-District Championship final win over The South at Braidholm. Image: Colin Robinson - www.robinson.photo
Caledonia Reds back-rower Sam Cardosi takes the field ahead of last season's Inter-District Championship final win over The South at Braidholm. Image: Colin Robinson - www.robinson.photo

CLUB action – league and cup – is being placed on the back burner for the next three weekends while the regional Inter-District Championship elbows its way to front and centre in Scottish rugby’s domestic calendar. 

This competition was reprised last season but only in a restricted format with two semi-finals on the first weekend followed by a play-off for third and the final itself on the following weekend. This year things are being done a little better with everyone playing everyone else either home or away but not both.

So, last year’s winners, Caledonia Reds, must travel to Edinburgh and Glasgow on the opening two weekends of the tournament but they get some sort of revenge by making the South of Scotland travel all the way to Inverness on the final weekend.


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It is one of the peculiarities of Scottish rugby that while the South pull  their players from Borders club sides, Edinburgh from Edinburgh clubs and Glasgow/West of Scotland from the likes of Ayr, Marr, Hawks and GHA, when it comes to the Caley Reds they seem to pull in players from all corners of Scotland.

They have one recruit, Glen Brough, from Gala because he originated in Orkney, while another player, Scott Rendall, still plays for Orkney. Heriots’ Alistair Johnstone claims Caley affiliation thanks to his time spent at Dollar Academy just as another Reds stalwart James McCaig of Currie was schooled at Strathallan.

Highland finished a creditable third in National One this season, Dundee near the other end of the same table, but despite Caledonia boasting not one Premiership club in their wide reaching area, they will still field plenty of Premiership players, many of whom call Malleny home. Along with McCaig, the Chieftains supply DJ Innes, Jacob Ramsey (before he injured himself), Callum Beckett and the athletic No 8 Sam Cardosi.

A proud Ulsterman with an Italian name who qualifies for Scotland through his Dundonian dad, Cardosi has thrown his lot in with the Caledonia team in the inter-district championships. Put it down to the call of the wild, or the fact that his grandparents still live in Dundee, where he has recently spent four years working his way to a law degree.

An odd quirk in the scheduling, and that is putting it politely, will see Cardosi and crew set out to smash all comers in the next three weekend’s of inter-district rivalry which, when Caley plays Edinburgh, will include a good number of his Chieftain pals including fellow breakaway Rhys Davies, before joining forces once again for the league and cup run ins.

“Tell him I am coming after him,” Cardosi jokes (I think). “It does play on your mind a little bit, having such big games after the district stuff. With Currie we have a semi-final of the cup at Mansfield Park (against Hawick) and the Premiership Final, also at Mansfield.

“Part of you is thinking ‘I don’t want to get injured’ but you can’t do that, if you do you are more likely to get injured! You have to play your usual game and hope you come out the other side of it intact.

“It will be interesting when we play Edinburgh. I imagine there will be plenty of club-mates playing and they will be out to get us!”

 

 

Since Ireland have just lifted back to back Six Nations Championships, I ask the Ulsterman for his own assessment of why Ireland are been too good for Scotland in 11 of their last 12 matches?

“With my Irish hat on, I think in Ulster, schools rugby was a big thing, and in the south in Leinster, it’s a massive thing,” he replies. “I think the systems are put in place, we were training with the 1st XV, three times a week in the gym, three times a week with video sessions and it’s taken quite seriously from there. I think it’s spawned from that system, that is why Irish rugby is so successful, breeding players from the age of 14 or 15.”

Cardosi is young, cheery and engagingly enthusiastic, a spaniel puppy straining at the leash. He moved to Edinburgh because the Big Smoke offered more job opportunities and, he concedes, more rugby ones too. He spoke to a few coaches and gelled with Currie’s Mark Cairns immediately. Cardosi says he “loved” the first training session and he has “loved” everything about the club ever since!

So when asked if the inter-district offers an added incentive to club players to test themselves at the end of the season his evident enthusiasm is a given.

“Definitely, definitely,” he replies. “Especially when playing against players who are not in your league, it gives you a good chance to test yourself and see where you are? And it gives you a chance to make relationships that you would not usually have.”

Cardosi agrees that the inter-district is being organised in a slightly more professional manner this year with everyone playing everyone else over the three weekends. He has noticed far more traffic on the subject on social media and while Caley always prefers the underdog tag, the breakaway concedes that after last season’s success they will be in the firing line of every other team in the tournament.

“I really enjoyed my time last year,” he recalls. “We had a lot of camaraderie amongst the guys. We have a lot more individuals [from a variety of different clubs] rather than the Edinburgh side who have lots of people from the same clubs.

“I don’t know if that puts more pressure on us but we don’t take it that way. We like having the underdog status, that helped us last year, but now everyone is gunning for us. It will be interesting to test ourselves and see where we are at. We have some different players but the core is the same.”

 

 

The coaching team led by Colin Sangster of Dundee is much the same as it was last year and Falkirk’s Harry Russell will lead the side.

While most players are able to focus their energies entirely on the inter-district championship Cardosi is quite happy to still be fighting on three different fronts.

“This is what we do pre-season training for in June with Currie,” he reasons, exhibiting an obvious passion for the game. “We even started building the structure then and this is where you want to be as a player. It’s an honour to represent Caley. I am really looking forward to this tournament.”

And if his team-mates share Cardosi’s enthusiasm for the task in hand, you fancy the Caley Reds will do just fine.

2024 Inter-District Championship fixtures –

Round One

  • Edinburgh v The South – Stoneyhill, Musselburgh, Saturday 23 March (kick off 3pm)
  • Glasgow & the West v Caledonia Reds – Braidholm, Glasgow, Saturday 23 March (kick off 3pm)

Round Two

  • Edinburgh v Caledonia Reds – Raeburn Place, Edinburgh, Saturday 30 March (kick off 3pm).
  • The South v Glasgow & the West – Poynder Park, Kelso, Saturday 30 March (kick off 3pm)

Round Three

  • Glasgow & the West v Edinburgh – Braidholm, Glasgow, Saturday 6 April (kick off 3pm)
  • Caledonia Reds v The South – Canal Park, Inverness, Saturday 6 April (kick off 3pm)

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About Iain Morrison 144 Articles
Iain was capped 15 times for Scotland at openside flanker between his debut against Ireland during the 1993 Six Nations and his final match against New Zealand at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. He was twice a Cambridge ‘Blue’ and played his entire club career with London Scottish (being inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2016). Iain is a lifelong member of Linlithgow Rugby Club. After hanging up his boots, he became rugby correspondent for The Sunday Herald, before moving to The Scotland on Sunday for 16 years, and he has also guest written for various other publications.

17 Comments

  1. Harsh! How many rugby presidents pick up the away president in a rolls Royce , host them at their own house? First class Tony! Funny thing, at first I thought he was the driver not the president of the club ha ha. I like marr a bit of rough makes the world go round. We have had close matches this season and Marr deserve to be in the prem. That said beyond hospitality, not a fan of the players that bulldozed Mr Redpath out of the club, you have got to stand by your coach. Where would they and the club be without him.

  2. Having been involved in club rugby for over 53 years not much upsets me. The game values important and all clubs have micro environments with a blend of similar challenges and antics. The Marr question is fair, a club rising through the leagues sustaining a winning positions will create jealousy, suspicion and admiration. We all love an under dog story.

    Separating very successful junior sections from the senior teams are important in this instance. The seniors initially made up of home grown talent was a real positive narrative from the shield success in 2012. Since then mercenaries rolled in from all corners of the world paid handsomely to keep that wagon rolling. Two high profile players failed drug tests for anabolic steroids and yet suspicion remains. Mr Redpath, an instrument of his time was deemed surplus to the ambitious well remunerated three stooges. The Marr youth have no progression or development recognised by the G&W pathway system encouraging players to seek alternative clubs. Sadly, with the demise of S6 a poorly seasoned 2XV and pathway grade players seeking alternatives. The future of a true admirable Marr Rugby under dog story now mired in ego, arrogance, money and politics far removed from true purpose of a successful community Rugby club. The parade of made men on the committee offers little hope of leadership and future planning, my vote would be for Punch and Judy at least they would be visible. Best wishes retiring to my ward in Oregon State hospital.

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  3. Bit of unnecessary Marr bashing on here; the reality is that if the Glasgow/West squad listed clubs of origin as well as current club (as Caledonia have done) then you would find clubs such as Cumnock, Carrick, Dumfries and Kilmarnock represented in the Glasgow squad.

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    • Aye fair doos, but are you saying Marr are doing an Ayr and poaching players fae other Ayrshire sides? A wid huv paxton back wae his brother and big Wilko, ye can keep Sturgeon aw aboot the money wae him, hard work tae.

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  4. Like others pleased with the Caley squad mix, representing a diversity of clubs similar to the other district selections not including Marr I mean Glasgow. Highland bear, rugby fan we share the same train tracks pals. Ah played against marr years ago a good bunch but at a coaching course in Edinburgh lead by their DO. A dinnae realise he was one of the all blacks the way he went on., arrogant beyond belief. Maybe get him in for Townsend given his rhetoric.

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    • Typically, do not take to social media. However, posts relating to Marr Rugby reminded me of witnessing poor behaviour betraying the values of rugby. I recall a Marr midi coach berating players from both teams with obscene language years ago was appalling. Earlier this season the same coach with Marr 2xv despicably mocking a Heriots players ethnicity. Unfortunately, resurfacing as a coach with Marr ladies and to others points very arrogant. Deciding to raise this with Marr president Kevin after a ladies match. No sympathy or acceptance, ambition to investigate. Disappointing from a premiership club should be setting standards not ignoring them.

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  5. Sam is a top lad on and off the pitch. Captained Dundee and man of the match on numerous occasions. Great to see him being so successful at Currie. All at Dundee still support you mate

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  6. Aye, agree with both your points. Although, Marr are significantly over represented ignoring many players from clubs such as Ayr, Garnock, Ardrossan, Cummnock and Glasgow Accies. For example how can very few boys from a successful Ayr side be ignored who ran Currie a lot closer in a cup game than Marr? Garnock almost went undefeated winning Nat 3 surely they have a few players. Equally Ardrossan have the Anderson brothers likewise Cummnock and Glasgow Accies have a few. This smacks of arrogance and poor coaching, after all Glasgow were awful last year under leadership. Personally, dilutes my interest in attending any matches as I won’t pay to see Marr rugby vs the district sides. One doubts one is alone.

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      • Why are they not well liked? I’m purely basing this on a game I saw Marr playing last season. Some players certainly had an arrogance about them (more than I’d seen from any other Prem side), and one of their senior/district players should have been red carded for running in (behind the refs back) and bursting an opponents nose with a forearm smash with the ball nowhere near… that was a nice welcome for a teenager in his first season of senior rugby. Never been as angry at an incident at rugby.

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    • Couldn’t agree more, The Inter-District is an opportunity to showcase the quality players that exists across the club game. What a boost to clubs within the National Leagues to a have a player selected to play representative rugby. Likewise rotate the games around the district to grow the sport. As a North Midlands supporter I was disappointed that they chose to play their one home game in Inverness (again) this season. A trip to Aberdeen, Dundee or even Fife would have been preferable from my perspective. Surely Glasgow could have scheduled one of their matches in Ayrshire, where rugby is on the up, or Dumfries & Galloway?

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  7. Know what you’re saying Scotia and we have similar in South squad with majority Hawick boys but end of the day the best players will generally be playing at the better clubs and playing at a higher level week in week out. With a few exceptions of course. Caley don’t have a prem club so understandable they cast the net wider. Definitely makes it interesting though.

  8. A really good mix of players from Caley. I like how it reflects rugby throughout the region, and ties to the region.

    Far more interesting to me than pretty much the entire Marr team being in the G&W squad (along with plenty of Glasgow Hawks). Should be getting players from further down the leagues involved. If more clubs were represented the competition would attract more interest, leading to bigger crowds.

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    • Surely the priority is to pick the players available and not make it everyone gets a trophy day

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      • True but tbf I think that’s essentially what Caley are doing. Back in day noone batted an eyelid at Brian Bell making record appearances for then North Midlands whilst at a Highland side dropping down the leagues. There are excellent individual players even quite far down the league structure. Even the mighty super 6 who saved Scottish age grade rugby from continually being humiliated had to rely on Nat 2 players just to fulfill fixtures last season they played.

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      • @Andy B I’m pretty certain that a G&W select side from the National leagues would do pretty well in the Prem. There are plenty of players in the National Leagues that could be playing Prem if they wanted to.

        The selection of so many Marr and Hawks players is really just the easy option. In saying that, I realise that coaches and selectors don’t have a lot of spare time to go searching down the leagues for players.

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