Alone among the provinces, there is a tradition in Leinster that every senior club invites every other senior club president to their annual club dinner. There are currently 18 senior clubs in the province and each club dinner usually has two tables of travelling presidents in attendance. This entails scheduling two dinners some weekends so as to accommodate all the clubs in the circuit. An awful lot of eating out, an awful lot of toasts and speeches. A president needs to be in pretty good shape to see the year out in Leinster.
Most presidents have previously played the game at some grade within their club. Others may have served many years in administration at club level. Then there are a few, the number increasing by the year, who have never kicked the oval ball and owe their elevation to abilities in the sponsorship, marketing and fund raising areas associated with every successful club these days.
This seasonâ00s crop includes two presidents who were capped by Ireland â00 Ian McIlrath at Ballymena and Ian Burns at Wanderers and a further five who played at provincial level â00 Davy Millar at Dungannon, Pierce Power at Greystones, Frank Kennedy at St. Maryâ00s College, Greg Howard at Clontarf and Mick Casserly at Galwegians.
One club president this season stands out in terms of on-pitch achievement. He is Frank Kennedy of St. Marys College RFC. Frank left the College in Rathmines without any rugby accolades but once he joined the club his career took off. He featured on the St. Marys team that won the first ever McCorry U-19 Cup in December 1970. The centre gradually worked his way up the club ranks to play regular first team football with a group of players most of whom were either inter-provincials if not internationals. He himself was twice capped by Leinster during the 1974 / 75 season.
After ten seasons on the senior side during which he collected four medals, Kennedy started to play his way back down the club captaining many sides to trophies along the way. He eventually hung up his boots, aged 45, at the end of the 1995 / 96 season. What was exceptional about his rugby career with St. Marys was the fact that he actually played in the finals of 19 official Leinster Branch competitions and collected 15 Leinster Branch winners medals. During his 26 seasons as a competitive player, he won medals at every grade except J2 where he played in three losing finals. His last piece of silver arrived in 1994 at J6 level. His unique collection of medals established a record in Leinster that endures to this day.
Brothers Terry, Barney and John followed Frank into the Templeville Road club and each has his own collection of silverware. Terry is probably the best known as he won 13 caps for Ireland on the wing between 1978 and 1981. 'The Rat' , as he is known with affection to one and all in rugby travelled with Ireland to Australia and South Africa and was a popular tourist. John, also a winger, was a top try scorer at club senior level. Barney, the forward among the brothers, was the only member of the family to leave his mark at schools level having played in the 1977 Leinster Schools Senior Final.
It is opportune to recall the rugby exploits of the Kennedy brothers in the week that their club, St. Marys, is preparing for a showdown next Saturday at home to Old Belvedere in AIB League Division One. Back in the 1940s, Terry snr., father of the Kennedy boys, won four Leinster Senior Cup medals ( 1943 â00 46 ) as a flanker with Old Belvedere and captained the club in the 1948 / 49 season. He was capped three times by Leinster.
On marriage, Kennedy snr. left Dollymount on the northside and moved across the Liffey to Rathgar where he raised his family. His four boys were sent locally to St. Marys College at the insistence of the Mammy. Now, what if Bridin had been over-ruled at the time and her boys were sent into town to Belvo? Frank Kennedy just might well have become the Old Belvedere president visiting Templeville Road next Saturday. But would he have such a trove of rugby medals in his collection?
AIB League Division 1
St. Mary's College V Old Belvedere
Templeville Road, Saturday 26th January, 14:30.