Baggott is still loyal to his club's cause after 60 years
Limerick side thriving on back of volunteers like its president, writes Daragh Small
Last year Garryowen celebrated 60 years at Dooradoyle, and current president Ger Baggott has been involved since the very start.
He grew up just a stone's throw from the club's ground and before the venue was even opened he used to pick stones on the pitch with his late brother, Johnny.
"My brother brought me out there on the bar of his bike around 1957 and we used to pick stones outside on the pitches prior to the opening," says Baggott.
"I have been in and out of the club over the years. I was there for the opening of the thing. We had a celebration of it recently, 60 years on."
Baggott is a Ballinacurra native, attended the St Munchin's school and he picked up rugby for the first time along the way.
He played Gaelic football and hurling for Claughaun where he won minor county championships, while he also found himself with a hockey stick in his hand too.
"I played Munster Senior League with Lansdowne for hockey, mainly because I was a hurler and if you were playing hurling you could be accepted into hockey even though it was totally alien," says Baggott.
"I hadn't a clue. I never held a hockey stick until the day I was asked to go and play for Lansdowne.
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"I would follow all sports. In the same way I did athletics at Munchin's, and Regional AC who are now defunct. I did a bit of athletics after school. But we did it mainly in Munchin's. We were lucky we were blessed, we had one brilliant athlete Brian O'Connell. He literally won everything he was in for us."
Baggott has recently taken a liking to cricket, and he regrets never picking up that bat, but he still loves the game of rugby more than anything else.
Rugby was a minority sport at the time when he started out, and he played with St Munchin's before returning to Garryowen.
"At that stage you could start off at scrum-half and you could end up on both wings and then full-back. The next day you were dropped. They tried you in every position and that is just the way it was," he says.
"In Munchin's, we had priests who never played rugby who were coaching us. They just took an interest in the game. They were mainly farmers' sons who went away to the priesthood.
"They were told we need someone to do the U-14, U-15, U-16, U-17 and U-18s. They were put into those positions. Coaching now in schools is just phenomenal. It's unbelievable watching the way the schools do it."
Garryowen has continued to grow since its foundation in 1884. Some great players have come through the club with the likes of Keith Wood, David Wallace and Conor Murray going on to represent the British & Irish Lions in recent years.
Baggott began with a few U-18 games and his family would create a unique record over the coming years. Three brothers from the family have won the Limerick City U-20 Cup with three different clubs. Donie was victorious playing for Bohemians in 1954-'55, Jim with Old Crescent in 1963-'64 and Ger at Garryowen in 1965-'66.
"In 1965, I played in Munchin's. In 1966, we won the U-20 Cup with Garryowen. I won the City Schools Cup U-17 Shield with Munchin's and the U-20 Cup, and a few seven-a-side competitions but that's all there was," recalls Baggott.
But even after his playing days were done, Baggott had plenty to give to the cause, and he was delighted to get involved in a volunteer capacity, something he encourages everyone to try. He has always endeavoured to be involved in some sort of committee too, while he also set up a scout troop in Raheen in the 1980s.
"I have been always been in and out of committees. I mightn't be involved in the main committee because I would be involved in satellite committees who would be around selling Christmas trees, the charity cycle or a walk," says Baggott.
"My main thing is I would be working rather than being the fella going around with a blazer. I enjoy the involvement with the people even though I have been in and out of committees, and I have worked in committees going back to the 1990s.
"Seamie McDermott, who is the present first team manager, he brought me back in 2008 and I have been there every season since. I have put a lot of mileage in down through the years."
Garryowen still operate as one of the leading teams in the All-Ireland League. They are fifth in Division 1A before they clash with Lansdowne in the penultimate round on April 6.
But the work behind the scenes must go on, and Baggott is determined to keep things on the straight and narrow as he tries to present the best club rugby in Limerick.
"The way I look at Garryowen, and my year as president, is to embrace as many people whether they are coming to watch the match or they are parents of the game or players," says Baggott.
"My objective is to get to know as many of them as possible. On the day of the game I would be like the politician going around to every table. I speak with everybody and make it my business to meet the parents.
"We had two matches last Saturday going at the same time, and I was up and down to both of them.
"I was team manager for the thirds for five or six seasons and I have great affiliation with them.
"I have a year off from them this year before I might go back.
"I am 72 this year. When we beat Con in the thirds J2 Munster Cup the lads said to me: 'This is your final game because you are going to be president, say a few words.' I said: 'Thank you for keeping me so young.'
"I do feel younger than my age but it's mainly because I have been involved in all the teams.
"I did the firsts, seconds, the U-20s, and I did the thirds as well. It's a fantastic club."