Tuesday 30 May 2017

Club Focus St Mary's RFC: A proud history and a bright future

Bulging trophy cabinet and stellar list of former players no distraction as focus put on underage structures, writes Brian Lowry

St Mary’s Thomas O’Reilly in action earlier this season. Photo: Tom Beary
St Mary’s Thomas O’Reilly in action earlier this season. Photo: Tom Beary

Brian Lowry

It was in September 1900, after a historic meeting, that Old St Mary's FC, as they were to be called, was formed before later becoming St Mary's College RFC.

The Leinster Junior Cup was the first trophy to arrive, in 1905, and the club wasted little time in achieving senior status by 1911. The First World War halted the progress of the club as it shut down before getting back up and running in 1932.

Beaver Row in Donnybrook as well as Kimmage Grove both served as grounds in the early days but the club really kicked off in 1955 when they opened a new clubhouse and grounds on College Drive.

Coveted

In 1957-58, Mary's won their first Leinster Senior League Cup; they have landed the coveted trophy on 10 occasions since.

The '70s were a glorious age for the club with trophies at all levels being won, and the likes of Tom Grace, Tony Ward and Ciaran Fitzgerald starring for Ireland.

The St Mary's team that claimed the Ulster Bank League 1B crown last year
The St Mary's team that claimed the Ulster Bank League 1B crown last year

Johnny Moloney, Grace and super hero Seamus Deering captained the country during that period, and later Fitzgerald led Ireland to Triple Crowns in 1982 and 1985, and captained the Lions in 1983.

The inaugural Leinster Senior League was won in 1971/72 and the club have won the league on four occasions since.

The club moved on to new grounds on Templeville Road with an official opening in 1975 marked by Mary's playing an International Selection.

In the '90s, Mary's were a strong force in the AIL and they played their part in a famous final in 1993 when Young Munster pipped them in Landsdowne Road.

The quality of player was increasing rapidly, with Brent Pope coming over from New Zealand in 1991 and others such as Victor Costello, Peter Smyth and Trevor Brennan joining from outside the club to add to talent such as Dennis Hickie and Malcolm O'Kelly.

The season of 1999-2000 will always be remembered fondly. With Pope as coach and Brennan as captain, the breakthrough came as Mary's became the first non-Munster club to land the AIL First Division trophy.

Although the second division was visited for a year in 2004-05, the club progressed both on and off the field.

Steven Hennessy and Peter Smyth developed a strong, mainly home-produced squad, and took the club back to the top division the following season.

The 2009-10 season saw them pipped in another top-flight final, this time in extra-time.

Magnificent

In 2011-12, Hugh Hogan resumed as captain of the club and under the coaching team of Smyth, Ciaran Potts, James Norton and Hennessy, they had a magnificent campaign and won the title on the last day of the campaign, defeating great rivals Young Munster.

It was fitting that president John Gilsenan, son of club legend Matt, received the trophy on behalf of the club.

More recently, the 1st XV suffered relegation heartache in the 2014-15 season, but last season they bounced straight back up by winning Ulster Bank League Division 1B.

They currently sit in mid table in Division 1A as they prepare for the big fixture in the rugby calendar of Dublin 6W tomorrow when they host neighbours Terenure.

The infrastructure has also been enhanced to support and develop players especially over the first decade of the 2000s, with a high performance gym and television grade floodlights.

Mention must be made of the club's first ever IRFU president, John Hussey in 2011-2012. He was chairman of the IRFU management committee for eight years and previously was president of the Leinster Branch as well as being the clubs IRFU/LB representative for over 10 years.

The club is also proud that 2009-10 president Niall Rynne is currently vice-president of the Leinster Branch.

St Mary's boasts 11 Lions representatives and over 120 provincial players dating back as far as 1911.

The club remains healthy, with a full range of sides including a successful woman's section, with the likes of Gillian Nolan and Paula Fitzpatrick claiming international caps.

The club is well represented in the current Six Nations campaign at all levels. Jordan Larmour and Caelan Doris are both on the Ireland U-20 squad, while it is a huge honour for the Club to see Fitzpatrick captaining the Ireland Women's team which also features Orla Fitzsimons.

Jonathan Sexton and Jack McGrath are prominent for the men's team, with Paul Dean as manager.

The minis and youths sections are also ever-evolving with kids from U-6 right up to U-19 catered for on a weekly basis at the club. The minis and youths are the lifeblood of a club and St Mary's are no different.

Junior rugby is also alive and well in the club with J2, J4 and J5 teams along with an U-20 side. While the J2s are enjoying a good cup run, the J4 and J5 squads are both mounting strong league campaigns.

St Mary's has been a hugely successful club, with some of the brightest players in Leinster and Ireland associated with them.

Players like Sexton, McGrath, Rhys Ruddock, Sean Cronin, Cathal Marsh and Shane Jennings to name but a few are all at the top of their game and have passed through the dressing-rooms at Templeville Road.

St Mary's College RFC

Founded: 1900

Grounds: Templeville Road, Templeogue, Dublin 6W.

Club colours: Blue and White.

Senior men: Ulster Bank League Division 1A.

Women: AIL Division 1

Youths and minis: U-6 to U-19

Club captain: Brian McGovern

Women's captain: Carol Staunton

Club president: Kevin Conboy

Irish Independent

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