Air Force Rugby vs. Navy Rugby: The Importance of the Shea Cup

Rugby is not a sport for the weak.  All rugby matches are hard fought by both teams and stellar play is acknowledged by both the victors and the defeated alike.  I know I am biased (as a former Zoomie rugger myself) but I offer that service academy matches mean something more to the teams participating.  Every service academy match is non-conference and being so means the games in themselves don’t necessarily improve your chances of making a playoff at year’s end.  However, these are some of the toughest, most gritty games that the service academy teams will play all year.

A victory is always the goal for any rugby team but in a service academy match, there is something more important…honor.  For the Cadets and Midshipman that play in the contest for the Shea Cup the honor each player has just participating in the competition itself is not replicated in any other match during the year.  The Shea Cup is special.  It is special because of the respect that each player has for each player on the other team as a comrade in arms.  More importantly, the game is special to honor the namesake of the Shea Cup, LtCol Kevin M. Shea.

LtCol Kevin M. Shea, United States Marine Corps, paid the ultimate price for this country.  He died from enemy rocket fire in Al Anbar Province near Fallujah, Iraq, on 14 September 2004.  That day was also LtCol Shea’s 38th birthday.  This man was a true warrior and patriot, a fine husband and fantastic family man.  He also had special ties to both the Air Force Academy and the Naval Academy rugby teams.  LtCol Shea graduated from the United States Air Force Academy and upon graduation was commissioned in the United States Marine Corps.  LtCol Shea played football and rugby at USAFA and was part of the national championship rugby team in 1989.  During his career in the USMC, LtCol Shea also taught at the Unites States Naval Academy and coached the Midshipman in rugby.  Thus, the connection to both rugby teams is clear.  Both teams claim LtCol Shea as one of their own and both teams want to bring honor to him and his family by hoisting the Shea Cup proudly in victory.

LtCol Shea was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor, Purple Heart, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Gold Star, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Navy Unit Commendation, National Defense Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal with Two Bronze Stars, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Kuwaiti Liberation Medal, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Liberation Medal Kuwait. He was also a Jumpmaster and combatant diver qualified.

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