'Family club' keep up grand tradition
Founded in 1906, Sunday's Well was formed by a group of choir and altar boys from St Vincent's Church, in the parish of the northside of Cork city from which the club derives its name.
Their original grounds were located by Our Lady's Hospital and it wasn't until 1943 that the club established a permanent base on the opposite bank of the river, as they moved to their current residence of Musgrave Park, where they began their ground-share with Dolphin RFC.
Originally from Ballinlough, former club president Mick Barry joined Sunday's Well at a young age and has been involved for decades as a player, coach and long-term committee member.
Mick's father, the late Micheál Barry (Micky Ba), captained the club in 1948-49, when they famously claimed their first Munster Senior Cup. He went on to become president of the Munster Association of Referees in 1972-73 and club president in 1973-74. He was also president of the Munster Branch in 1996.
Mick has many fond memories of his playing career with Sunday's Well.
"My brother Seán and myself were taken to rugby matches every week by my father, who was a referee, and from a very early age we developed a great love for the sport that we still hold today," he recalls.
"I still remember the first trophy I got – it was in 1971 against the Highfield U-14s. Our team was made up of our neighbours in the Ballinlough area who were gathered up by myself and a guy named Paddy McNamee, whose father Tommy was like my father, a real Sunday's Well stalwart.
"We all came out to Musgrave Park every week to play for the Well and most of us continued with the club right up to senior level."
With children travelling from all over the city to train at mini and youth level every Saturday, the Sunday's Well underage section has grown from strength to strength over the years.
"In 1993 Doc Carroll and myself resurrected the Sunday's Well underage section, which had been dormant for a long time," says Mick.
"We contacted past players to ask them to help us out with coaching and they were only too delighted to give their spare time back to the club. I remember at our first session we had 27 young boys training with about 20 coaches. The playing numbers increased very quickly and with about 300 registered mini and youths players to date, Sunday's Well has now become one of the most successful underage clubs in Cork."
Mick credits the high volume of playing numbers to the club's dedicated coaches and volunteers.
"I think the key to our successes is our reputation, good coaching and the comfort parents have knowing that their kids are well looked after," he says.
"We're not in a rugby catchment area but we have players coming from all over the city. There is an ethos of strict discipline as well as a certain code of conduct which I believe has been one of the key contributors towards our continued success.
"We have also recruited a lot of parents who have upskilled themselves in mini and foundation coaching courses. Without their help it wouldn't be possible for us to cater for the vast playing numbers and we are very grateful and appreciative of their time."
Following two consecutive seasons facing relegation from Division 2B of the Ulster Bank League, Mick says the club are confident they have learned from previous performances and are looking forward to the season ahead.
"We don't want to go through what we did for the last number of years – to be in the bottom three or four of 2B, which is nerve-racking to say the least. This year we have appointed former Irish international David Corkery as our head coach," he says.
"What is also very important to me is that we field teams at senior, junior and minor level (1st, 2nds and 3rds) which thankfully we have achieved this year as well as an U-20s team, which is very promising going forward."
Speaking about the club's long-term plans, Mick says Sunday's Well are hopeful they can field a women's team in the near future.
"Our main blockage to getting a ladies' team together is that we have only two dressing-rooms, with only one set of showers," he explains. "There are guys training Monday to Friday, youths on a Saturday, and you might have a Junior game or minor game on a Sunday, so the dressing-rooms are constantly being used.
"I've seen how successful women's rugby is at other clubs in Cork and we would hope to be able to field a team also in the near future."
With numbers growing Mick says space has always been a problem.
"We have kids up in Frankfield where we lease land from the Church of Ireland, we have the use of the new pitch by Half Moon Lane (County Council) and also the pitch in Mahon where we play a lot of our games, so we're spread out in four different locations on a given Saturday," he says.
"We keep the youngest players at our home grounds. It would be our dream to have another clubhouse elsewhere, but that said it is important to us we keep our identity at Musgrave Park.
"We will continue with our hard work to raise funds towards upgrading our club in terms of facilities, especially dressing-rooms, to cater for our squads at all levels.
"We'd love to develop our clubhouse and encourage our players, members and supporters to socialise together and create a good atmosphere after our games. I believe that is what rugby is all about – it is my dream and hopefully it's not too far off.
"What you'll find with the Well is it is a family club – an example of this is that we currently have seven members of our first XV side whose fathers are members of the club's committee.
"The same Sunday's Well names will crop up through the generations and people have always been very proud to be associated with the club."
Munster Senior Cup winners: 1949, 1953, 1994
Charity Cup winners: 1929, 1936, 1954, 1959, 1981, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2001
Munster Senior League: 1928, 1935, 1948, 1951, 1960, 1993, 1995 (promoted to Division 1)
President: Niall Murphy
Hon secretary: David Looney
PRO: Michael Barry
Fixtures secretary: Olan Allen
Director of rugby: Ken Arigo
Ernie Keefe, JC Corcoran, Mick Madden, Jerry Walsh, Mick O'Callaghan, Ollie Waldron, Jim Buckley, Pat O'Hara, Ken O'Connell, Sean McCahill