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.