Wednesday 18 October 2017

Historic club is still fighting good fight

A club with a rich and storied past, Monkstown FC are an outstanding community club

Monkstown minis team are in integral part of the club
Monkstown minis team are in integral part of the club
The triumphant Monkstown team who claimed the Spencer Cup last season

Brian Lowry

Situated in Sandymount in Dublin, Monkstown FC, a focal point of the community, stands as one of the oldest rugby clubs in Ireland.

Born in 1883, a mere three years after the formation of the IRFU, the club, which was originally based in the Monkstown/Dún Laoghaire area, are now more than 100 years in their Sydney Parade home after leasing the grounds from the Earl of Pembroke way back in 1901.

Monkstown have a strong tradition and connection with the military. In the clubs early days, soldiers from the British Army would have been prominent in the club with many former players being casualties of the Boer and Great Wars.

Tradition

As times moved on, the military tradition continued with strong numbers of the Irish Defence Forces wearing the Monkstown shirt with pride and distinction. The biennial match between the Irish Defence Forces team and the French Defence Forces team has been played regularly at Sydney Parade.

Monkstown FC is 133 years old and has had an extraordinary rugby and social history from its foundation in 1883 to the present day.

A neglected part of the club's history is the experience of its members during the First World War. The club was very keen to acknowledge the heroism and sacrifice of many members of the club who fought and died in this 'war to end all wars'. To this end, on November 24 last in the clubhouse, a plaque was unveiled containing the names of over 80 members who made the ultimate sacrifice.

A further 500 members or so served in various branches of the armed forces, many of whom were left with life-changing injuries or shell shock. The 80-plus died on active duty during the War in a variety of theatres - from Gallipoli to the Somme and even a number on ships like the torpedoed RMS Leinster.

The club secretary's reports for the early part of the century formed the basis for the research and the associated membership lists brought the number of club members in the pre-war period to 1,300. An amazing number when you realise that today there are around 200.members.

Located a short distance from Lansdowne Road, the club's main pitch is renowned as one of the best in Leinster. On numerous occasions down through the years, they have hosted visiting international sides for their run-outs prior to international matches at Lansdowne Road.

In 1991, the Australia team which won the Rugby World Cup were the club's guests for the two weeks of their stay in Ireland where they defeated Ireland and New Zealand before they went on to beat England in Twickenham in the final.

Promotion The club has always made a strong contribution to the promotion and administration of rugby in Leinster and Ireland, providing no shortage of administrators. HJ Millar, Capt JR Ramsey and Robert Ganly went on to become presidents of the IRFU, while Ken Mills and Brian Brady have recently served as presidents of the Leinster Branch IRFU.

The family-friendly club also have a proud tradition of supplying referees since its earliest days. Their principal founder, Herbert W Jones, was the first president of the Leinster Association of Referees while the retired Donal Courtney had a distinguished career officiating worldwide in Rugby World Cups, Six-Nations internationals and Heineken Cup fixtures.

Monkstown FC is renowned for playing an important and central role in the local community. Generations of local residents have played for and supported the club, never more so than at present. In return, the club opens its doors every year to host Community Open Days, charity events, birthday parties and local business events.

Last season the First Team maintained their position in Division 1A of the Leinster League. The Seconds won the Moran Cup - a traditionally difficult cup to win.

The Thirds and U-20s also enjoyed numerous successes throughout the season while the minis section also provided all involved with some lasting memories.

Dave Mahon is the head coach and the captain is Brian Flaherty, while a significant playing addition this year is James Downey formerly of Leinster, Munster and more recently Wasps, before his retirement from the professional game.

So far this season, the first team have been finding the going tough and they sit bottom of the Leinster League Division 1A but hope springs eternal for the new year in a bid to turn things around. Mini Rugby has been an integral part of the Monkstown FC set up for a number of years.

They provide fun coaching for children every Sunday morning at 11.30am, and they are always welcoming to new boys and girls who want to have a go at rugby.

In 2013, the Club celebrated their 130th anniversary and for the majority of this, the club has been firmly and proudly embedded in the Sandymount community.

Above all, the club has always been known as a welcoming and hospitable Club to all rugby people, players, supporters and visitors based on the traditions "Play hard, Play fair, Enjoy your Rugby" and the camaraderie in the Clubhouse afterwards.

Monkstown FC

Founded: 1883

Ground: Sydney Parade, Sandymount

Division: Leinster League Division 1A

Club president: Brendan McGovern

Club captain: Brian Flaherty

Next week's club focus is on Greystones RFC

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