Terenure College: Still setting standards on and off the field
With over 70 years of proud history behind them, south Dubliners are continuing to push the boat out, writes Brian Lowry
Back in the winter of 1940, a future force of Leinster club rugby was born. Terenure College RFC have grown to become the envy of clubs across the country, but decades ago, they too, like any other club, had to cut their teeth.
Concerned that former Terenure College pupils were not continuing to play rugby, Rev Fr Jackie Corbett chaired a meeting with a view to forming a club to once again provide a rugby outlet for alumni.
Known then as the Terenure Collegians, they played their first game that same winter, defeating the Terenure College school senior side 8-3. From there, it all kicked off and the club blossomed slowly into what lies before its members today.
Their first real recognition came in 1943, when after an earlier rejection, they were formally accepted into the Leinster Branch of the IRFU under their current title of Terenure College RFC.
Their first year was a memorable one as they lost just once in 17 games to lay claim to the Minor (J2) league.
Progress was swift. They opened a new pavilion costing £2,000 in 1947 before going on to dominate the Leinster Junior League throughout the '50s.
Between '54 and '59, they won five Leinster league titles while also dealing with rejection after rejection in their applications to move to senior.
Finally in '59 they got the nod to progress to the senior ranks, and it wasn't long before they left their mark either.
The 1965-66 season saw them claim their maiden Leinster Senior Cup before retaining it the following year.
Of a more recent note, the '90s provided some lifelong memories and records. The '96-97 season saw them finish joint second in the AIL Division 1, but the big story from this was that they defeated every Leinster team in that division on route to completing the first ever Dublin Grand Slam.
In '98/99, Eric Miller arrived from Leicester, while the club's pride and joy for years to come, Girvan Dempsey, made his Ireland debut when replacing Conor O'Shea in Ireland's win over Georgia - and the Terenure man scored two tries upon his introduction.
Down through the years the club has had numerous Irish internationals on their books, with Michael Hippwell, Paul Haycock, David Corkery, Brendan Sherry, Ciaran Clarke, Niall Hogan, Miller, Derek Hegarty and Issac Boss all joining Dempsey in the famous green jersey.
Famed kit man Paddy 'Rala' O'Reilly is also entwined in Terenure College RFC. 'Rala' is now preparing to embark on his third Lions tour, as he travels to New Zealand as baggage master.
After gaining promotion to Division 1A three years ago, the club has maintained its position in the top flight, with five junior sides, an U-20s team and more than 400 boys and girls enjoying mini rugby every Sunday morning.
In 2011, Terenure established Vision 2020 - the coming together of members to transform the club's future. The response was extraordinary, with thousands of man hours volunteered.
Part of that vision is the 'Turning on the lights programme'. The ambitious project set out to completely redevelop the club, helping it in its ambitions to become one of the country's leading rugby club destinations.
The project included a 4G all-weather pitch, match-quality floodlights on two pitches and two new changing-rooms. The total cost was €1.3m, with the funds coming from donations from club members, a grant from the Department of Sport and a loan from the IRFU.
Another initiative was the setting up of the Terenure Tigers, a team for boys and girls who can't play mainstream rugby. Based in Terenure College RFC, the team was set up in 2014 with the help of the IRFU and Leinster Rugby, and is made up of kids from the ages of six to 16.
It gives children with autism, Down's Syndrome, epilepsy and many other conditions a chance to get involved and play rugby.
Many of these wonderful kids have never had a chance to play sport before but now they have their own team to take to the pitches every Sunday morning.
They now have over 60 children playing and there is always space for more with sessions taking place every Sunday at 12.0.
The Tigers have some amazing coaches that help out every week, and they have Ireland coach Joe Schmidt as our ambassador. Joe's energy and enthusiasm is matched only by the players themselves, and he has brought a smile to parents and players alike on his visits to Terenure.
The Tigers are always looking for more coaches to help out, so if you would like to help, just come down to Lakelands any Sunday at 12.0.
The club fields the most adult teams in the entire province, with six teams competing each week, while over 450 boys and girls are involved in mini rugby.
With a strong numbers base and the plans to bring the club into the future off the field of play well in hand, Terenure College RFC have all the ingredients to be a huge part of Irish rugby in the future.
Colours: Purple, black and white jersey with black shorts and black socks.
Grounds: Lakelands Park, Terenure, Dublin 6W.
Ulster Bank Senior League: Division 1B.
Youths: Under 6 to Under 19's.
Club Captain: Kyle McCoy