Sunday 18 August 2019

Dedicated servant Nay keen to see Cookies stay in top flight

Club focus: Young Munster

Young Munster Club President Nay Cantillon
Young Munster Club President Nay Cantillon

Daragh Small

Young Munster welcome great rivals Shannon to Tom Clifford Park in Division 1A of the All-Ireland League this evening.

It's a huge local derby with the added significance of both sides battling for their lives in the top tier of Irish club rugby.

"We are third from the bottom and two points ahead of each team below us," says Young Munster president Nay Cantillon. "This game is a crucial one for us. Of course, we wouldn't like to go down to a division below us, but if it did happen we would have to handle it and move forward.

"We have handled relegation before but hopefully that won't happen."

Nay Cantillon being presented with club jerseys by sponsor Pat Burke of PBC Builders
Nay Cantillon being presented with club jerseys by sponsor Pat Burke of PBC Builders

The Cantillon family are part of the fabric in Young Munster, and Nay's father, Jimmy, is a former president too. Just one other father-and-son combination have equalled that feat with former Mayor of Limerick Clem Casey followed into the club's hot-seat by Gerry Casey.

Jimmy Cantillon was president in the 1943-'44 and 1949-'50 seasons, while Nay Cantillon is in his second stint after a previous reign during 2011-'12.

He is a Limerick city native and was an avid rugby fan from the outset, although an accomplished Gaelic football and hurler too.

"When I was at school with the Christian Brothers in Limerick, they didn't play rugby there, they played hurling and Gaelic football. Naturally enough, I played hurling and Gaelic football and did well for myself," recalls Cantillon.

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"In 1966, it was my big year. I played hurling with Limerick CBS and we won the Harty and Croke Cups. I also played with a local team called Old Christians and for the first time it had ever been done I won the county minor championship in hurling and football in the same year.

"It has been done since but we are the first club to do it."

Conor Philips and Evan O’Gorman in action for Cookies
Conor Philips and Evan O’Gorman in action for Cookies

Then Cantillon began to focus on the egg-shaped ball and he started out with Richmond RFC. He was a club-mate of former British & Irish Lion Colm Tucker during that time.

But Cantillon's father pointed him in the direction of Young Munster and he joined up at U-20 level before he ventured across the Irish Sea to study in London.

It was there that Cantillon met his late wife Kathy O'Hara. Cantillon was going to London University and living in Earl's Court. And they got married in 1971.

They returned to Ireland two years later and Cantillon was straight into the thick of things again at Young Munster.

"I was a member of Young Munster since I was 16 or 17 with my father paying my membership," says Cantillon.


Luke Fitzgerald on the attack for the club
Luke Fitzgerald on the attack for the club

"Then in 2002 or 2003 I was asked would I come on the committee. I joined the committee as PRO and I have been on that since. In two years I was both PRO and fixtures secretary."

But less than two decades on Cantillon has already equalled his father's record as he looks to take the club forward. Young Munster continue to compete with the very best in the country, and Cantillon is thrilled to be spearheading the effort from the presidential seat.

"I feel immensely proud and privileged to have been granted the highest of honours for myself and my family, and feel humbled by the challenge that has been presented to me," says Cantillon.

It's one of the famous Limerick clubs and this evening's clash with Shannon is huge for the continued growth as they look to stave off relegation from Division 1A of the AIL.

Dropping to 1B would be a step in the wrong direction for Young Munster but Cantillon knows a club of its stature has what's necessary to rebuild if they do fall down a tier.

"On examination of the records of the IRFU, to provide conclusive proof that clubs in existence in the 1890s, that is when Young Munster was formed," says Cantillon.

"What they do not show is the game was much more popular than one would elicit from examination of those records. That was the atmosphere of the day and it was into such an environment that Young Munster was born.

"When the boys of old gathered to form a team to enter the Tyler Cup in Limerick in 1895, calling themselves Young Munster, I am sure they didn't realise what would be achieved in the next 124 years.

"Young Munster is representative of so many of the best virtues of rugby football in Ireland, not least enduring an invaluable contribution for the community in the area.

"Founded in 1895 in the heart of Limerick city we set out to establish a community-based rugby football team open to any member of the community who wishes to play rugby.

"With numerous cup wins at all levels the famous Bateman Cup team of 1928 and the unforgettable All-Ireland League win of 1993, when we had the biggest attendance of any AIL game ever with over 20,000 people.

"The club has achieved success well beyond expectations, having won every single honour in Irish rugby at some stage in our history. We have had players represent province, country, the Lions and also the Barbarians. In the last few years we have established ourselves in the top tier of the AIL having finished in the top six in the last six years," says Cantillon.

A win tonight against Shannon will drag them clear of relegation trouble and they might be able to focus on the other end of the standings next season where a first AIL title since 1993 awaits.

"To maintain our status in the top echelons of Irish rugby, it is vital we remain in Division 1A of the AIL, and maintain the massive standards achieved at Young Munster over our long history," adds Cantillon.

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