School Profile: St Clement's College
Clement's stalwart Mike Lynch outlines the school's plan to return to 'A' status after a fallow period
St Clement's College is an all-boys secondary school in Limerick City that currently caters for the needs of more than 500 students. The trusteeship of the adjoining Redemptorist monastery is very much in evidence through the inclusive nature of the educational ethos employed in the school.
In keeping with this ethos, St Clement's College has competed in many sports throughout its history. At any given time one could be forgiven for regarding St Clement's as a hurling, soccer, basketball or even a badminton school. This was never the case, as successive school administrations resisted the temptation to promote one sporting discipline over another.
In the late '70s Fr Fergus Corry identified the unique attributes required to play rugby as positive learning experiences for the boys in his care and began coaching rugby in the school. It was particularly pleasing that boys could pick up the rudiments of the game without having experienced it before. Fr Corry sought the help of the legendary Paddy Reid, a member of Ireland's Grand Slam team of 1948, whose intervention brought the teams in St Clement's to a new level.
After a respectful period of looking on, the teams began to close the gap on the established rugby schools in the province. Albeit playing at 'B' school level success was not far away.
In 1982 St Clement's College won their first piece of silverware, beating Midleton College to win the O'Brien Cup. There then followed an exponential growth in the interest in rugby among the students. Allied to this, Paddy Reid's influence grew as coaches from his beloved Garryowen RFC joined the ranks at St Clement's and cemented a relationship that exists to this day.
Tommy Hanrahan and Tommy O'Brien were stalwarts of Garryowen for years and they brought a wealth of experience and vast knowledge to the school teams. At this time PE teachers Tim Crowe and John Sheehan brought a professional level of training to the physical preparation of the school teams. This ability had been honed from both men's experiences as top-class athletes at national and international levels. With all of these experts at hand, rugby flourished and individual stars shone as the teams gained momentum. Barry Moran (Bohemians) was the first pupil to represent Munster at schoolboy level and was quickly followed by Dermot Hanrahan (Garryowen) who also played for Irish Schools. Perhaps the most memorable event happened in 1983 as Noel Collins converted a long-range penalty to upset the mighty PBC in Musgrave Park in the Schools Senior Cup. This was to mark beginning of the strongest period in St Clement's College short rugby history. Still competing at 'B' level, the school won successive Mungret Cups (Senior) and Mungret Shields (Junior) throughout the mid and late '80s, gaining 'A' school status as a result.
The development of rugby coincided with an increase in student numbers attending St Clement's. Students enrolling from city primary schools and extra-urban communities such as Ballybrown, Patrickswell, Parteen, Croom and many others provided the physically robust students that made up the teams who were capable of competing with the best that the schools game in Munster presented.
Families were strongly represented in the school's history: the Fitzgerald twins, Hanrahans, Barretts, O'Connors, Sheehans and Ryans featured on teams throughout this golden period. Arguably the most successful brothers were the Tolands; Brian played for Ireland schools at No 8 while Liam also played Ireland Schools and went on to captain both Munster and Leinster at senior level (he is currently enjoying a very successful career in rugby punditry).
The cycle of competitive Senior and Junior rugby teams in St Clement's continued until the mid-'90s, which saw a period of hurling excellence replace rugby as the dominant sport in the school.
It wasn't until 2007, with the assistance of John Murphy of the IRFU (now Gonzaga College SCT Coach), that the current rugby programme was put in place.
In 2014 the first Senior and Junior teams of this programme emerged to contest the qualifier to gain entry into the schools cups. In 2016 both teams will contest the first round of Senior and Junior cups.
This is testament to the huge work being carried out by Tommy Giltenane with the youngsters, head coaches Shane Mullally and Brian Downey at Senior and Robert Browne at Junior level. Their tireless endeavour and selfless application will ensure that the cycle will continue. The goal is to return to 'A' status and one day to surpass the achievements of the great teams of the past.
In an interview with Tony Ward