Towards a century at the heart of Connacht rugby

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Mick Casserly honoured by Galwegians

Mick Casserly was one of the standout players for the side residing in Glenina from the late sixties to the early eighties as one of the greatest players to ever don the sky blue jersey for Galwegians.

He captained the Blues for five seasons and has been labelled as one of the greatest wing-forwards to never play for Ireland, and many from that time say he was deserving of several Irish caps. 

Last week in the grounds of Crowley Park, a second home to many of the Galwegian faithful, a lunch was held in his honour to recognise his accolades during his time in Galwegians, and the influence and impact he has created at this club and beyond. This was a large turnout for the event, with former players, coaches, presidents and esteemed guests paying tribute to one of the club’s finest legends.

Hailing from Bohermore, Mick’s senior rugby playing days kickstarted with OLBC RFC before switching his allegiances to Galwegians towards the end of the sixties. This coincided with Galwegians’ move to Glenina a couple of years prior. Following the path of the Shaughnessy brothers who he played alongside in his days in OLBC, he joined the senior squad for the 1968/69 season.

Throughout his time in Galwegians, he became one of the club’s stalwarts, captaining his team in five seasons, from 1970-72, 1974-5, 1978-9 and briefly towards the tail end of the 1979/80 season. Mick was predominantly a wing forward for the majority of his career, utilising his great athletic ability. But he proved to be quite versatile as he assumed the role at number eight over the course of a decade for both club and province. 

A quiet man off the pitch, Mick found his voice on it and rallied his men together. In a time when there would be no coaches for training and games, the responsibilities remained with the captain and the vice-captain. He demonstrated leadership on the field and formed a formidable Galwegians squad during the seventies. Galwegians President Erc Dunne, who was the master of ceremonies at the function, described Mick as a: “honest and quiet grafter, who put his heart and soul into the jersey. Tougher than nails because nails bend”.

He would contribute to Galwegians’ success in the seventies, including five Connacht Senior Cups and three Connacht Senior League titles. His success attracted the attention of Connacht early on in his Galwegians career and earned his first senior interpro appearance against Ulster in 1968, the same year he joined the club. He would play many times in green with his final game for the province taking place in 1980.

One of the crowning moments of his rugby career would be earning the privilege of captaining Connacht in the inaugural meeting between Connacht and New Zealand on November 20 1974. Leading out his side in the Galway Sportsground as part of three Galwegians players selected as part of the matchday squad, was the culmination of his outstanding performances throughout the years. 

International honours would soon follow for Mick, earning his first Irish appearance with the Ireland ‘B’ squad or the ‘Wolfhounds’ as they were called. Playing in Lansdowne Road in December 1975, it was the first ever game for the ‘B’ team which was a showdown against the France ‘B’ team which ended 9-9. He returned for the rematch in Dijon a year later where was accompanied in the back row by fellow Connacht compatriot John O’Driscoll. 

Currently, the IRFU Junior Vice President, John O’Driscoll played alongside Mick for many years for Connacht. John remembered his first training session and the first player he met was Mick, his partner as a flanker. Feeling like an outsider coming into the squad, O’Driscoll said: “He greeted me like an old friend and made me feel totally welcome, which made a huge difference to me”.

“Mick and myself went on to play for many years at the back row for Connacht,” said John. “Mick was always inspirational to me. He was as tough as teak, he was a very skilful player and a wonderful to play with”. 

But despite Mick proving himself to be one of the greats to come out of Galwegians and indeed, of Connacht, he would never make an appearance for the senior Irish rugby squad. However, it didn’t diminish his commitment towards his club and province or his sheer ability. Former teammate Dick O’Hanlon who spoke at the event said: “It was indicative of how highly Mick is held in both this club and outside that so many have taken the time to be here today”. Many people spoke out on how Mick was deserving of an Irish cap on more than one occasion. 

Mick remained at Galwegians towards the twilight of his playing days. Even after retirement, Mick continued to dedicate his services to Galwegians and took on coaching in the eighties. Starting as the club coach for the senior squad, he ended up achieving successful campaigns with the U18s that swept the competition in both the league and the cup. Many would find his experience and wisdom to be invaluable, a massive contributing factor to their success. 

Following the dawn of the new millennium, Mick Casserly’s involvement in Galwegians earned him the club’s highest honour: the role of club president which he served from 2007-2009. After his two terms as president, he would take on the role of the Director of Rugby for the next two years. Mick attended as many games as possible both home and away, which just embodies the level of passion Mick still has for the club even after half a century. 

The level of devotion to Galwegians can still be felt to this very day as the Casserly are one of many third-generation families part of the illustrious history of Galwegians. His son John Casserly carried on the lineage of the Casserlys, present in the inaugural years of Galwegians’ AIL journey and just like his father, would wear the captain’s armband from 2003 to 2005. 

John spoke about his father’s enthusiasm towards rugby: “Dad’s personality is whatever he takes on in life, he throws himself into it wholeheartedly.  Anything he did in life, he gave it 110%. That’s the only way he could do it and he enjoyed every second of it”. 

The legacy of Mick Casserly will live on in Galwegians folklore as one of the finest players to come out of Glenina, and a perfect ambassador for Galwegians.

Mens U20s Mid-Season Update

Our challenging opening qualification campaign resulted in a narrow 31-29 loss to local city rivals Corinthians, meaning we unfortunately missed out on securing a spot in the JP Fanagan Premier 2 competition.

However, under the leadership of Captain Brian McHugo and Co-Captain Jack Quinn, our squad has demonstrated remarkable resilience and gone from strength to strength.

We started our league campaign by winning our first 5 league games in JP Flanagan Premier 3 consecutively. Notable features were dominant performances that included holding both Malahide and Coolmine to 0 tries against us.

Despite facing numerous injuries in key positions, our team exhibited great character and depth with players stepping up to play out of position.

The only setback in the first half of the league has been a narrow 24-19 defeat to Blackrock, a match where either team could have emerged victorious.

As we approach the Christmas break and halfway point in the league, we find ourselves only 3 points behind Blackrock in the standing thanks to bonus points earned. We are firmly in contention for the top spot in the New Year.

Anticipation is high for our upcoming rematch against Blackrock. Throughout the season, we have delivered an exciting brand of rugby, scoring an impressive 224 points over 6 games.

We aim to continue our style in 2024 when we face Naas away in our first fixture on January 14th.

Club Constitution Information Evening on Feb 8th 2024

Galwegians RFC (“the Club”)  is presently an unincorporated association.  It operates under a constitution which provides that the property of the Club shall be held by the Trustees of the Club. The present constitution provides that the Trustees “shall be not  less than two and not more than five in number”.

Presently, there are three  Trustees namely Peter Crowley,  Michael Deacy and Billy Glynn.  These Trustees have acted diligently on behalf of the Club for many years and two of them now wish to retire.

For liability and other reasons it is more appropriate that any unincorporated association, such as the Club, would operate as a corporate structure.   The present Board of Management of the Club propose that the Club should move in this direction.

This would mean that the present structure would be wound up,  that a company limited by guarantee would be formed and that this company will take over the operations, activities, assets and liabilities of the Club.

It is proposed to hold an information evening in relation to this proposed change on  Thursday 8 February 2024 at 8 p.m. in Crowley Park with a view to holding a Special General Meeting (“SGM”) some weeks later for the purpose of moving to a corporate structure. 

The matters to be dealt with at the SGM would be:

  1. The approval of a new corporate constitution.
  2. Authorisation to immediately incorporate a new company limited by guarantee.
  3. The dissolution of the present Club structure
  4. The transfer of the operations, activities, membership, assets and liabilities of the Club to the new corporate entity.

All members are invited to attend the information evening on Thursday 8 February 2024 to discuss this extremely important step for the future of the Club.

Draft new constitution is available for viewing and download below.

Galwegians RFC – 100 Years of Rugby History book launch

Galwegians RFC formally launched their centenary book publication ‘Galwegians RFC – 100 Years of Rugby History’ at the clubhouse in Crowley Park on Thursday Dec. 7th.

A huge crowd of past & present Galwegians, friends and invited guests and dignitaries were present to witness the culmination of over 3 years’ work.

As part of their centenary celebrations, the club committee decided to document their history and commissioned well-known Galway-based rugby author Linley MacKenzie to write the book. Designed and printed by local company iSupply, it features almost 200 pages. It vividly captures the club’s history from its foundation in 1922 through to present day, with numerous stories, recollections and photographs featuring many of the club’s key personalities. 

Many of the local public representatives were present at the event, including Mayor of Galway city Councillor Eddie Hoare who addressed the audience, commending Galwegians on their history, their contribution to the sporting and social fabric of Galway city and the quality of the book’s publication.

Master of ceremonies, Galwegians President Erc Dunne, also introduced the author Linley MacKenzie, who spoke about her experience of writing the book and researching the club’s rich history. The book was then formally launched by Galwegians Trustee Michael Deacy, a long-serving life member, past President and a member of one of the club’s most influential families.

Galwegians RFC – 100 Years of Rugby History is available to purchase at:

  • Clubhouse in Crowley Park, Glenina
  • Whelan’s CarePlus Pharmacy, Williamsgate St., Galway
  • 0Dangan Nurseries, Newcastle Rd, Galway
  • Online with worldwide postage via  https://tinyurl.com/WegiansHistoryBook

More details including Table of Contents and excerpts are in the History section of the club website.

Centenary Book excerpt 4 – The King and I

As IRFU president in 1968/69 and a chief dignitary at the Five Nations in Cardiff, Chris Crowley was seated beside Prince Charles, now HM King Charles III, at the fixture against Wales.

It was at a time when Cardiff Arms Park’s new east stand was still in its construction stage. The Irish team was on a high, brimming with confidence. Having played seven internationals in succession without being beaten – six wins and one draw, Ireland were favourites in March 1969.  Only Wales stood between Ireland and the Triple Crown.

Arriving at the Seabank Hotel Portcawl, the Irish party headquarters, it was discovered the Irish captain, before leaving Cork, had received a strange telephone message from a London-based rugby journalist, that apparently the Welsh team had worked out some devious plan, not entirely within the Laws of the Game, to cut the Irish party down to size.

Tom Kiernan did not give much credence to it, but Chris believed a new tension seemed to developing in the entire Irish party, while there was an increased determination to win this match among the players. 

The two teams had togged out in temporary dressing rooms, and the Welsh Rugby Union’s arrangements required that the Prince, escorted by the two Union presidents, Chris Crowley and Ivor Jones, would walk across from the east side to the centre of the pitch where the two teams were lined up in the usual way. 

Chris recalls hearing a lot of booing all around the ground as they walked out – and jokingly whispered to Jones, was it him [Jones] or Chris they were booing – what was it about?  Jones whispered back “fiercely”. “Shut your bloody mouth Chris. He’ll hear you [meaning the prince].”

He recalls another odd occurrence as Prince Charles walked along the two lines shaking hands with the players, one of whom was the Welsh sub hooker Norman Gale. Gale stood with both hands deep in his pockets.

“As the prince came to him, he (Gale) slowly and apparently reluctantly dragged one hand out his pocket and half held it out to be shaken.  

“Then I was intrigued to hear the Prince say: ‘Oh, you’re not playing, you’re just a reserve.’

 “I thought Gale lost out in the little demonstration of bad manners.”

 

Centenary Book excerpt 3 – Warren Gatland

“By the time I am finished with you, you are going to play like you’ve never played before.” 

Warren Gatland

True to his first words in Glenina, Warren Gatland brought Galwegians to a new level, into the All Ireland League, and playing some of the most memorable and innovative rugby in Ireland.

Not only coach on the field, he was a manager too, and from an “a la carte attitude to training”, he introduced a fine system to ensure discipline in the team and required numbers at training. Off the field, it was a case of walk like a duck, be a duck. With all members required to wear shirt, tie and jumpers, Galwegians began to look like what they were training to be.

It resonated with the players and Jody Green, who saw Gatland as an “All Black”.

“He never struck me as a 26-years-old – he always came across as someone who was an All Black and a fantastic coach who was doing something for us that we had never had before. All the building blocks were being put in place by him as both manager and a coach. All the things they take for granted now, we were introduced to them for the first time by him.”

Quiet by nature, Gatland never raised his voice. There was no banging tables, but his teaching skills were evident in ensuring the messages were received loud and clear in his own way.

Although he had not set any goals on arrival, he did establish objectives – nothing too phenomenal – to make training more enjoyable and educational, to implement clear calls and moves that every player understood, to promote individual players by playing quality rugby and being successful – and the fourth, and the most crucial, was to set team rules. All players had to turn up at training and on time, and would only be absent with prior permission.

He made them work hard and taught self discipline – the Hennie Muller drill, named after a South African player, was a well known form of torture – figures of eight round the pitch, and timed. It was all about self-discipline, honesty both on the pitch and in training. If a player cut a corner or went inside the flag, Gatland would always ask at the end if anyone cut the corner. However it also made it enjoyable.

On one occasion after the question was asked, he followed up with, anyone not get a shift last night? Shane Guerin put his hand up, followed by brother Enda,

“I’m with you bro.” So the two were told to do another lap as a result. Halfway around the pitch, they realised the entire squad was rolling around on the ground in stitches.

He also introduced a fine system, but it would pay for the pints after matches – a celebration or bonding session on Saturday night was all part of the building blocks.

“Fast forward to Gatland’s Lions v All Blacks,” says O’Donnell. “The Lions are under pressure going into the last match, but Gatland takes the squad for a day out, a few beers and a sing-song, where everyone had to sing a song from their own country – that was Gatty back in Galwegians.”

In addition to his attention to detail, he was an innovator and a thinker – and few forget his 15-man line-out, while also carrying that further in the scrum and driving maul, where backs could join it. That too was perfected with practice on the pitch – ensuring each player knew how to join legally. Such thinking was ahead of its time, and few teams initially had it figured out.

Green remembers travelling to St Mary’s which had been a bogey team for Galwegians.

On one occasion when taking a hammering, hooker Ciaran Fitzgerald had taken a conversion just for laughs, but on the next occasion under Gatland, it was the Glenina side that prevailed after taking them apart with their rolling maul.

Meticulous in its planning, everyone was tutored how and where they could join it, and where to put their shoulder, and cleverly, Gatland took time to have conversations with referees, basically telling them what was going to happen – in accordance with the rules – so his innovative practices would not take them by surprise.

Brian O’Donnell, playing outhalf on one occasion, recalls the armchair ride he was given as a result.

“The referee was Alan Lewis, and I remember him saying ‘this is actually beautiful’ as I was walking along with him, and bringing the centres with me.”

Centenary Book excerpt 2 – Losing the lid

A letter sent to the Galwegians committee in the early 1950s:

Dear Mr Costello,

I am writing about the top of the Senior Cup which has been missing for some weeks now.

This cup was brought in from T Richardson’s digs for the dinner on Saturday night May 3. It was left in the office afterwards and there it remained for some weeks.

One evening about three weeks ago I met Gerry in Dominick Street and he asked me what I did with the top of it. This was a surprise to me as I had no recollection of removing the lid and the only thing I could conclude was that if I did, I must have been well gone.

He said he would make enquiries. Since then Tim Richardson has also made an investigation without result.

It was a pity the matter was let slide for so long without letting me know, and now we have no option but to notify the Guards. When they call I’d be obliged if you would produce all members of your staff who saw me removing the lid and give full information as to where I took it and where I was last seen with it.

It must be found before the end of the month as otherwise I’ll have to be making arrangements to have it replaced.

I’ll hardly report this matter until Saturday the fourth, and in the meanwhile I would appreciate if you have an exhaustive search made of our entire premises. After all, there is no proof that I didn’t leave it back, if I took it, and that somebody else removed it subsequently.

Yours faithfully,

Mr. X

To find out the identity of Mr. X, and whether the lid was ever found, get ready to order your advance copy of our book. This will available very soon to buy online.

Guilly runs ruler over AIL start

Head coach Brendan Guilfoyle reflects on an excellent start to the season where Galwegians have won their opening three games of the season in AIL Division 2C.

Despite a turbulent pre-season in the Connacht Senior League where they picked up only a 8-8 draw against Ballina, Brendan remarks how they have bounced back in their opening fixtures:

“Although we were quite positive (ahead of the season), I think the first block of AIL fixtures have gone as well as we could have wanted, “said Brendan. “It was better than some people may have expected.”

“We as coaches were quite confident with the quality we had coming in and thankfully a lot of the new guys have delivered which really complimented the homegrown guys that were already here for the last couple of years”. 

Last season saw Galwegians struggle at set-pieces, especially in the line-outs and the scrum. Strong recruitment with forwards have been pivotal with the additions of foreign talent such as Garyn Daniel, Hugo Gens and Jesse Va’asuaga, while transitioning current players into new positions.

The forwards have excelled so far in the first three rounds with the maul proving to be effective with Brendan stating that they scored a maul try for the first time in a few seasons and have manged one for every game so far alongside “huge scrum stability and scrum dominance”. 

“The inclusion of Garyn Daniel at tighthead has made a huge difference with the scrum but also Jack Winters who as back row last year, now at loosehead since half-way last year. The two of them have come on massively and have played eighty minutes in all three games so far, which has been massive stability for the rest of the team”.

“You have Oisin Halpin and Rob Holian who have come into the second row, which has been a huge addition. As well the back row, Jesse has come in from New Zealand. The inclusion of Hugo too, who has come in from France to improve his English, you have a really formidable pack”.

The rise in form in the forward pack has consequently has also seen a substantial increase in performance in the back-line, with an injection of youth and experience. With many stars with the backs, Brendan has found it hard to single just one player with them firing on all cylinders.

“Tiarnan Neville has come in at out-half, has brought a lot of energy and direction. He’s great, full of confidence at out-half. Mikey McGiff has come in for six months, some experience and a lot of communication on the field”.

“We also had some of our Connacht lads which is always good; Shane Mallon who played with us last year and was very good has continued in the same vein.  Finn Tracey who has moved from Leinster to  the Connacht academy, both have performed really well”. 

Brendan has praised the new players for gelling into the team quickly, along with the youth players rising through the ranks, with five U20s playing in the recent game against Clonmel. 

Making sure the team doesn’t stay complacent in their group of fixtures, the whole team will be looking to fix niggling issues in the team.

“It has been far from perfect, a lot still to work on. Clonmel especially we felt we were really off our game in some aspects. But the difference this year was that grit we had that pulled through and ensured we got a victory when we weren’t performing”. 

Looking ahead to their next game against third-placed Bruff RFC, Galwegian will be looking to secure another victory at the peak of the division and secure revenge over the side that relegated them last year.

Centenary Book excerpt 1 – St Paul to the Corinthians

CP Crowley always referred to himself as a dyed-in-the-wool Galwegian, and as the years went by he was asked by Jimmy Lydon of Corinthians to write a few lines about the friendly rivalry which had existed down through the years between Glenina and the “fellas down the road”.

Crowley imagined what Jimmy had in mind was that, having been around the general rugby scene in Galway city for more than 40 years, he would have many stories to tell concerning the two clubs, and of course there were any amount of happenings  – many of them hilarious, on and off the field . However, looking back down the years, what struck Chris was the similarity rather than the differences in the histories of Galwegians and Corinthians.  

Both played on the same Sportsground for years, and their headquarters were hotels. Both clubs realised about the same time that the Sportsground had become untenable for two senior clubs and neither could continue to muddle along without a clubhouse of its own. When they did eventually move out, one chose Glenina, and the other Ard na Cregg.

Chris also remembers one Sunday morning in the Augustinian Church when a new slant on their sameness was emphasised from an entirely unexpected quarter – Father Anderson, who was renowned as a particularly forceful preacher. 

His text on the morning in question was one of those angry letters Saint Paul wrote to the Corinthians – and according to Chris, there was a good scatter of members from both clubs in the congregation.

He remembers the preacher, eyes flashing, voice reverberating throughout the church, threatening Corinthians with all sorts of fire and brimstone unless they quit messing, and of course the Galwegians among the congregation sat back and smiled benignly at each other.  

According to Chris, as Fr Anderson reached his “peroration”, he paused for a long minute, glaring theatrically around the church, his piercing gaze seeming to home in on each individual on the benches. It was obvious he was heading towards his punchline and there was not a pin dropped….

To hear the punchline, make sure to order your advance copy of the book when it is released for sale shortly.

Meet Our Coaches: Shane O’Brien

The AIL Division 2C season is nearly upon us and Galwegians are set to begin their fight for promotion against Tullamore this Friday. Ahead of the new season, we talked to assistant coach Shane O’Brien, who’s looking forward to the challenges that come with a brand-new campaign. 

Joining the coaching staff last summer, Shane has a wealth of experience to offer for this Galwegians side. Originally coming from a GAA background, Shane took up rugby at a young age playing for Crescent College in Limerick, a school with rugby built into its DNA and from there, his rugby career blossomed:

“When I hit sixteen or seventeen, I think I knew I wanted to stay involved in rugby more, and then I came out of school, I started training as a U20 and that’s how it really took off. It really started becoming more and more of a first love for me”, he said.

Shane was part of the set-up for Young Munster RFC when he received the opportunity to join the coaching staff here in Galway. Relishing at the challenge, he accepted the post which has been part of our coaching set-up. 

Throughout his time in Galwegians, he reflects on the trials and tribulations of being a coach and the pressures of the job. A teacher by trade, he faces the obstacles of balancing work and sport and being there for the club:

“At the moment, I’m finding that teaching is my second job and rugby is my first job. All Ireland League coaching isn’t just two hours on a Tuesday and Thursday and a four-hour day on Saturday.”

“It’s a full-time job between your video review on a Monday, phone calls throughout the week, and making sure all your players are enjoying it or if they are having things in life troubling them, you can be a guide and be open enough to talk.”

The responsibilities that are given as a coach compared to a player drastically differ and it is no different in Shane’s role stating that “you take it home a little bit more as a coach”.

“As a player, you can have a bad performance but you can go to training and try to rectify it. Whereas a coach, you always wonder when you’re going into a Saturday, have you prepped everything enough, have you looked at the opposition enough?”. 

“Have you changed the shape of play you wanted to tweak, have you gotten the message across to the players? As a player can go on instinct, as a coach you have to rely on the message you give mid-week, sometimes you can overthink things a little bit”. 

With a new crop of players this season ready to show their hunger and capability out on the pitch, the team is well-prepared for the season’s opening fixture, with the boys training regularly and sticking to a regular gym routine. Shane remarks about the importance of a positive mindset ahead of the first few games of the campaign. 

Stating that winning the first few games would be key and would definitely “shake a few monkeys off our back” after relegation last season and would provide the confidence needed to take the new year into their stride:

“I think that there’s a little bit of added pressure this year because of the division that we are in. But I think we need to welcome it, the squad that is here this year has the ability to get out of this league with no problem.”

It’s been a busy pre-season for Galwegians as they are building up towards the trip away at Spollanstown, but it wasn’t optimal as the team hoped it would be with a turbulent Connacht Senior League campaign in comparison to last year

But Shane is assured that there is a consistent improvement from this senior side as a series of friendlies have seen their side grow in confidence. 

“There have been six matches between the Connacht Senior League and friendlies, and think we have improved every week which is the most important thing, we showed a lot against Cashel, a decent AIL 2A side, so I’m hoping we can bring some confidence into this very tough game Friday night”. 

“The first goal will be to get into the top 4, then become the team to beat afterward. When you win more games, you become more confident so they can never know what could happen then once you are going into the playoffs”.

Tullamore will be fierce competition for this Galwegians side who narrowly missed out on promotion to Division 2B last season. Shane knows they cannot be underestimated and will be the first major test for their own promotion ambitions.

“We have a very tough start, Tullamore lost only one game all season so it will be tough on Friday. Not only them but Clonmel are a very strong side too we play them early on too. The first few games will be the main focus on try and get as many points as possible”. 

“But in terms of confidence, I have definitely seen it grow as the summer has gone. In the last few weeks, we have seen a bit of a mindset change, players have taken real ownership at training in different aspects”. 

Best of luck to Shane and the whole Galwegian squad this weekend ahead of their first game of the season against Tullamore.

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