Galwegian President Erc Dunne has enjoyed a long and illustrious career, spanning over five decades, starting as a young player bursting through the ranks to his current role as club president. We talked to Erc to discuss what an extraordinary legacy enjoyed here in Galwegians.
Erc’s first venture into the world of rugby came as a young boy playing in Newcastle, which was steadily growing at the time. A group of parents had organised different sports in the Franciscans for under-nines to get stuck into some activities.
It was a very unique experience as Erc remarked about the lack of a clubhouse or any general facilities but just playing on an isolated pitch on a Saturday morning with an unusually shaped rugby ball.
So once Erc joined Galwegians in 1974 and made the trip to Renmore for training, he was blown away by the sheer wonder of the establishment. Recalling approaching the gates with big plumes of smoke in the background, this experience kickstarted his love for the game.
“Driving up towards the clubhouse, it was the most incredible thing because suddenly, it was a huge change from running to a field. Now you had a place with changing rooms, showers, and a huge bath inside.”
“It was then a case of seeing these big guys, adults, running onto the pitch and training. I suppose from there it ignited a passion that I never had before for rugby. Just to see how it was organised, to see players in the sky-blue jersey, to get the little blue membership book when you joined the club.”
The fine details stuck out for Erc, with this membership being a sense of belonging in Galwegians, feeling that he was part of something important. It was an exciting time to be united with all his friends and be around a variety of coaches. This book would be a memento that would stay with Erc for all his life as a Wegian.
A particular memory that Erc remembers fondly from his underage days, was when the former Ireland captain Johhny Moloney came down to Galwegians playing for St Mary’s. Starstruck to meet one of his heroes, he asked for an autograph only to his shock to be refused.
“I remember this knocked me, but he did ask me to write my name and address on a piece of paper and leave it at the goalpost. I did it and went home dejected after being knocked back like that.”
“The following February in the post, I didn’t receive Johhny Moloney’s autograph, I received the whole Irish rugby team’s autograph on the back of a menu. The gentleman had gone and not only sent me his autograph but the whole Irish rugby team”.
For a young child and to receive such a priceless piece of memorabilia, Erc viewed it as a token of inspiration. He knew that when he grew up, he thought about what he could do to inspire other children, who are coming into rugby.
“I have always tried to say to people, help at some stage in the youth academy. Do something when kids will go and say, ‘I want to be like that’. That would be one thing that would stick out for me in my younger days”.
Erc treasured those Saturday mornings as a young child as some of the fondest memories of his time in Galwegians, realising how this rugby club would become a “second home” for him.
“You do create a bond with your friends, you are part of something bigger. You feel like it is part of your home. Even after living in London for ten years, Galwegians would always be my club”.
“That feeling was instilled by the different coaches I had, a passion for the sky blue. I guess that it seeped into my inner being, I am a Galwegian, I have always been a Galwegian, and I always will be a Galwegian.”
Finishing his playing career in 1988, Erc took a step into the world of coaching. After returning to Galway after a stint in London, he received a phone call from the late Joe Dunne, who informed Erc that he would be taking charge of the U20s.
With a demand for coaches at underage level, Erc took the position and started working on his coaching badges. Trying to comprehend how the game evolved and the challenge of transitioning from playing the game to management, was a learning cycle.
Taught by coach Eric Elwood, Erc learned the basics and foundations of coaching and the fundamentals behind safety and skills at the youth level. Erc understood the significance behind nurturing this young talent into the next generation and thinking beyond today’s game.
“You are overseeing the development of what hopefully will be the oak tree of tomorrow, you are planting the seed of passion that may make the transition into not only senior club rugby but maybe Connacht or something bigger.”
One of the greatest achievements throughout Erc’s time in Galwegians came during his time as Director of Rugby in 2013. Asked to take on the role by Billy Quinn, it was a huge responsibility to put on someone’s shoulders.
Taking on the advice of former directors of the past and learning from their experiences, how they evolved in their roles and laid down the foundations of what the club needed. One of his first appointments came with awarding Corey Brown the role of head coach.
“I suppose you could look at my role as ensuring we had a coach, agreeing on key performance indicators with that coach, what is your plan, how do you see that plan taking us to where we need to be.”
“Where I thought we needed to be was developing our players, stabilizing ourselves and making sure we weren’t relegated and bring Corey in and looked at where we were and how we could strengthen what we had.”
Silverware was not the primary ambition at first, but rather looking towards recruitment and ensuring the steady development of everyone in the squad. Utilizing all the contacts are their disposal to strengthen their side, Erc spearheaded the process to bring depth and strength in numbers.
Erc steered the club towards the upper echelon of AIL rugby, leading Galwegians all the way from Division 2A to 1A in the space of a few short years. Laying the groundwork for success for the club, it stands out as an almighty accomplishment for the club.
In 2020, Erc became club president for the first time which obviously in unprecedented times with the pandemic. It was certainly a great challenge to take the role in a time when the world was in disarray and with not much to be done pitch side.
“I think it did harm our development a little bit. But because there was nothing we could do on the pitch; it was a case of pushing the club forwards with fundraising. We did become very active with the Our Club, Your Country initiative, and I think it was the first time we exceeded the €10,000 mark.”
“When you didn’t know when Covid was going to stop when everything was going to be opened again, it’s hard to plan anything else. It was really a case of keeping the club going into the future and hoping doors opened again.”
But the club persevered, and now the future is the focus for Galwegians as they look to climb up the ladder towards the top tiers of club rugby once again. Despite Division 2C not being their “natural environment”, there’s hope that they can carry their early season momentum forward.
“Momentum this time of the season is really a case of making sure that the lads are focused and keeping their heads up. Looking at the team and looking at their attitude to training and going out at the pitch, I have no doubt this is going to be a good season”.
“To be honest, the most important thing this season is stabilizing. Ensuring that we build and continue to come together as a team, develop the skills, and go out and play the game not thinking down the road, but just thinking about that game. Ensuring we take our wins and maximise our points and we will be back to where we should be”.