Dedicated one-team club keep coming back for more
League success last season can help lift outfit to even greater heights, writes Brian Lowry
Founded more than 40 years ago, AIB RFC are a one-team club currently plying their trade in the Leinster Metro Division 7.
Like all clubs, AIB RFC started out not knowing what lay ahead for them but they have stood the test of time to still be a vibrant club decades later.
Founded in 1974, they began life in rugby circles by competing in the Business Houses League with teams such as Aer Lingus (now Swords), Bank of Ireland, Central Bank, Nixdorf, Revenue, Meat Packers (now Barnhall), Guinness and Unidare (now BGF Ravens).
In 1999 there was a shift in focus as they became a member of the Leinster Branch of the IRFU and began to compete in the Metro leagues, something they have done ever since.
There were many trailblazers in the club but credit is due to Eoin Heraty (RIP), Brendan Brophy (RIP) and Tom Magner for their contributions in those early years.
They have had many homes in their 44 years. Up until 2003 the club played at the AIB Sports & Social Club grounds off the Fortfield Road in Terenure.
However, following the sale of those grounds, the club moved to Sportslink in Santry until 2006.
The last 12 years have seen the club use two locations to cater for their training and match-day needs.
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They use Monkstown RFC for training and Dublin City University for matches.
Like all clubs, they rely on members to keep them going. While the club is predominantly made up of AIB employees, the last few years has seen them broaden their horizons to include ex-employees and family and friends of employees.
This has been particularly important to ensure the survival of the club during the economic downturn and to keep playing numbers up.
Tomás Kennedy, Dara Heraty, Gerry Loughman and Jonathon Hovenden had key playing and recruitment roles during these years.
The club have reached a number of finals, and were beaten finalists in their respective league and cup finals two seasons ago.
They lost to Old Wesley on both occasions, including heartbreak in the cup final with Wesley winning with a penalty kick in the final minute of the game.
Led by player-coach and club stalwart Mark Battams, last season proved to a big year for the club.
Saturday, April 14, 2018 is a day they will never forget as they won their first Leinster Metro trophy, 19 years after commencing playing in the league.
In a tremendous game of rugby, AIB beat Clondalkin 24-23 in DCU to win the Metro Division 9 trophy.
AIB's forwards started the game strongly with some great carrying by Dave McNamara and Matt Hosey.
AIB then went 6-0 thanks to two early penalty kicks from prop forward and place kicker Niall Cahalan (who added a further two penalties later in the game).
AIB's out-half Eoin O'Connor then started to take control and after excellent breaks from wingers Dean Byrne and Fiachra Cork, full-back Ben Finnegan finished a fine team try in the corner. This left AIB 14-6 up at half-time.
AIB led 24-9 with 15 minutes to go but had to withstand a fightback from Clondalkin and were left hanging on by one point with three minutes left and down to 14 men.
Huge defensive hits from Adrian O'Reilly and substitutes Rob Govan and Neil Douglas halted Clondalkin's momentum in the closing moments though.
A heroic defensive effort managed to keep them at bay and AIB finally reached their promised land.
Lorcan Balfe (Leinster Rugby) then presented the trophy to Brian Duncan (AIB captain) and Battams (AIB coach), sparking wild celebrations.
The team had huge support on the day from the wider playing squad and also many ex-players including Paul O'Callaghan, Jamie Nolan and Kevin Feeney who had soldiered for the club through the years.
Having the extra vocal support at the final made a huge difference.
This season AIB are playing in Metro Division 7 and are continuing on from last year by challenging at the top of that league, having only lost one game so far this year.
Two league titles in two years is now the target.
AIB RFC are a social club who maintain a great network among ex-players both in Ireland and across the globe.
They also field a staff team who play representative matches for the company in the Institute of Bankers Cup and against the Defence Forces.
While these matches are not as frequent as in years gone by, when international players such as Brendan Mullin and Vinnie Cunningham took to the field, there is still a very competitive edge to them.
At the end of last season AIB and Permanent TSB played for the Institute of Bankers Cup in Donnybrook and this game also doubled as charity fundraiser for some great causes including SVP, Ronald McDonald House and Our Lady's Hospice.
Down through the years, they have had some excellent players. Former Bermuda captain and now Bermuda sevens coach Tom Healy is a former player with AIB while Rob Byrne, who holds the record for the fastest rowing crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, has also lined out for the club.
They have worked hard to keep the club alive over the years. With a strong and dedicated committee and team of volunteers, they look to be in a good place going forward as they now look to add to their memorable success of last season.
Grounds: Monkstown RFC (Training) and DCU (Matches)
Division: Metro League Division 7
President: Simon Scroope
Captain: Brian Duncan
Coach: Mark Battams