The Energia-sponsored Bateman Cup, which originated in the early 1920s, is one of the oldest club competitions in Irish Rugby history. It is contested by the four provincial cup winners each season.
The tournament is named in memory of Reginald and Arthur Bateman who were both killed during the First World War. The trophy was presented by their father, Dr Godfrey Bateman, who was part of a well-known west Cork family, to the IRFU and has the following inscription:
“Presented by Godfrey Bateman to the Irish Rugby Football Union in ever-fresh and loving memory of his darling sons:
Major Reginald John Godfrey Bateman, Canadian Infantry, killed in action 3 September, 1918,
Captain Arthur Cyril Bateman, who, on 28 March 1918 gave his life for his wounded Camerons.”
Reginald and Arthur were keen rugby players and both featured in a newspaper report of a match between the Trinity First Year Medicals ‘A’ team and a Wanderers 3rd ‘B’ team in November 1910 at Lansdowne Road.
The competition was played annually between the four provincial cup champions on the last weekend of the season, with the exception of 1933 and 1934 when a number of the provincial cup campaigns had not been completed on time.
Lansdowne were the very first winners back in 1922, and one of this season’s finalists, Young Munster, lifted the trophy in 1928. Munsters also made the final ten years later, but lost out to UCD.
The Bateman Cup semi-finals were played back in the 1920s and 1930s as a double header at Lansdowne Road, with the final taking place at the same venue the very next day – ‘a real test of stamina’ according to a newspaper article of the time.
The tournament was terminated at the outbreak of the Second World War owing to the restriction on travel. A Bateman Cup-style event was run by Garryowen FC in 1975, in conjunction with the IRFU’s Centenary celebrations.
In 2005, the IRFU introduced an All-Ireland Cup competition for All-Ireland League clubs. It ran successfully for five seasons, before it was changed to the original Bateman Cup structure with just the Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster Senior Cup winners taking part.
Since the Bateman Cup was revived for the 2010/11 season, Munster clubs dominated the initial editions with Bruff and Garryowen both emerging triumphant before Cork Constitution, losers of that inaugural 1922 decider, won five Bateman Cups in a row between 2013 and 2017.
Lansdowne ended Con’s impressive run the following year, while both clubs shared the 2020 title when the final was not played due to the outbreak of Covid-19.
Garryowen had squeezed in their second success before that, and the last two years have seen Lansdowne and Terenure College, who host Young Munster in this Saturday’s final, both win in comprehensive fashion.
As first-time finalists, Terenure ran out 71-13 winners over an understrength Buccaneers team at Lakelands Park last March. Full-back Adam La Grue collected a hat-trick of tries for Sean Skehan’s side, and ‘Nure went on to finish their best season yet as All-Ireland League and Cup champions.
Terenure have developed a strong cup pedigree over the years, famously winning the Leinster Senior Cup in successive seasons in 1966 and 1967, adding three more titles between the 1990s and 2000s, and then doing another two-in-a-row in 2022 and 2023.
Just seven years after making it into the senior ranks, Terenure’s first Leinster Senior Cup final appearance in 1966 ended in a dream 11-8 win over neighbours St. Mary’s College. Mick Hipwell, the club’s first Ireland international, featured at number 8.
They only made their Bateman Cup debut in 2022, seeing off Young Munster’s challenge, 21-11, at the semi-final stage before overwhelming Buccs. Campbell Classon, Jordan Coghlan and Levi Vaughan, who are still part of the current squad, chipped in with the tries against the Cookies.
This weekend Terenure are bidding to become the first back-to-back Bateman Cup winners since Cork Con in 2017. Young Munster are hoping to add to that historic title from back in 1928, as they were beaten finalists in both 1938 and 2022.
They clashed with Lansdowne at Musgrave Park two years ago, with two Evan Cusack penalties leaving them just 12-6 behind at half-time before the headquarters club surged clear during the second half to claim a 46-13 final victory.
Conor Phillips, who scored the Cookies’ only try that day, is now part of the Terenure squad, while Simon Malone, an important member of ‘Nure’s coaching staff in recent times, is now assisting Ger Slattery in his first season as Young Munster head coach.
Speaking before Munsters’ Bateman Cup semi-final win away to Ballynahinch in September, Slattery highlighted: “We still sing about our Bateman Cup win that was almost 100 years ago. I’m really passionate about the Bateman Cup, the club is really passionate about it.”
1928 was a real breakthrough year for Young Munster as they followed up their first Munster Senior Cup success by adding the prestigious Bateman Cup crown. They had set a new trend by starting pre-season early, assembling at the ‘Bombing Field’ at Prospect in mid-August.
Coming out on top as the undisputed kings of Irish club rugby looked a tall order. Munsters came through an expected semi-final win over Galwegians, prevailing 17-0, but their final opponents Lansdowne were given a walkover by Ulster champions Instonians.
However, with tries from Joe McNeice and Mick P O’Flaherty, Munsters caused a huge shock by beating a much-fancied Lansdowne 6-3. Their only concession was a penalty kicked by Ireland international Ernie Crawford, who is credited with inventing the word ‘alickadoo’, a term well known to club rugby followers.
An Irish Independent report at the time read: “In winning the premier trophy of Irish rugby, the Limerick club have laid the bogey of years standing. No longer can it be said that Munster rugby belongs to the ‘kick and rush’ order.
“Young Munster proved themselves worthy champions. It was the general opinion after the match that Young Munster’s pack was the best seen in Dublin this season.
“How at least two of the pack escaped international recognition this season has puzzled many shrewd judges of the game. Both Frank Garvey and Charlie St. George are worth their place on any international pack, the latter confirmed the fine impression he made in the Munster Cup final.”
Of that Bateman Cup-winning side, prop Ter Casey and scrum half Danaher Sheahan did go on to play for Ireland. The victorious Young Munster squad, many of whom had never been in Dublin or travelled on a train before, were treated to a huge reception when they arrived home to Limerick.
The players, mostly hard-working, labouring men, were cheered by crowds ten-deep as they made their way from the Railway Station to Glentworth Hotel in Limerick city. The Boherbuoy and St. John’s Brass and Reed Bands, and Sarsfield Fife and Drum Band, led them down O’Connell Street, and Mayor JG O’Brien praised the club’s historic achievements.
Giving a sense of how ‘green’ the players were to some of the scenarios they encountered on cup final weekend, St. George, speaking to the Examiner’s Charlie Mulqueen some years later, said: “On the Saturday morning (before the final), we made our first appearance on the streets of Dublin and were so scared we walked in single file within inches of one another in case we got lost.
“Near Jury’s Hotel, somebody spotted Ernie Crawford, the great Lansdowne and Ireland full-back. But if some thought we were slightly awe-stricken and perhaps a little innocent, the boys from the Yellow Road dispelled such notions in the most telling manner that afternoon.”
Murty King made a decisive tackle late on during the final against Lansdowne, foiling a two-on-one overlap. The Limerick Chronicle vividly captured the incident which proved crucial in Munsters winning out:
“(Eugene) Davy comes along at top speed, attended by (Ned) Lightfoot. King was all that remained of the Young Munster defence.
“It was impossible, one thought, to deprive two men of a score, but King thought otherwise. He feinted towards Lightfoot, and turned like magic to Davy, got him – ball and all.”
As the first ever Limerick and Munster winners of the Bateman Cup, the feat was held in such high regard that, as Slattery mentioned, Young Munster continue to this day to sing about the 1928 side in the club song, ‘Beautiful Munsters‘:
“Now there was Bohs in red, UCC,
Garryowen are the boys in blue,
With Sundays Well, ‘Twould be hard to tell,
What the Dolphin boys would do,
and Cons all white made a right good fight,
In the final well they showed,
But they all gave it up, for the Bateman Cup
Was won by the Yellow Road.
Then cheer, boys cheer, for our fifteen
Of Black and Amber fame,
We’re a true home team, and have always been,
and we’re proud of Young Munster name
Their task well done, their victory won,
All glory to them is owed,
And we’ll sing our song, sing it all day long,
sing hurrah for the Yellow Road.”