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Traditional power are thriving in modern era

One of the most historic clubs in Leinster are continuing to prosper almost 100 years since their roots were laid, writes Brian Lowry

Old Belvedere’s women’s team who won the All-Ireland League in 2014. Photo: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer
Old Belvedere’s women’s team who won the All-Ireland League in 2014. Photo: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

Independent.ie Sportsdesk

When it comes to rugby history, Old Belvedere RFC is right up there with the best of them.

Founded in 1918/19 after a meeting in Belvedere College, they went on to begin life with a 6-0 win over Old St Mary's.

The J3 team celebrating after winning the Winters Cup last season.
The J3 team celebrating after winning the Winters Cup last season.

After going on to play in the Dublin league, they made a decision at the end of that first year to open the club up to other Jesuit colleges and other 'outside' people.

It was also decided at that end-of-year meeting to enter the ranks of senior rugby. Starting off with a match against Merrion, they went on to play more than 20 games, winning 12 while losing their first Leinster Senior Cup game to Wanderers on St Patrick's Day 1920.

Kevin Barry played with the club during their first season but his arrest and execution along with the internment of other players and the loss of their grounds in Beech Hill were all significant factors in the demise of the original club before the commencement of the 1922/23 season.

They came back to life in 1930 but this time as a junior club.

The club’s J1 side after their Metro Plate final victory.
The club’s J1 side after their Metro Plate final victory.

Even at this early stage, there were players who would prove to be invaluable with six future presidents lining out - George Morgan, Eddie Gleeson, Tommy Whelan, Paddy Kevans, John Cummins and Bob O'Connell.

The good times were not too far away. Their first trophy came in the form of the Metropolitan Cup in 1936 and again the following year while the club's first win in the Leinster Senior Cup against Blackrock in 1940 signalled the start of a glory period up until 1947, with seven Senior Cups captured while George Morgan was also selected to represent the Lions in South Africa.

The run came to an end when Wanderers beat them in the final of the Senior Cup in 1947.

It was a remarkable period for the club during which they recorded a victory over a New Zealand services side while also frequently fielding what became known as the 'Q' backline with all four three-quarter players being Quinns.

The '70s and '80s were lean for the 1st XV, although junior rugby remained strong.

Old Belvedere decided to become an open club in 1976 and broadcaster Tom McGurk and Gary O'Hagan were the first two non-Belvedere players to line out for the club.

Coached by Donal Spring and captained by Meryvn Feely, Old Belvedere won the Leinster league in 1993 and qualified to play in the All Ireland Senior league.

They were promoted to the First Division in 1995 and while they were relegated and promoted again in the space of five years, they won Division 1B in 2010 to go back up again before their crowning glory in 2011 when they won the All Ireland League Division One title.

In all, Old Belvedere have won 19 senior trophies and 65 junior trophies and 14 players have been capped for Ireland and six others were war-time internationals.

Twelve players have been overseas tourists with Ireland.

Paddy Madigan and Barry Keogh have had the honour of being president of the IRFU while Karl Mullen and Des O'Brien have captained and managed the Lions respectively.

The list of former and current players associated with Old Belvedere is impressive.

While the likes of Fergus McFadden, Rory O'Loughlin and Jack Conan occupy a lot of headlines in the current Leinster and Ireland folds, some of the former greats such as Tony O'Reilly, Ollie Campbell, Des O'Brien and Neil Francis are exponents of the club.

The recently-retired Nora Stapleton along with Ailis Egan, Marie Louise Reilly, Hannah Tyrrell and Yvonne Nolan are full Irish women's internationals, while Tyrrell is also an Ireland sevens international.

They currently ply their trade in Division 1B of the Ulster Bank League while the senior first team won the Leinster league last season and were also finalists in the Bateman Cup.

Last year was also a successful one for the J1 side who won the Leinster Metro Division One league and J1 Metro plate.

A vibrant junior rugby section exists in Old Belvedere with the club fielding four teams in Metro leagues while they also have two women's teams at a high level in AIL Division One and Leinster Division One.

The Old Belvedere Mini Rugby programme is for boys and girls between the ages of six and 12. Matches and training are on Sunday mornings with more than 370 registered players.

There are eight head coaches and 62 assistant coaches organising and training the kids each Sunday with just over 300 matches (including blitzes) played last season.

OLD BELVEDERE RFC

Founded: 1918/1919

Grounds: 28a Anglesea Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.

Division: UBL Division 1B

Youths and Minis: U-6 to U-18

President: James McCarthy

Captain: Eddie Rossiter

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