Longford RFC have been celebrating 40 years (and more) of rugby. Looking back at the reforming of the club in 1967, Longford’s Pat Fitzgerald takes a look at how those formative years laid the foundations for the club today.
IT IS generally accepted that Rugby was played in Longford before the start of the twentieth century. Although it is not at all well documented there are still people alive who can remember their fathers being involved in Longford Rugby before the dawn of the 20th century.
We have to wait until around 1920 until statistical evidence is available of the rugby life of County Longford. From the early part of that century until the late ’60s Rugby activities were largely of a ‘Stop-Go’ situation. This will have been written about by people with greater knowledge of that era than this scribe so we shall try and confine ourselves to the present area of ‘Oval Ball Activities’ in and around Longford.
The “Present Era” began in 1967. A number of young Longford Rugby players had played with near neighbours Mullingar and were enjoying their rugby so much that they decided that the Longford Club should be revived. The younger men in question were Warren Turner, Paddy Quinn, Noel Harney and Derick Turner who regularly turned out for the Westmeath Club. They were backed by men of great experience like Pearse McInerney, Syl Higgins, Kevin McNichols and Charles Halligan. Bridging the gap between the old and the young were enthusiasts like David Pearse and Dougie McCormack. So it would, seem that in 1967 Longford R.F.C. were very close to having the perfect blend of personnel to once again embark on an adventure into the worthwhile world of rugby.
3-9-1967- DAY OF DESTINY
Sunday, the 3rd of September 1967, witnessed the dawn of a new era for Longford. On that auspicious day another saga of rugby in this county commenced. The newly formed Longford played fellow rugby enthusiastsMullingar in their first game and won 13-0. The Longford Leader records this with a graphic account of the game and a picture of that historic first day. The players on that day were: Warren Turner (Capt.), Paddy Fallon, Paddy Quinn, Maurice Battye, Andy McKeon, Ronnie Denniston, Robert Farrell, Dougie McCormack, Chad Farrell, Noel Harney, Frank Quinn, Pat Higgins, David Timlin, Derick Turner and Martin Evans. Paddy Fallon opened the scoring with a penalty. Paddy Quinn and Derick Turner scored a try each with Fallon converting Turner’s try to give Longford their 13 points.
So the revived rugby infant was again launched on the rocky road of Leinster Rugby. We shall dwell a little longer on the formative year of this September foundling.
1st SEASON FOR NEW LONGFORD R.F.C.
During that first memorable season Longford played 21 games as well as two local matches – a Colours game between 2 home sides and a St. Stephen’s Day Charity, Game against the Soccer Club. They won 6, drew and lost the remainder. The first year was a definite struggle for survival and a fight to procure and hold players in the club. This fact is borne out by the changes in personnel in the team from Sunday to Sunday. Each match saw the appearance of new names on the team sheet. The first games were against Mullingar (already mentioned), Navan, Tullamore, Wilson’s Hospital, Athy, Athlone, Monkstown, Edenderry, St. Mary’s.
New players were seen each Sunday – names like R. Flower, R. Cleary, J. Quinn, O. Killian, R. McCann, D. Pearse, M. Mackreal, S. Whyte, L. Farrell, C. Farrell, T. Perm, M. Kennedy, T. Holmes, R. Hackett, D. Ghee, P. Townsend, C.McEvoy, Patrick Quinn (as distinct from Paddy), J. Bradshaw, N. Kennedy.
Then came matches against Naas, Crossbars, U.C.G., North Kildare, Birr, Ballina, as well as playing most of the Midland Clubs a second time, and with these new fixtures came another batch of aspiring players like Lieut. H. Smith, C. Shallow, Isy McCormack, T. Neal, Con Casey, R. Ryan, Lieut. Moloney, M. McCarthy, Morgan Flynn, J. McKenna, Des Hourican, Gus Hanley, R. Tully, J. Fletcher, L. Belton, B. Comerford, B. Geoghegan and B. Jones.
So 1967/68 saw Longford fulfilling all their fixtures with distinction and laying the solid foundation of the right attitude to the game for the years to come. An interesting fact to note is that browsing through the names listed above one can see that many of those original players and officials are still actively involved at both player and executive committee level.
The next two seasons saw the club progress along favourable lines. Paddy Quinn was captain during the 1968/69 season and John Doris, the first President, was again elected and under their guidance the club flourished. 1969/70 saw Kieran McGuinness take over captaincy and Syl Higgins assume the mantle of President and once more Longford continued to grow in numerical strength.
When Brian Hynes took over as captain in 1970/71 the Club was able to field a 2nd team which was captained by Aubrey Bradshaw. This was a major step forward for Longford and once again proved that what was a mere fledgling in 1967 was about to don full plumage.
Brian Hynes retained the captaincy in 1971/72 before handing over the leadership in 1972/73 to John Quinn who was by that time an established player on the prestigious Bective Rangers 1st XV. The reins passed to Niall Nally for 1973/74 and the Presidency passed from Syl Higgins to Jack Comerford who was to retain that onerous office until his retirement at the beginning of this season.
‘Mr Rugby’, Derick Turner, was elected captain in 1974/75 and this also heralded the launching of a 3rd XV under the captaincy of Colm Ward. It was during Derick Turner’s reign of office that a new Army officer arrived in Longford – Capt. Noel Byrne. This man’s contribution to Longford Rugby has been immense and it was fitting that in 1975/76 Longford 2nd XV won the first Midland League pennant for the Club under the command of Noel Byrne. Peter Quinn Jnr. was club captain that year and he handed over to Ronnie Denniston for 1976/77 season.
At this period Longford were fielding three Senior sides and when John Quinn again took over as captain 1977/78 the Club fielded a third A side. It also won the 3rd League under the captaincy of one Charlie hall whose charges were known far and wide as ‘Charlie’s Angels’. The present captain, Bruce Hayes, took over for 1978/79 and the 3rd XV again won the Midland League this time with Butch Treacy at the helm.
The present season sees Bruce Hayes unanimously elected captain again and David Pearse takes over the presidency from the long serving Jack Comerford.
Another aspect of the foresight that has gone into Longford R.F.C. was the formation in 1974/75 of an Under 13 and Under 15 youths team under the guidance of a separate Youth’s Committee. In 1975/76 the Under 17 and Under 11 sides were formed and in 1977/78 the successful Under 19 team was introduced. The vigorous youth policy adopted by the club is now showing dividends as can be seen by the large numbers of young people at weekly training sessions.
When the Longford team trotted out onto the pitch on that murky September day in 1967 to play against Mullingar even the most enthusiastic or optimistic member could not have envisaged what is taking place in the club at this moment, a dozen years later almost to the very day. The success of the club is largely due to the efforts of those people already mentioned. But as in every club or organisation there is always a large crowd of unsung heroes who put in an enormous amount of work and effort but rarely get the accolades they deserve.
Longford is no exception and while it is impossible to list everyone we shall try and mention some of those unsung heroes – men like the long serving player and administrator Con Boyle; and Mel Diffley, John Farrell, Elliot McHugh, Noel Quinn, Joe Finnegan, Paddy Belton, Ray Moorehead, Kevin Harney, Steve Coy, Declan McGivney, Jimmy Farrell, Gerry Larkin, Ray McGann, Wally Flood, Mike Magan, Roger Timlin.
We know there are many more people who over the years have contributed much to put Longford R.F.C. on the pedestal on which it now stands. The Army has always been of great service to the club both by contributing players to the teams and by helping with the burden of administration and in this area Comdt. Roger McCorley has been more than active.
The local businessmen and traders have always supported Longford R.F.C. both by contributions and by advertising and to them also a debt of gratitude is owed. Another heartening feature of rugby is the rapport between rugby people and the other sporting codes. Cooperation between the footballing codes has always been in evidence.
In conclusion, the visit of the prestigious Irish Wolfhounds XV to Longford to play against a President’s XV which is in itself a star studded side is a tribute to all concerned in rugby in Longford.With the presence of so many top rugby officials as well as the many sporting superstars Longford can truly now stand up and take its rightful place in rugby in Ireland. The faith of those people, who in 1967 decided it was time to raise the Phoenix from its Ashes, has been vindicated.
40 Years -The Pathway
1967 Club reformed
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