Suttonians RFC: Historic northside club ready to rise again
With a strong tradition behind them, Suttonians RFC continue to drive forward with passion and pride, writes Brian Lowry
Having been formed back in 1899, the club then known as Sutton Rugby Football Club, which was mainly made up of members of the police force and coastguard, was forced to disband as a result of the Great War as members scattered.
The second coming of rugby in Sutton came in 1924 when they were re-formed with their current title: Suttonians RFC.
From an original membership of 18, by 1930 they were raising their profile and now had over 50 members. An original kit of a blue shirt and an emblazoned white star was abandoned in the early 1930s and was replaced by the club colours they still use today - royal blue, white and emerald green.
The famous 'tin shed' clubhouse, which was located at the main Howth Road entrance to the grounds, remained in use until a new clubhouse was built in the present location on Station Road in 1970/'71, through the support of Jack McDowell.
The club colours were in fact worn by McDowell's horse Caughoo in winning the English Grand National in 1947.
In 1934, the club moved from Saxe Lane to its present location at Station Road, Sutton. At the time, an excavated sand pit was made available and an enormous effort on the part of its members turned it into a playing field. The first match played on it was against neighbouring Malahide RFC on November 24, 1934.
During the club's first 15 years or so, they were mostly noted for their work off the field on the administrative side with such figures as Senator Andrew Jameson (club president from the reincarnation to 1941), Harry Patton (chairman from 1925 to 1973) and Ray Watson (who acted as club secretary from 1931 to 1940) all prominent club men.
On the team sheets, the names of Freddie Spencer, Malcolm O'Grady, Jack McDowell, Billy Campbell and Paddy Lavery regularly appeared. Under the captaincy of McDowell, the 1st XV were the beaten finalists in the minor (nowadays referred to as junior 2) league for the 1932/'33 season.
The 1940s was a real purple patch for the club. Under the guidance of Seamus Henry, a strong team were making waves and the dream of a Metropolitan Cup began to gather speed.
The 1946/'47 season saw them land the big one as they disposed of Monkstown, UCD and Belvedere before overcoming Clontarf in a local derby Cup Final.
The 'Met Cup' had come to Sutton in fulfilment of a dream conceived by Seamus Henry and realised with the efforts of players like Tom Geary, Brendan McClancy, Walter Scott and Oliver Campbell - whose son graced the rugby fields of the world in more recent times - to name but a few.
In that momentous year, the 1st XV played 22 matches, won 20, drew one and lost one, accumulating 191 points while conceding 59 in what was one of their most cherished seasons. A couple of minor league titles followed and after their success in 1951/'52, the club were promoted to the ranks of Junior Rugby.
The 1960s saw them go into decline with many players moving on to senior clubs. In 1964, the club put up the Spencer Memorial Cup commemorating a former club captain who died as a result of an injury received while playing rugby. An annual competition was initiated and restricted to metropolitan clubs of junior status or below.
In 1971, the new pavilion was opened and it made the club more attractive to prospective players while Foxfield Youths RFC merged with Suttonians, enabling the club to have a strong juvenile section.
In 1981, under the captaincy of Mark Shadwell, they won the Spencer Cup for the first time while the cup was brought to Sutton again in 1988 under the captaincy of Dave Cassidy. In 1982, a second pitch adjoining Station Road was purchased but two years later the clubhouse was extensively damaged in a fire before being redesigned and rebuilt during the following season.
In the 1993/'94 season the club won the Leinster League, the Spencer Cup and were finalists in the Metropolitan Cup. Two seasons later, they won the Leinster League again but this time were promoted to the old fourth division of the All Ireland League and became a senior club.
With momentum behind them, the made history in 1997 when they won the fourth Division with a 100 per cent record, one of only three clubs to have achieved this in any division.
2006 saw them promoted to Division Two of the All-Ireland League. They finished 13th at the end of the season but at one point around Christmas, they stood third in the league. Now back in Junior Rugby, Suttonians are sure to rise again and have all the right structures off the field to do so.
Suttonians boast four senior teams, three men's and one women's team, while their minis and youths sections that run from under five up to under 18 in both boys and girls continue to thrive.
The club have had many players come through their gates that have gone on to represent province and country with the likes of Ian Keatley, Jack Aungier, Tom Sexton, Karl Cowman, Des Hanrahan and Mick Fitzpatrick just an example of the talent they have helped along the way while off the field, former president Rory Barry Duke is a past Leinster Branch president.
Grounds: John J McDowell Memorial Grounds, Station Road, Sutton, Dublin 13.
Division: Leinster League Division 1B.
Club President: Ron Maher.
Club Captain: Brian Digan.