Irish rugby statistician Des Daly takes a look at the success of great Limerick rivals Garryowen and Shannon down through the years in the AIB League. The two clubs meet next Saturday afternoon in a mouth-watering Division One derby at Dooradoyle.
In the past, when Limerick rugby folk would decamp to the seaside towns and villages of County Clare during the summer months, it gave the members of the city’s six senior rugby clubs an opportunity to mix and discuss their club performances during the season just finished.
If any silverware has been won, the trophies were usually brought along so that their display could enhance the occasion and reinforce the bragging rights of the winning club.
Garryowen celebrated all too well with their two All-Ireland League titles in the early 1990s and then it was Shannon’s turn with their ‘ten wins out of ten’ in the 1994/95 AIB League.
Shannon went on to collect the trophy in the three subsequent season and ‘four wins in four’ became the catchphrase on the lips of their supporters during the summer time.
Niall O’Donovan, the current Ireland forwards coach, coached all four Shannon teams that won the title back then, Pat Murray was captain twice, followed by Conor McDermott and current Munster number eight Anthony Foley. David Brockert was the president for the first two triumphs, succeeded by Donough Flannery and then Frank Gallagher.
Roll on the 2001/02 season when captain David Quinlan, who is the club’s current skipper, and coach Geoff Moylan made Shannon president Bobby Keane a very contented man during his summer sojourn in Kilkee.
Shannon went on to win a ‘three in a row’ in more recent seasons. Melvin McNamara, father-in-law of IRFU Communications & Media manager Karl Richardson, Larry Guerin and Gerry Ryan were the proud Shannon presidents during those successful league campaigns.
Tom Hayes captained two of these sides and Colm McMahon, the most recent being 2005/06, while Geoff Moylan and then Mick Galwey were the successful coaches. All in all, a haul of eight titles followed by eight summers of Shannon celebration.
This summer just gone, it was Garryowen’s turn to parade the AIB League winners’ trophy. President Billy Purcell and his loyal band had many a good night out on the back of Garryowen’s triumphs last season.
Renditions of ‘There Is An Isle’ were not as lusty as in previous summers. A new catchphrase split the summer air, ‘four in one go’ was the Garryowen call last summer. It referred, of course, to the fact that Garryowen, coached by Paul Cunningham and captained by Paul Neville, had not only lifted the AIB League Division One crown but also the AIB Cup, the Munster Senior Cup and the Munster Junior Cup during the 2006/07 season. A wonderful achievement by a great club.
While all of the celebrations were going on, this scribe paused to wonder if a ‘four in one go’ had been achieved in the recent past by any of Shannon’s league-winning sides.
A little research showed that the AIB League title was the only success during David Brockert’s first year as president but the Munster Senior and Junior Cups were won during his second term of office in 1995/96.
Shannon won only one trophy during Donough Flannery’s time as president, while the Thomond Park residents lifted the Munster Senior Cup and the Limerick Charity Cup during 1997/98 when Frank Gallagher was club president.
The Munster Senior Cup and the Munster Senior League were annexed during Bobby Keane’s presidential term, while then president Gerry Ryan celebrated Shannon’s Munster Senior Cup triumph – their record seventh in a row – during the 2005/06 campaign.
On further investigation, it was discovered that Shannon won four pots during both Melvin McNamara and Larry Guerin’s presidential terms in 2003/04 and 2004/05 respectively. All of them were senior ones at that – the AIB League title, the Munster Senior Cup, the Munster Senior League and the Limerick Charity Cup.
These two presidents can sit at the top of the table when the number of trophies won by Shannon during a single presidential year is calculated. So Billy Purcell, Garryowen’s successful president of last season, alone you do not stand.