Tuesday 15 October 2019

'Surgeons' continue to cut a dash to honour their long history

Club focus: RSCI

Seán O’Brien is tackled by Michele Lamaro of Benetton last weekend. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Seán O’Brien is tackled by Michele Lamaro of Benetton last weekend. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Brian Lowry

The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI RFC) - affectionately known as 'Surgeons' - are first and foremost a social club.

The club currently competes in Division 3 of the Leinster League and consists of players from all over the world.

One of the oldest rugby clubs in the country, RCSI are steeped in tradition and history and are just one arm of the expansive sporting culture in the Royal College of Surgeons situated in St Stephen's Green.

Sport is central to student life at RCSI. With over 30 sports clubs in total, they represent the college in a range of regional, national and inter-college tournaments.

The profession of medicine has had a long association with the sport of rugby. In total, 201 of the 980 Irish international players up to the year 2000 were medical doctors.

The first RCSI associate selected to play for Ireland was consultant Sir William Watson Pike, who won the first of five caps at full-back against England on March 34, 1897 at Kennington Oval.

Pharmacy student Eoghan Kelly in action
Pharmacy student Eoghan Kelly in action

More recently, one of their more famous sons has been Felipe Contepomi. The Argentina International and captain was nominated for the International Player of the Year in 2007 - the same year he graduated from RCSI as a Bachelor of Medicine.

The doctor and now a member of the Leinster coaching ticket was inducted into the World Rugby hall of fame back in 2017.

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While Contepomi holds 87 caps for his native Argentina, the most-capped Irish RCSI graduate is James Daniel Clinch, who lined out 30 times for Ireland between 1924 and 1931. Dr Clinch also toured with the British and Irish Lions in 1924 before moving to Wales in 1938.

Two more notable graduates from the early days were Morgan Patrick Crowe and Patrick Finbarr Murray who were selected to tour with the Lions in 1930.

RCSI-Beaumont Hospital were crowned the winners of the Dublin Hospitals Cup, beating UCD’s Mater Hospital 27-12 last year. Photo: Oliver O'Flanagan
RCSI-Beaumont Hospital were crowned the winners of the Dublin Hospitals Cup, beating UCD’s Mater Hospital 27-12 last year. Photo: Oliver O'Flanagan

Crowe had led Blackrock College to a Leinster Schools Cup victory in 1925 before winning five Leinster Senior Cups with Lansdowne RFC.

Unfortunately, he suffered a devastating injury in the Hospitals Cup which precluded him from participating in the tour.

Crowe went on to become a national selector in the 1950s.

His RCSI colleague, Patrick Murray competed in four Test matches during the 1930 tour, including the famous victory over New Zealand on June 21, 1930. Murray subsequently became president of the IRFU in 1965/'66.


The next RCSI man to be honoured by a Lions Tour was Karl Mullen, who captained the 1950 tour of New Zealand and Australia. Prior to this in 1948, Mullen led Ireland to their first ever Grand Slam victory aged just 21, followed by a successive win in 1949, winning the Triple Crown.

Since 1990, RCSI and the Université Pierre and Marie Curie (UPMC) - which is part of Sorbonne University group - rugby teams have competed yearly. Alternating between Ireland and France, depending on the Six Nations fixtures, both groups make friends for life something compounded by the fact that former players often make the journey to catch up with old team-mates and the opposition.

In January 1881, a group of physicians and surgeons met in Dublin to discuss Dr Cassidy's idea for a rugby league to be played between teams fielded by the Dublin Hospitals.

The Hospitals Cup has been played every year since 1881 (with the exception of 1916-1917 and 1945-1946) making it the longest-running rugby competition in Ireland.

Sir Patrick Dun's Hospital were heavily involved at the start and they were the story of the early years, winning it 16 times in the first 30 years.

Amongst the hospital teams, especially when rugby was an amateur sport, were several players who would later go on to represent Ireland, one example from Sir Patrick Dun's Hospital is Bethel Solomons (1885-1965).

He played on the Hospital's Cup-winning team in the 1903-'04 and 1904-'05 seasons and he won ten caps for Ireland in the next three years.

Solomons was elected president of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in 1946, a position he held for three years.

Last season was a notable year for the RCSI as they claimed the Hospital Cup for the first time in nine years beating UCD's Mater Hospital in the final by 27-12.

Played on December 22 in Old Belvedere, it proved to be a thrilling game with the nine-year famine coming to an end.

Before the game, RCSI's Professor Mick Farrell was inducted into the Hospitals Cup Hall of Fame.

Currently, four teams representing five Dublin hospitals contest the Hospitals Cup: the Mater, St Vincent's, The Federated Hospitals (Tallaght combined with St James), and Beaumont.

All rugby-playing medical students and doctors crave the honour and glory of a Hospitals Cup medal. A win in the final is also highly prized by the hospitals and they take great pride in winning it.

RCSI currently lie fourth in the Leinster league Division 3 with a game in hand over the three teams ahead after two wins and a loss have seen them make a decent start to the season.


Founded: 1881

Grounds: Dardistown/Railway Union

Division: Leinster league Division 3

Captain: Luke Trench

President: Professor Arnie Hill

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