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100th #EnergiaAIL Cap Is A ‘Dream Come True’ For Shannon’s Brown

100th #EnergiaAIL Cap Is A ‘Dream Come True’ For Shannon’s Brown

Kelvin Brown celebrates Shannon's promotion back to Energia All-Ireland League Men's Division 1A at Coonagh in April 2022 ©INPHO/Tom Maher

Shannon RFC runs deep through the blood of Kelvin Brown. He hails from two families steeped in the Shannon tradition, the Browns and the O’Sheas.

From past players to past Presidents, and a legendary stew maker, both sides of his family have lived and breathed the storied Limerick club for decades. There was never any question of where he might play his rugby.

Brown became Shannon’s latest Energia All-Ireland League centurion when making his 100th appearance against Dublin University in a hard-fought 14-13 win on Thomond Park’s back pitch last Saturday.

It was a special moment for both himself and his family. He has represented Munster and Ireland at underage level but playing for Shannon in the All-Ireland League was always the goal.

“My dream growing up was to play for Shannon in the AIL, it was never to play for Ireland or Munster,” the 27-year-old back rower told IrishRugby.ie.

“I wanted to do what my dad and my uncles did by playing for Shannon on a Saturday in Thomond Park against the likes of Garryowen and Young Munster, great teams like that with thousands of people watching you.

“The league was the pinnacle for me and whatever else happened was a bonus. Playing in the league was my dream, it has done an awful lot for me.”

Brown made his Energia All-Ireland League debut against Belfast Harlequins back in 2014 at the age of 18 whilst in the Munster Sub-Academy. From there he went on to represent Ireland at Under-20 level, most famously being part of the team that beat New Zealand at the 2016 World Rugby U-20 Championship before finishing as runners-up.

He spent one season playing in France with Aurillac in the Pro D2, before returning home to complete his Business and Marketing degree and play for his boyhood club. He has experienced highs and lows in the famous black and blue jersey, with some promotion and relegation battles along the way.

While reaching 100 league caps admittedly caught him by surprise, he acknowledged: “It was a special day for me personally and of course for my family as well. I always dreamed of playing for Shannon, even if it was just once or maybe a few times, but to get to 100 caps was a dream come true.

“It was a nice surprise for me when it was announced that I’d be lining out for my 100th cap at the weekend. I didn’t actually know that. I don’t keep track of those things, but I guess the guys behind the scenes knew it was coming.

“To get the win as well, that’s really the most important thing. It was the icing on the cake.”

It was almost written in the stars that Brown was going to achieve that milestone and enjoy many other great moments with the club. His father, Harold, captained the club to a 1996 Junior Cup title the day after Kelvin was born.

He went on to emulate his dad’s achievement in 2015 by ending Shannon’s 19-year wait since last winning the Munster Junior crown.

Kelvin’s cousin, Greg O’Shea, who was part of the first Ireland Sevens team to qualify for the Olympics, was also on that winning Shannon side, while his uncle, Pat Brown, was head coach of the team. It was a moment he will never forget.

“The Junior Cup holds a very special place in our family. My dad won it back in 1996, the day after I was born. My mother was still in hospital with me. My dad was captain that day.

“He was in a team with the likes of Marcus Horan, Colm McMahon, and Niall O’Donovan was involved then too. It was a big trophy to win back then,” he explained.

“We went onto win it again in 2015, 19 years later. My uncle Pat was the coach that day, he’s still heavily involved with the club (as Chairman of Football).

“We had the whole family down in Cork that day. It was my birthday that week. To win it on that day, almost 19 years to the day since we last won it when my dad was captain, it was very special for my family and the club.”

Brown, who works as director at Killaloe Auto Sales, started playing rugby at the historic Coonagh ground at the age of four. He went up through the age grades and attended Ardscoil Rís, before making his senior debut for Shannon in his first year out of school.

A proud Shannon clubman through and through, his dad and his uncles on both sides played for the club, while his grandfather, Billy O’Shea, is a past President, with his paternal grandmother, Anne Brown, serving up the post-match stew for over forty years.

He went to visit them both before the home game against Trinity last Saturday afternoon, and talks about the pride they both still have for the club.

I only had one option of a club growing up, I’ve never looked back. I went to see my grandfather on Saturday morning, and then my grandmother on the other side before the game.

“It means nearly more to them than it does to me. It’s great to see how happy it makes them. When you walk into the sitting room you see all the old Shannon photos on the wall, AIL and Munster Cup medals hanging up. It’s a very warm feeling.”

If you are ever scrolling on social media after a big Shannon victory you might find a spinetingling rendition of ‘There is an Isle’ being sung in the winning dressing room.

It is one of the most anthemic and powerful club songs around, belted out with gusto for many years by the late, great Frankie O’Flynn. Even if you are not physically present in the room, you can almost feel the passion and emotion coming through on your screen.

Brown agrees that it always has a huge impact, saying: “When you talk about moments you’ll remember throughout your career, singing the Isle in the dressing room is something you’ll cherish for life.

“Once you retire you’ll do anything to get back and be able to sing it again. It’s something else.”

Shannon currently sit seventh in the Division 1A table, having climbed out of the bottom two thanks to a second half Harry Long try and a maul-inspired penalty try against the students last weekend. Fittingly, Brown was the player-of-the-match.

The Parish club staved off relegation last season, retaining their top flight status following crucial play-off victories over Old Wesley (24-6) and Highfield (32-12) on home soil.

Guided by director of rugby Stephen Keogh, Shannon face unbeaten leaders Clontarf at Castle Avenue this Saturday in their final league game before the Christmas break. Consistent performances and results are always the target for Brown, especially at home.

“We definitely came good at the right time last season. Consistency is the big thing in 1A, but we did well towards the end of the season, getting through those couple of games to stay in 1A.

“We started this season well (with wins over UCD and Young Munster), but we’ve had some tough results on the road recently away to Terenure, Ballynahinch and Lansdowne.

“Last week’s win against Trinity was huge. We’re really trying to focus on the home games. It helped us climb up the table a little bit,” added the Limerick man.