Bruff's inspirational triumph
IT'S hard for today's provincial rugby fans to comprehend, but there was a time when the Senior Cup represented the high point of the season in each province.
Those days, alas, have long gone. Spectator interest has certainly waned, but the importance of the Senior Challenge Cup competitions to the clubs has most definitely not.
And, while it may have slipped under the national radar, a little piece of history was created in Limerick last week when Bruff lifted the coveted Munster trophy for the first time. The fact that they beat Garryowen in the final added to the achievement.
The vibrant County Limerick club represents proof of the shift in power and interest from urban to rural.
I first visited the club back in the late 70s on the invitation of Lieutenant Colonel The O'Grady -- if memory serves me right I refereed a massively competitive game between Bruff Ladies and the AIB Bank equivalent.
The head of the O'Grady clan was the first president of the club, having donated some land and the gate lodge to his estate for the then club premises at the time.
Now seven years in the senior ranks, they have come a long way since, based on the principle of developing their own through a remarkably successful underage structure.
Nineteen of the cup-winning 22 came through the underage system -- an extraordinary achievement by an extraordinary club.