Wednesday 24 October 2018

Guinness RFC: Dedication of members the lifeblood of proud club

Through the good and the bad times, Guinness RFC have always put their best foot forward, writes Brian Lowry

Guinness team celebrating winning the Winters Cup
Guinness team celebrating winning the Winters Cup

Brian Lowry - Club Focus

Established in 1943, Guinness Rugby Club are a relatively new outfit but have been playing out of their current home in the Guinness Athletic Union in the Iveagh Grounds in Crumlin, Dublin 12 since their inception.

While they may have been founded in the 1942/43 season and affiliated to the Leinster Branch soon after, there was some activity before that.

In 1926, a rugby section was formed in Guinness's Brewery by Freddie Parkinson, Eddie Potts, Bill Toner and other brewery personnel.

They were not affiliated with the Leinster Branch as they did not have recognised playing fields or a pavilion.

Back then the club was called the St James Gate RFC with their first match report alluding to a bemused cow being the sole spectator at the first home game.

In 1942 another group of young brewery men that included Paddy Keenan, Jim Hudson and Larry Farrell decided to form Guinness RFC and by now, they had acquired the use of the front pitch and pavilion at Iveagh Grounds.

Tony Keogh, Jonathan O’Byrne, Thomas Walsh, Sean Cummins, Jonathan Myers and Bart McCarthy
Tony Keogh, Jonathan O’Byrne, Thomas Walsh, Sean Cummins, Jonathan Myers and Bart McCarthy

They applied for affiliation to the Leinster Branch and were successful in being accepted to enter the Minor League and Minor Cup as well as other thirds cups.

This would have been the equivalent of Junior 2 rugby today.

The club's new colours were royal blue jerseys, white shorts and royal blue socks.

Sponsors

Guinness’ Eddie Tyrrell in action
Guinness’ Eddie Tyrrell in action

Despite the distinctive club name, there is no financial support from Diageo and the club have found it difficult to get sponsors on board with prospective suitors presuming that they are sponsored by Guinness/Diageo.

They are indebted to the few sponsors they have and who play a big role in keeping the club going.

Were it not for them, along with the combined effort of key members of the committee such as Eddie Tyrrell, Ultan Ryan, Tony Keogh and Bart McCarthy, who have been relentless in their commitment to the club, Guinness Rugby Club might have vanished long ago.

Their input to the club has been immense, from the running the club to making sure fundraising activities are carried out to ensure the future of the club.

Guinness’ first team lining out before a recent match
Guinness’ first team lining out before a recent match

A key part of keeping the club running is getting the players through the door and on the pitch, and there has been no better man for this than their director of rugby Tony Keogh and team manager Thomas Walsh.

Without their continuous efforts in keeping in contact with players, they would not now be in a position to field two senior teams this season in Metro Division 6 and 9.

Tony's son Stephen, who is the club's current public relations officer, is also following suit and is playing a key part in keeping the club's online presence active which itself has led to some new faces through the gates every season.

Over the years the club has seen its fair share of success, winning Leinster League Division 3, U-18 Leinster League, Harry Gale Cup (U-20), Moran Cup, Winters Cup (twice), Metro J4 League, and both Jim Byrne and Madden cups.

They are also very proud of players who represented Ireland and Leinster at underage Levels while there are two ex-Guinness players with AIL medals in Gareth Logan and Phillip Lynch.

Another source of pride for the club is the fact that it was a former Guinness player Kevin Potts who led the Ireland bid for the 2023 World Cup.

On the other side of the coin, they have seen quite a few years of hardship.

Once upon a time, they had a thriving underage section with a steady stream of youths coming in from the surrounding areas and the inner city, but now the club are unable to field a single underage team.

This is mainly due to the draw of their big neighbours - St Mary's and Terenure, and also the formation of Liberty Saints RFC.

Until this season they were struggling to field the one senior team, but thankfully those days seem to be behind them and Guinness RFC are now looking forward to the challenges this season will bring while hopefully restarting their underage section.

Despite their size compared to other clubs in the area, the club have a proud history of having players from overseas, stretching from America all the way to New Zealand.

Indeed, at the moment they could field a team comprising of players from USA, New Zealand, Venezuela, Croatia, South Africa, Nigeria and Wales while there are also players from other provinces in Ireland involved with them.

Last year, the club were shocked and saddened by the sudden death of Phillip Preston.

A great player and friend who had spent the last years of his career as a huge part of everything that is good about rugby with near neighbours and friends at Tallaght Rugby Club.

This tragic event has spawned the Philly Preston Memorial Cup, which will be contested annually in a game the big man would have loved to be part of.

The silverware currently resides in Tallaght's trophy cabinet.

As they enter into their 75th year, Guinness RFC are planning a few big events over the season ending with an end of season tour to Antwerp.

This tour will also be in memory of their former club president Pat Hayes who passed away earlier this year.

Guinness RFC have faced some big challenges but stood the test of time.

GUINNESS RFC

Founded: 1943

Grounds: Guinness Athletic Union, Iveagh Grounds, Crumlin Road, Dublin 12

Division: Metro League Division 6 & 9

Youths and minis: N/A

Club president: Bart McCarthy

Club captain: Gerard O'Shea

Irish Independent

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