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Connemara Rugby History/Memories

Connemara Community Radio believes that it is important to capture the History of the area incorporating segments that were not particularly covered in the past or more importantly in a format that is not widely used –audio from some of the key actors in the various disciplines.  This has been achieved in collaboration with segments of the volunteers.   For example to date we have been associated with  the GAA and Political families- see the website Connemara GAA & Political- History, Folklore and Audio  by Colleen Curran and John O’Malley.

This current research programme deals with a relatively new culture in the Connemara area =Rugby.  Although Rugby officially commenced in the early 1970s we have unearthed audio rugby memories from the 1940s.

Connemara Rugby and Connemara Rugby Club Audio Memories/History

Rugby has been played by Connemara players for a very long time.  However most of the players from the past played Rugby in the Rugby colleges.  The first player from Connemara based on current research that played for Ireland was Jimmy Joyce from Oughterard in the 1940s, however this was not classified as an official full international cap as this was in the 2nd World War era.  The next player was Mick Molloy, listen to Mick’s audio.  The Current Connacht full back Tiernan O’Halloran was the latest to be capped for Ireland.

Connemara Rugby Club was established in 1973.  This was the first official Club to be established in Connemara.  However it should be recorded that there was an attempt to establish a team in Connemara in the 1940s.  This team played a number of games but was in effect adhoc and failed to establish itself.  It was mainly comprised of college players and could only field during the Xmas holiday period.  Another reason, the GAA ban on foreign Games at that time, as the vast majority of its potential playing pool would be GAA players.  However it should also be remembered that there was no official GAA club in the Clifden area in the mid 1940s.  This adhoc team also incorporated players from Oughterard, primarily the Joyce family one of whom =Jimmy was the first Connemara man to play for Ireland at senior level in the 1940s    (based on current research available).   One of the most prominent Connemara men to be capped for Ireland was Mick Molloy (Dr) from Cornamona who played between 1966 and 1976.  However Mick never played rugby in Connemara.  The next Connemara player to play senior for Ireland was Tiernan O’Halloran although not born in Connemara he can truly  be recognised as a Connemara man = his grandfather hailed from Inishbofin Island and his father was based in Clifden when Tiernan commenced playing Rugby (Currently a professional with Connacht Rugby 2017).   In addition the creation of women’s rugby has brought Connemara its first success in this field when Mairead Coyne from Leenane was capped in 2016 and became the first woman from Connemara to be capped for Ireland.

The Connemara Rugby Club of 1973

The Club of 1973 played its matches at ‘Woods Field’ (where Clifden Glen is today).  It later progressed to establish its own grounds at the Monastery Field which is its current base.  The Club has a general run of success since its foundation, especially in the 1990s.

The presentation will focus on the commencement of Rugby in the Clifden   region. It will also focus the  Secondary School.  The audio presentation will commence with the construction of rugby in the School.

As with any event it is not unusual to find some key stats disputed for example who scored the first try/score at Schools and Club level ?????????  So if anyone can absolutely clarify please let us know as it is easy to amend/include in this digital format.  Other outstanding stats would also be nice to include who was the first player to compete for Connacht etc?  We would like the respondent to be in a position to say == ‘I know because I was there’


1940s= An attempt to establish a club in Clifden was led by James B Joyce from Clifden and the Joyce family from Oughterard.  That group of players were primarily students from rugby colleges.  This was in effect an adhoc team and only played matches during the Xmas holiday period.   To listen to Fr Ned Stankard (a playing member at that time) speak about the rugby of the 1940s click on track –track Rugby 01


The 1960s= There was no rugby club in the 1960s.  However this was the decade when   rugby was established in the Secondary School which commenced in 1966.  To listen to Br Vivian Cotter and Paddy Flynn  (Corinthians RFC) recollect their memories of this event including the following years of the decade press on track  Rugby 02 and 03, take these two tracks together.


The 1970s = The 1970s saw the establishment of the Connemara Rugby Club which occurred in 1973.  It also saw an expansion of Rugby in the School.  It also brought the Clubs first sevens success in 1976 in the Millar Cup Matt O’Sullivan and Paddy Flynn give their memories of playing events in this decade including the Clubs first Connacht final appearance in 1975, on track Rugby 04


The 1980s = The 1980s brought the Clubs first success in Connacht when the Club won the Ard Na Cregg Cup in 1980/81 captained by Gerry King from the Coral Strand Ballyconneely .  This competition is generally for the second teams and or below junior level.   But the Connacht Branch allowed Connemara exemptions to compete in that season.  It also brought the Clubs first league success when the Division 2 title was won in 89/90.  This time the captain was Gerry King from Errislannon.

To listen to the memories of the clubs first league victory at Connacht level in 1989/90 listen to Gerry King, on track Rugby 05


The 1990s= This decade brought numerous successes at both senior and junior level with the team reaching two senior cup finals in 1994 and 1996.  It also brought the Clubs first Connacht Junior Cup success in 1995.   In addition it also brought 7 victories in the Connacht league — five victories in the Blakes sevens and one victory in the Kinsale sevens


The 2000s === this decade saw the Club reach All Ireland League standard in Division 3 in 2001 and won the event in 2002.  It also brought success at senior level in Connacht reaching three finals and winning the Cup in 2003; also winning the junior cup and league double in 2000 and 2001.  The Club also reached three under 20 cup finals winning in 2006.

To listen to Pat Walsh Connemara Community Radio relive his memories of the All Ireland success of 2002 click on track Rugby 06

Additional Audio

Dr Mick Molloy: from Cornamona who played for Ireland between 1966 and 1976. Click on track Rugby 07

Aidan O Halloran: whose son Tiernan was recently capped for Ireland –click on track Rugby 08

Mairead Coyne from Leenane was capped in 2016 and became the first woman from Connemara to be capped for Ireland click on track Rugby 09

Paddy Flynn former Connacht player gives his memories, click on track Rugby 10

Kenny Pollington names the Connemara all time team to celebrate 21 years of the Connemara Club (1994) , click on track Rugby  11

Connemara Rugby Club Roll of Honour= Pete Smyth who has primarily researched the Roll of Honour of the Club including the team captains where currently available.  The benefit of digital is that amendments can be readily applied if necessary.   So don’t ‘shoot’ the researcher who has spent numerous hours/days/months/years/ on the topic just contact him if you have any additions to this section.  This is available on text only.



I would like to thank the contributors for making this presentation possible.   The importance of their contributions is that it’s their own unedited memories and will be there for eternity.   While acknowledging that it is a difficult task because one knows, that there will be many that will always contradict ones memories, for all type of reasons?


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