Wednesday 25 April 2018

Tullamore RFC - Faithful's finest still prospering at all levels

Now a senior side in men's and women's rugby, Midlands outfit are working hard to push on even further, writes Brian Lowry

The Women's section in the club has grown dramatically with the first team leading the way in the Senior ranks.
The Women's section in the club has grown dramatically with the first team leading the way in the Senior ranks.

Brian Lowry - Club Focus

Situated in the heart of Ireland, Tullamore RFC are now a recognised Senior club in both men's and women's rugby.

While the vast majority of their history is documented at Junior level, promotion for the men's and the still relatively new women's wing of the club in the last five years has seen the club evolve.

They had to start somewhere and like every club there have been struggles along the way but today they stand a prospering club serving Offaly and the surrounding area.

Even before their promotion to the senior ranks, they have long been the standard-bearers for rugby in the Midlands.

2012/2013 saw them produce one of their most magical seasons and one that will forever be embedded in the club's history.

Together with winning the Leinster league after a couple of near misses in previous seasons, they gained promotion to the Ulster Bank League while also laying claim to the All-Ireland Junior cup with victory over Enniscorthy and the Provincial Towns Cup with a final win over neighbours Longford.

Karl Dunne in action for Tullamore with Captain Tom Gilligan providing the back up.
Karl Dunne in action for Tullamore with Captain Tom Gilligan providing the back up.

Their seasons in the Senior ranks have been steady. They have come close to promotion on a few occasions from Division 2C but unfortunately came up short.

This season has turned into a tough one are currently bottom of 2C but they are made of stern stuff and have the capabilities to turn their season around under the leadership of captain Tom Gilligan, a former Connacht Senior Schools-winning captain with St Joseph's and St Saran's, Ferbane.

While there was rugby activity going back as far as 1879, they were officially founded in 1937 with Dr JM Prior sworn in as their first ever president. The 'Tulliers' were born and, 80 years later, they are still going strong.

Cup competitions were their forte in the early days.

The club’s first team
The club’s first team

From 1937 to 1946, they appeared in five Towns Cup semi-finals with 1946 proving the breakthrough year as they beat Skerries in the final to land the cup for the first time in their history.

Oliver McGlinchey was on that team that made history and we went on to serve the club in every capacity before he passed away in 2008 after a massive 60 years of service to the club.

He was also a major player in the club cementing their home in Spollenstown and dipping their toes into youth rugby. 1970 saw them take sole possession of their home in Spollenstown after ground-sharing with the local soccer club.

With a solid footing, McGlinchey, along with John Cahill and Denis Magner put the wheels in motion for a youth system aimed at keeping the production line running for the club.

From that footing, the youths and minis arm of the club has continued to grow and develop young players in the area. It hasn't been easy with plenty of other sporting options in the Co Offaly town such as soccer and GAA.

Another man that gave outstanding service to the club was the late, great Chris Glennon who passed away back in March 2017.

Known the length and breadth of the province, he was 'Mr Tullamore Rugby' as no matter what situation in the club, the late stalwart was the man to go to. He also occupied many administrative roles in the Midlands branch and main Leinster Branch.

Some of their most famous sons include former Ireland 'A' International Peter Bracken who also has Irish Youths caps along with his brother Eamon.

The late Gerry Culliton played at a high level with Wanderers while Colin Finnerty captained the Irish Youths.

Gearóid O'Grady, his brother Paul, Ivan Dunne, Ronan Kelly, Conor Dunne and the Farrell brothers - Ray and Derek - have all also been capped with Ireland at youths level.

More recently, Conor Dunne, Colm Heffernan and Adam Mangan (RIP) were part of Leinster U-18 teams while both the U-15 boys and girls won the U-15 Leinster league in 2014.

Dunne went on to be capped by Irish Youths while Heffernan is now part of the Munster Academy. Last season, Diarmuid Egan and Cathal Farrell were also capped at U-18 level for Leinster.

The ladies have also begun to make their mark since their establishment.

They have continued to go from strength to strength with the likes of Jill Draper and Alisa Hughes gaining provincial caps with Connacht and Leinster respectively, while Shannon Tuohey has been capped by Ireland Ladies 7's and Nichola Fryday has been capped at 15-a-side level for her country.

Amy Martin and Lauren Keenaghan were the first Tullamore girls to play for Leinster U-18s in 2013 with the likes of Megan Burns, Ella Duffin, Moya Griffin, Rachael Dunne, Holly Ravenhill, Jane Waters and Orlaith Fox all gaining Leinster recognition at underage level since.

Ashling Magner and Shauna Keane have also been capped with the Leinster 7's team.

The women's section of the club have also began to fill their trophy cabinet with Leinster league Division 2 and Division 1 titles in recent seasons pushing them up to Senior level where they now ply their trade as the only non-city Senior club. They also field a seconds team in the Leinster league .

New dressing rooms and facilities have been built in recent years with match-standard floodlights also in operation at the club's Spollenstown headquarters.

All one has to do is take a visit there on any Saturday morning to see the club in action with countless underage players and volunteers in every capacity involved.

With the Midlands league secured recently with a win over Midland Warriors, this forward-thinking and ambitious club still has a few months to add more success before the curtain draws down on the season.

TULLAMORE RFC

Founded: 1937

Colours: Black and Red jerseys, black shorts and black socks with red trim.

Grounds: Spollenstown, Tullamore.

League Division: All-Ireland League Division 2C

Youths: U-8 to U-20

Captain: Ciarán Lynch

President: Tom Gilligan

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