Sunday 25 February 2018

Writing the next chapter in history of proud club

Club Focus: Wanderers FC

Paddy Mallon in action for Wanderers
Paddy Mallon in action for Wanderers
The Women's team celebrating winning the Division Four League last year

Brian Lowry

When it comes to clubs synonymous with rugby in Ireland, Wanderers FC is right up at the top of the list.

Rich in history, the club have stood the test of time and continue to be a proud senior club in 2017/2018.

Nestled in the heart of Dublin and in an area where you can't escape rugby, Wanderers continue to be at the forefront of rugby in the province.

Wanderers FC are one of the best-known rugby union clubs in the world and are Ireland's second-oldest rugby club, having been founded in 1870 by former members of Dublin University FC, who up to that time had to seek opponents outside of Ireland, as there was no other Irish club at that time.

They were one of the founding clubs of the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), hence the title Wanderers FC and not RFC, as all clubs were football clubs prior to the founding of the IRFU.

The club, now in its 148th season, is proud of its contribution to rugby, having provided 87 Irish international players, five captains of Ireland and one captain each of England and Australia in addition to a captain of the Lions. The club can also boast having produced three coaches that have gone on to coach Ireland.

Their home pitch is in the iconic Lansdowne Road, also the home of the Aviva Stadium. Many people will remember the old Wanderers Club pavilion as the 'Tudor' looking building situated in at the Lansdowne Road end of the old Stadium.

Iconic

It is an image synonymous with the old ground and an iconic building in the history of rugby in Ireland.

Originally the club's clubhouse was situated in South Frederick Street but in the 1960s new grounds were acquired in Merrion Road, Ballsbridge where the club's training grounds are still situated.

Ronnie Dawson had the honour of captaining the Lions on their 1959 tour while Mike Gibson, a winner of 69 international caps and former Ireland captain, also represented the Lions on five tours.

Philip Matthews, Robbie McGrath and Tony Ensor have won multiple caps for Ireland and are notable former players while former player Andrew Slack won 39 caps for Australia and also captained the Wallabies.

Ronnie Dawson and Roly Meates have coached Ireland while Gerry Murphy was the coach when Ireland played in the 1995 World Cup.

There have been four individuals who have the dual honour of representing their country at rugby and having been awarded the Victoria Cross - three of these were Wanderers.

Tom Crean, Robert Johnson and Frederick Harvey are integral parts of the club's history and the club are extremely proud to have men of such stature associated with them.

Wanderers were one of the stronger teams in Leinster for decades, winning the Leinster Senior Cup on 14 occasions with the first coming back in 1885 while the last success in the competition came back in 1990.

Along with numerous cups and leagues, Wanderers have won the All-Ireland League Division 3 on two occasions - in 2003 and 2007.

The esteem with which they were held was reflected in the fact that in 1987, the New Zealand Barbarians toured Britain and Ireland and a match against Wanderers was included in their five-match tour.

It was played in Merrion Road on March 22 and although the visitors won 36-3, it was no mean feat by the club considering that a number of that New Zealand Barbarian team went on to win the inaugural World Cup later that year.

The club can also boast that they were one of the clubs involved in Division 1 of the All-Ireland League in its inaugural season of 1990/91.

Wanderers had mixed fortunes in the AIL and fell out of the league in 2012.

They played two seasons in the Leinster League before regaining AIL status in 2014.

They currently play in Division 2B of the All-Ireland League and have made a superb start to the season.

With three wins from three over City of Derry, Skerries and Sunday's Well, they face a massive game away to Old Cresent tomorrow in a bid to retain their early supremacy in the division under club captain Eoghin Nihill and head coach Greg Lynch.

They also had a strong showing last season finishing third in the league.

The club fields four adult teams, an U-20 team, minis and youths from U-7s to U-17s and in 2014/2015, they set up a women's team.

Last year the women's team won the Leinster Division 4 title and now compete in Division 3 as they continue to go from strength to strength.

They were set up in late 2014 and got to the league final the following year but it wasn't to be their day. They put that defeat behind them last year by claiming league glory as they look to build even further.

Wanderers FC

Founded: 1870

Grounds: Lansdowne Road, Dublin 4

Colours: Blue, black and white hooped

Youths and Minis: U-7 to U- 17.

Division: All-Ireland League Division 2B

Club president: Liam McDermott

Club captain: Eoghan Nihill

Next week's club focus is on Wexford Wanderers RFC

Irish Independent

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