Jump to main content



Regaining Division 1A Place Would Be ‘Huge Boost’ For Garryowen

Regaining Division 1A Place Would Be ‘Huge Boost’ For Garryowen

Mallow man Neil Lucey came on board this season as Garryowen's forwards coach ©Garryowen FC

To bounce straight back up to Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1A was always the target for Garryowen this season.

The Light Blues have really turned a corner since Christmas, winning eight of their last 10 league games which includes a four-match winning run. They have undoubtedly hit form at the ideal time.

Last season was a difficult one for everyone involved at Dooradoyle. They finished at the bottom of the table, suffering automatic relegation from the top flight. It was a period far below the high standards we have come to expect from the three-time All-Ireland League champions.

They started the current campaign with a fresh approach, a new-look coaching ticket, and the addition of a few exciting players. John Staunton headed up operations as director of rugby, while Munster-capped scrum half Neil Cronin was appointed as player/attack coach.

Mark Butler was tasked with coaching the defence, Neil Lucey was assigned to the forwards, and Damien O’Donoghue was installed as the athletic performance coach.  The slate was wiped clean before building back up for a promotion challenge.

Despite it taking a while for things to settle and the changes to produce results on the pitch, the understanding between the coaches and players has developed throughout the season. First-time playing partnerships have established cohesion and gained trust in each other with more games under their belt.

This progression was evident when they won the club’s 40th Munster Senior Cup last month, their first in six years. They beat Cork Constitution, Division 1A finalists this weekend, with tries from Cian Hurley, Nicky Greene, and captain Bryan Fitzgerald (pictured above) in a 22-7 triumph.

Forwards coach Lucey is happy with how the group has gelled together in the last few months. Speaking to IrishRugby.ie, he hopes the team can finish the season on a high by beating Old Belvedere in Saturday’s Division 1A promotion final at Dooradoyle (kick-off 2.30pm).

“It would be a huge boost for the lads if they could get the win on Saturday,” he said. “We expected a lot from them and set high standards throughout the year.

“Every coach would probably say this – the same goes for Old Belvedere, I’m sure – but with the work they’ve put in, they deserve nothing less than a win. We’ll only get that if we perform on Saturday.

“Coming in as an external coach, you’re aware of the history and status associated with the club but it’s when you get working in the club and you get to meet the club community that you realise how much it matters. It would be huge for them to get back up there.”

Garryowen overcame Old Belvedere’s near neighbours, Old Wesley, at the semi-final stage last weekend. They prevailed on a 32-21 scoreline after a classy second half display at Energia Park, capped off by final quarter tries from Oran McNulty and Jack Delaney.

They have done the double over Old Belvedere already this season. They were 20-12 winners Dooradoyle in October, with centre Delaney touching down twice, before scoring three tries in a 28-3 victory at Ollie Campbell Park last month.

Lucey reckons you cannot read too much into those meetings during Division 1B’s regular season, as knockout rugby offers a completely different scenario.

“For me, you have to look at it completely differently. It’s a one-off game,” remarked the former UCC head coach, who also previously coached the Sunday’s Well forwards.

“Looking at what Old Belvedere did last week (winning 46-8 at Shannon), it’s not only impressive to come to Limerick and get a win but to come to Shannon and beat them like they did is exceptionally impressive.

“To score 46 points down there on any weekend, but particularly in knockout rugby, is exceptionally impressive.

“We have to look at this game as an individual fixture on its own, and nothing that happened before can influence our thoughts heading into it. We have to work for this one particular game.”

Asked how big a factor home advantage might play tomorrow, he replied: “It’s going to be huge. The Old Wesley crowd last Saturday played a big part for them in the early doors.

“I’m sure it’ll be the same for us, but look, Old Belvedere proved last weekend that they are capable of travelling to Limerick and getting a result.”

There are always individuals who stand out in promotion-chasing campaigns. Teenage centre Gordon Wood, son of former Ireland captain Keith, has shown his quality in just his first year out of schools rugby.

Light Blues skipper Fitzgearld is in the form of his life in midfield, ex-Old Belvedere full-back Colm Hogan possesses that bit of magic needed to create something out of nothing, while 21-year-old Munster Academy prop George Hadden has shown his technical ability as the stabiliser in the scrum.

Lucey knows they will need a full squad effort to book their ticket back to Division 1A for next season, adding: “We have to perform like we did last Saturday, tidying up our execution on one or two little aspects of our game.

“I know it’s a cliché, but we need to be solely focused on ourselves and what we’re trying to do. We can’t get distracted by the enormity of the game. We need to play our game and not let Old Belvedere dictate terms.”