A paper presented to the Skerries Historical Society 13th February 1996 by Sandy Heffernan
In late 1925, Bill Hartford, who was then a playing member of Malahide RFC, organised a group of local boys, including Jimmy Duff, Kit Seaver, Dick Seaver, Dick Derham, Christy Fox and himself to kick a rugby ball around the Park on the Dublin Road, and to practise passing, running and tackling. In the Spring of 1926 a team was got together but played only on Sundays. At that time the vast majority of club rugby in Dublin was played on Saturdays but touring teams such as the Harlequins organised by Jack Arigho of Lansdowne and Ireland were always available for games. The first game that can be recollected was played against Drogheda on Dick Derham's field, "The twelve acres", now part of the Shenick Estate. Those taking part included Bill Hartford, Jimmy Duff, Tommy Duff, Dickie Seaver, Tom Turley, J. Gaynor, Kit Seaver, Dick Garland, Paddy Mathews, Dick Landy, Peter Murray, Christy Fox, and Hal Skelly. The result of the match was Skerries 9 - Drogheda 8.
Around the same time in early 1926 there was the famous occasion of a game with Balbriggan when as Tommy Duff kicked off, the ball burst and there was not another one. As a result Willie Cummiskey had to drive to Balbriggan and get another ball while the two teams waited around until he got back. The recollection in that Balbriggan won 21-3. That game was played in the Mill Field (between the Mill and the Cabra/Hillside houses) which was the property of Mr William Ennis of Clonard, Balbriggan the owner of the Mill. Jimmy Duff and Christy Fox cycled to Clonard one evening in the Autumn of 1926 and persuaded Mr Ennis to allow the Rugby Club the use of the Mill Field, free of charge.
At the meeting of the Executive Committee of Leinster Branch held on 15th September 1926 it was proposed by Blackrock College and seconded by Lansdowne that Skerries be affiliated to the I.R.F.U. and Leinster Branch. Incidentally that minute of Leinster Branch was signed by one Thomas F. Stack.
At the Annual General Meeting of the Junior Section of Leinster Branch held on 5th October 1926 Mr Christy Fox represented Skerries. Mr Fox was the first Hon. Secretary of the Club.
Catering for visiting teams was a problem in those days. Travelling was almost entirely by bus and train and Mrs. Hand in Dublin Street (now Ronnie and Teresa Boylans) was the first caterer. For 1/6 a head she provided changing facilities and a plain tea to visiting teams who had to walk from the Railway Station, change, walk to the Mill Field, play, walk back in togs and after a plain tea walk back to the station. After Mrs Hands the Club got accommodation in a restaurant with a small dance floor in Strand Street. There after the matches, the Club ran a dance from 7pm to 9.30pm the last train to Dublin being 10pm. There was no question of a selection committee in those days as the problem was to get 15 players together at all. The position was eased to some extent during the school holiday periods when schoolboy players were available.
If no travelling was involved, teams could sometimes be fielded on Saturdays at home and some of the other Clubs were prepared to travel to Skerries on Saturday on the basis that there would be no return fixture. The Clubs fixture with Malahide became a regular St. Patrick's Day occasion.
Ernie Crawford, the Lansdowne and Ireland full back, was a regular visitor to Skerries staying during the summer at Bill Hartford's house. He took a great interest in the Club and encouraged the players by giving talks to players in the Carnegie Library. During this time the match on the beach became a summer feature.
Captains of the Club, around this time up to 1940 were Jimmy Duff, Vincent McGowan, Tom Branagan (1933-34), John McDonough 1934-35 Joseph Duff 1935-37, Sean Fitzpatrick 1937-38, Frank Glennon 1938-39 Jimmy O'Brien 1939-40
During the initial period of the Club the following were elected President:
Very Rev. Canon Ryan, W.E. Crawford, Jimmy Duff, and George Hill.
Committee Meetings during this period were held mostly in the Library on Sundays after 11.30 Mass or in the Billiard Room. At a General Committee Meeting on 28th October 1934 it was unanimously agreed that an Extraordinary General Meeting of Club Members be held on Wednesday 31st October, to put the difficulties of the Committee in fielding a team due to shortage of numbers, before them.
In the Provincial Towns Cup 1931 Balbriggan were drawn to play Skerries in Balbriggan on 21st March. With the winners to play winners of Rosslare and Co Carlow in Dublin on 28th march. Balbriggan won and Skerries objected on grounds of an ineligible player.
However, before the objection was heard Balbriggan had beaten Co. Carlow and were into the final. The junior committee on examining the situation found that a Mr Thomas Larkin, a member of the Garda Siochana, residing in Dublin had played for Balbriggan and the junior committee recommended that Balbriggan be disqualified from the competition. Co. Carlow were given Balbriggans place in the final and won the 1931 Provincials Towns Cup.
Dancing appears to have been the main source of revenue in those days with functions being held in the Tower Ballroom, the Arcadia, (in the square) and more especially in the Silver Beach in Gormanston by kind permission of Tom Brangan. Usual admission prices were 2s or 3s.
At a committee Meeting on 4th January 1938 there was much discussion on entering a team in the Ryan Cup and on a show of hands it was decided to enter with the Hon. Treasurer and Hon. Secretary dissenting.
On 30th January 1938 Skerries played Balbriggan away in the Ryan Cup and won the Cup that year 1938 and 1939 and 1940. For the record the team who beat Dundalk in the final of Ryan Cup at Donnybrook in 1939 was: Oliver Duff, Tom Gowan, Joe McLoughlin, Jimmy O'Reilly, John McDonough, Will Halpin, Joe Duff, George Hill, Frank McAuley, Joey Sherwin, Norman McConnell, Jimmy O'Brien, Frank Glennon, Pat McDonough, and Tom Ryan.
Under the captaincy of Joey Sherwin, one of the finest out-halves ever to play for the Club, Skerries won the Provincial Towns Cup for the first time by beating Wexford Wanderers 7-5 at Lansdowne Road.
In the season 1941/42 again under Joey Sherwin Skerries were beaten in the first round of Towns Cup. At this stage, games were being played at the twelve acres, with catering at Miss Hand's in Little Strand St or the Grand Hotel at the Monument. During the war years there were no internationals or visits from British or Continental teams. Transport was severely rationed and Dublin players had little but ordinary inter-club games to interest them. Paddy and Gerry Quinn and many others connected with the recently promoted senior club, Old Belvedere, had long family associations with Skerries, as summer visitors. They organised Sunday games in Skerries in the winter months and the experience gained at that time stood to the Skerries side in the years ahead.
The club was captained by Tommy Jenkinson, who during the successful 1941 campaign had been observed by a member of the then vigilante committee and suspended from the GAA, thus jeopardising his position as a member of the Dublin county panel. He was not the only Skerries player so affected at the time and a number of players were appearing each week - and with different names depending on which code they were playing. Despite this, Skerries under Tommy Jenkinson went on to win the Provincial Towns Cup in 1943 by defeating Athy 4-3 at Lansdowne Road. Athy had led 3-0(a try) for most of the game and Joey Sherwin the Skerries out-half dropped a goal (4 points) in the closing minutes.
The club was captained by Oliver Duff and went on to win the Towns Cup for the third time by defeating Curragh second team 17-0 at Lansdowne Road. During the war years the Curragh first team played in senior ranks.
In the 1945/46 season, under captain Johnny Drury, Skerries were unlucky to be beaten in the final of the Towns cup 3-0 by Tullamore at Donnybrook. Incidentally Bobby Beggs was a leading player in the 1946 cup campaign.
Captain in 1946/47 was Christy Jenkinson. Captain in 1947/48 was Eamon McArdle. Captain in 1948/49 was Will Halpin.
During the period the pitch was changed from the Twelve Acres to Rockalyoke at Holmpatrick, our present ground. As most of the games took place on Saturdays it was not unusual for one set of posts to be taken down, the pitch lengthened, and a Gaelic match to be played on Sunday. Around this time, Will Halpin, Kevin McDonough and later Joe Coleman represented Leinster Juniors.
In September 1949 a Skerries team played the famous Racing Club de France at Holmpatrick. In 1954 Rugby Roma who also played Old Belvedere on a Saturday, played Skerries the following day at Holmpatrick.
For the season 1949/50 Des Cashell was captain. Tony Robertson who had recently helped Wanderers win the Leinster Senior Cup in 1948 joined Skerries as out-half. Skerries reached the final of the provincial towns cup against Rathdowney and after a 3-3 draw in the first game, won the replay 3-0.
Ivan Cashell was captain. However mid-season he was transferred to Sligo and vice-captain John Heffernan took over. In the semi-final of the Towns Cup Dundalk and Skerries played each other on four separate occasions before Skerries were winners of the fourth game played at Sydney Parade and went on to win the final beating Rathdowney 12-0.
During early 1951 a request was received through Des Cashell from a junior club in Scotland requesting a game on the day before the Ireland / Scotland international at Lansdowne Road 1952, and inviting Skerries to visit Dunbar in early 1953. Doubts were expressed by the committee on the ability of the Skerries Club to travel to Scotland, and on a vote being taken it was 3 for and 3 against with one abstention. The President gave his casting vote for the first Dunbar visit to take place. Accordingly, thanks to the then club President Gerry McMahon, the first visit of Dunbar took place on 23rd February 1952 and has continued each year since, with the exception of 1972.
The captain for the season was Steve Duff. Tony Robertson had finally retired and his place at out-half was taken by Phil Walls, with Hilary O'Rourke and Paddy Sheridan (or Stanley !!!) in the centre, and his brother Sean (also Stanley) in the second row. Skerries again reached the final of the Towns Cup against Naas at Donnybrook. For most of the game Skerries led 3-0 until the final minutes when Naas scored a converted try to lead by 5-3 in favour of Naas. With seconds to go, Skerries kicked off and in the ensuing melee, Kevin McDonough went over for a try. Victory to Skerries and three-in-a-row.
Kevin McDonough was elected captain. After the success in the Towns Cup for the previous three years, things were not easy. A few players retired, some went to Dublin to play Senior rugby and emigration, a feature of Irish life at that time, took its toll.
The succeeding captains, Dick Byrne(53/54), Gerry McCabe(54/55), Kevin McDonough(55/56), Joe Boylan(56/57), Cathal Murray(57/58), Eddie Butler(58/59) all faced an uphill struggle.
Although Skerries fielded one and sometimes two teams during this period, the standard was about 3As level and the numbers difficult. In these days of fast cars, mobile phones, and fax machines, it is hard to imagine a situation where cry-offs from teams were filled outside the church on a Friday night or failing that, as the audience left the Pavilion Cinema at 10.30pm on the same night by the Hon Sec of the club, (there being no fixture or team secretaries) who invariably travelled by unlit bicycle.
In June 1955 the club was honoured to be asked to run a dress dance, the very first function in the new ballroom of the Holmpatrick Hotel. In 1956 the ground at Holmpatrick was ploughed and we had to search for an alternative. Under the captaincy of Joe Boylan, we were fortunate to secure a ground at Milverton from Bernie Healy. In that season we defeated Dundalk and Navan in the Towns Cup before going down to Mullingar after extra time. Mullingar, the beaten finalists, featured the famous Kevin Quinn and Milo Cox at half-back. A key feature of that season was the goal kicking of Denis McGloughlin.
In the 1958/59 season under the captaincy of Eddie Butler, and with Terry McDonald a key figure at out-half, Skerries had victories over Mullingar and Birr before being defeated by North Kildare 9-3 in the semi-final. The main feature of that season was a memorable trip to the Clanwilliam Club in Tipperary town in November, where our President Christy Jenkinson was a big hit. During his speech, he several times thanked Dunbar for their hospitality.
The trip to Dunbar itself was memorable for the fact that we flew, chartering a 32 seater Dakota from Aer Lingus. A disappointing feature was that we were left with six vacant seats at a loss to the club of £40. Travelling to away matches was difficult at the best of times. The team assembled at the Bus Bar. Liam Cullen and Eddie Butler had cars while Christy Jenkinson had a van. The rest travelled by hackney car hired from Bill Wilson, Willie Woods, Walter Ruigrok or Michael Reddan.
In 1958 the club moved from Bernie Healy's field in Milverton to a field owned by Mr. James Healy on the main Skerries to Lusk road next to Milverton quarries. Both these pitches had excellent surfaces but suffered from their distances from the town.
In the 1959/60 season under the captaincy of John McCurdy a Skerries President's XV played the Wolfhounds at Milverton (quarry field) on Sunday 13th of Sept. There was an admission charge of 2s/6d (12.5p). The fixture, attracted a large crowd as part of the Skerries Civic Week. The Wolfhounds won an excellent game 12-11. Our competitive season was cut short that year by an 8-0 defeat by Dundalk in the 2nd round of the Towns Cup. However a definite move was made to acquire Mr Swarbrigg's field at Holmpatrick or Rockalyoke as it was known. Following the Wolfhounds game, our President, Leo Flanagan received encouragement from Dr Karl Mullen, former Irish hooker and captain, and at that time a member of the Leinster Branch Committee, to buy a permanent ground for the club.
Negotiations were opened and a price of £1000 was agreed for the 4 acre site. To fund the purchase a loan of £800 was arranged with the Munster and Leinster Bank and a loan of £200 from the Leinster Branch IRFU. Both organisations required joint and several guarantees, something, which in those days people were reluctant to sign for what were regarded as large sums of money. Eventually when the moneys were arranged, it was discovered that the club had neither borrowing powers nor Trustees. It was necessary to call an EGM at the Library on 11th of April 1960 to regularise matters and adopt a proper constitution of the club. At that same meeting, it was decided to alter the club colours from the All Blue strip to Old Gold, Cerise and Blue, the present club colours.
Finally, on the 20th September, almost a year later, we gave our cheque for £795/14s/10d to our Solicitor to complete the purchase of the club grounds (A deposit of £250 having been paid earlier). As a result of a hectic 12 months endeavour, the club had acquired permanent grounds, a new constitution and two new trustees, Mr Patrick Leo Flanagan and Mr Thomas Jenkinson. (Leo always liked it to be known that he was the senior trustee). During this time the club continued to enjoy the catering facilities of the Holmpatrick House Hotel. The Skerries Sailing Club provided facilities for meetings and Red Island Holiday Camp allowed use of their lawns for training.
The Captain for this season was Joe Grimes. At this time Joe Grimes was a dental student at the Royal College of Surgeons. Playing members in the Club was still a problem and Joe through his student contacts and beyond secured the necessary number of bodies to keep Rugby alive in Skerries.
Such names as Pat & Jimmy Lynch, Peadar Hyland and Joe Fowler readily come to mind.
The 1961/'62 season saw the inauguration of the McGowan Cup presented by Mr Gerrard McGowan of Balbriggan. In the very first game of this new competition Skerries beat Delvin 9-3 but lost the final to Navan by 11-0.
However, that result was reversed when Skerries defeated Navan 14-3 in the first round of the Towns Cup, only to lose 12-0 to Dundalk in the next round.
The Towns cup in 1962 was won by our near neighbours Delvin who had developed an exciting style of back play.
While dance receipts continued to be the main source of income for the Club during the summer of 1961, in order to reduce the debt on the field an 'Enterprise' class yacht was purchased for £160.00. Liam Cullen and his helpers put a huge amount of work into their project bringing the boat to various regattas and selling tickets.
Saturday 22nd December 1962 will no doubt go down in history as one of the most important day in Skerries Rugby club.
On that afternoon an under 13 team played Belvedere College at Holmpatrick in the first schoolboys/youth game organised by the Club. Despite their recent introduction to the game this junior team won the match and all subsequent games that season. Little wonder that these schoolboys went on to constitute most of the senior playing members who brought such distinction to Skerries in the Provincial Town Plate, Provincial Towns Cup, Arklow Festivals, Blackrock Festivals, Inter-County games and Leinster Senior Cup games and now form the back-bone of Skerries RFC.
To my certain knowledge that game on 22nd December 1962 was the first schoolboy/youth game played in the Province of Leinster. The organisers of that first team - Gerry McMahon, Paddy McNally, Jack Murphy must be remembered together with Terry McDonald, Michael Carron, Vincent Woodlock, Frank Callaghan and a host of others who helped in those early days.
September 1962 saw the Club at last move back to the town after 6 years absence on various sites in Milverton.
Skerries fielded a strong team that year 1962/63 under Captain John McIlvenna, Albeit that the team featured a number of Dublin players (this was now permissible). We started the season well by winning the McGowan Cup. Skerries reached the final of the Towns Cup in 1963 against Enniscorthy who could only play on a Sunday. Skerries could only play on a Saturday for obvious reasons (Derek Jones, Henry Sheridan, John Clinton, Joe Coleman, John Casey were all prominent Gaelic players). A compromise was reached and the game was played at Athy on Thursday 25th April. The result was a draw and Enniscorthy won the replay of the final on the following Thursday evening 6-3 with a penalty for off-side in the last minute of the game.
Mr Ken Mills, well known Senior Council was the referee of both games.
This season got off to a bad start with the resignation of our Club Captain. However, Derek Jones took over at short notice and despite an injury to himself continued to give the teams his support and attention.
When the ground at Holmpatrick was purchased many doubting Thomases were sceptical about the drainage. As predicted problems did arise and work was put in hand and one has memories of Jimmy Duff, John Rogan and a band of willing helpers opening up an original French drain in an attempt to improve matter. That work together with trojan work done over the years have provided Skerries now with an excellent playing surface.
In June 1963 we obtained our first of many grants for the maintenance of our schoolboy section amounting to £20 from Leinster Branch.
August 1964 saw the first moves towards the provision of a Pavilion on the ground at Holmpatrick. A public meeting was held at Pavilion Ballroom under the Chairmanship of Mr Thomas Jenkinson (in the absence of the President abroad) and a large group pledged their support to the Club in its effort to provide minimum facilities at Holmpatrick.
A small building committee was established with an Architect, Quantity Surveyor and Officers of the Club. Plans were drawn and re-drawn.
A subscription list was opened to finance the project and in a short period a total of £947-18s-0d had been received. The Club had an early exit from Towns Cup away to Dundalk 6-5 and then under the Captaincy of Peadar Hyland put a much younger team in the field and went on to beat Wexford Wanderers in the final of the Towns Plate.
Peadar Hyland was Captain for a second year in which fortunes were mixed. In Towns Cup we drew with Roscrea and lost our Captain with a bad leg injury. In the replay Skerries beat Roscrea 16-0 only to go down to Enniscorthy 6-3 in the quarter final. Work continued on plans for a Clubhouse and a lot of technical details were arranged and in March 1966 we applied for planning permission.
In May 1966 planning permission was refused. In August 1966 refusal was appealed to Department of Local Government. In February 1967 the Minister for Local Government granted permission however, the Minister did point out that he had no function in regard to bye-law control.
Therein commenced months of utter frustration while we grappled with Dublin County Council and the complexities of the Sanitary Services Act of 1878.
Thursday 2nd June 1966 saw the first ever Rugby Club Golf Outing at Skerries Golf Club. This has become an annual feature of the Club has gone from strength to strength. John Casey was Captain for season 1966/67. August 1966 saw the death of Jimmy Duff a founder member of the Club Past President and Captain and Hon. Life Member of the Club.
In January 1967 we applied to Leinster Branch for permission for our under 18 team to compete in the Senior Schools League. The decision of the Schools A.G.M. in April 1967 was ratified by the Executive Committee of the Leinster Branch on 4th May 1967 to allow Skerries to enter a team in the Schools League. The team under the designation 'Holmpatrick' played its first competitive game away to De La Salle, Churchtown on 21st February 1968 losing 15-0. However, they beat C.U.S. and Sandford Park, lost to Clongowes and finished second in their Section. Another first for Skerries.
For this season the Club was captained by Paddy McNally. A veteran at that stage, he captained a side composed of players much younger than himself and succeeded in getting them to play with spirit and determination. Skerries were unlucky to be beaten 6-3 away to Co. Carlow in the Towns Cup and in the Plate after defeating Mullingar away only to lose to North Kildare in the next round.
In June 1967 the Club obtained bye-law approval from Dublin County Council. Following negotiations a firm figure of £8,153 was agreed with Bantile of Banagher and we were ready to discuss the financial arrangements in detail. Our Ways & Means Committee re-convened on 23rd November 1967 to finalise arrangement and as a result accommodation of £8,000 was arranged with our bank and a loan of £1,000 secured from I.R.F.U.
On Sunday 21st April 1968 Mr Eugene O'D. Davy, President of the I.R.F.U., cut the first sod on the site and everything was ready to proceed. However, the fact that we had, for financial reason changed to a pre-cast concrete structure caused problems with Dublin County Council and we had to apply for planning permission. On this occasion we were granted planning permission but refused bye-law approval.
After many telephone calls, deputations etc. approval was eventually forthcoming and building commenced on 20th August 1968 three months behind schedule and costly from the Club's point of view as we were now building during the rugby season.
11th August 1967 saw the commencement of our bingo sessions at the Pavilion Ballroom. These weekly sessions continued each Friday night until 19th December 1969 and produced a modest profit for our Clubhouse Development Fund. Patrons of the bingo will remember the dulcet tone of such as Jack Murphy, Michael Carron and Peter Quirke calling their lucky numbers while Gerry McMahon and Dara and a host of others ran the raffle at half-time.
This season under Captain Tim Hegarty we had a very young team. We lost to Navan both in the McGowan Cup and Towns Cup. However, in the Towns Plate Skerries beat Curragh, Wicklow, Portlaoise, Dundalk and were beaten in the final by Naas 9-8 in mysterious circumstances. However, highlight of the season was the visit to this young team to Dunbar in February 1969. The occasion was remarkable for the fact that it was the first time that we had travelled with a complete Skerries team to Dunbar and also that it was the first time that we ever won there defeating the home side 8-0. This was to become the first of many win over at Dunbar over succeeding years.
At this stage the Club was fielding a First XV under Tim Hegarty and a seconds XV under Paddy McNally together with a Colts XV playing in Schools League and under 16, 14, 12 and 10.
This season saw the death of Mr Frank Glennon, a former Captain and President of the Club.
Our new Clubhouse was completed at the end of 1968 and the first function was held on Sunday 10th January 1969.
The official opening of the Clubhouse was performed by Mr Chris Crowley, President I.R.F.U. on Sunday 20th April 1969. The event was preceded by a juvenile match against Balbriggan and followed by a Skerries Selected XV v Old Belvedere First XV. It was a delightful exhibition of rugby which Old Belvedere won 39-19.
With our Clubhouse in place dances and social functions were concentrated at Holmpatrick and a licence was secured to operate a bar. After 11 years the Rugby Club ceased availing of the facilities of Skerries Sailing Club for meetings etc. a facility which will be long remembered and appreciated. After 10 years in office Mr Leo Flanagan did not go forward for re-election in May 1969. During his 10 years he presided over the purchase of the Club grounds, a new constitution for the Club, appointment of trustees, formation of youth section and provisions of a new Clubhouse. He was succeeded as President by his fellow trustee Mr Tommy Jenkinson.
Under the captaincy of Paddy O'Shea we lost 20-3 to Dundalk in Towns Cup and went on to defeat Delvin, Wexford, Edenderry and Portlaoise in the final to capture the Towns Plate which had so cruelly eluded Skerries in the previous season. On Easter Sunday 1970 Skerries won the North Kildare seven-a-side and our sevens became the first Provincial or Junior side to win that trophy ever in its 17 years.
Our second team reached semi-final of Towns Seconds Cup. Our third XV was also being fielded. Towards the end of this season a competition for Provincial under 12XV commenced. Skerries lost the final to County Carlow 9-0.
Junior Interprovincial caps were won by our players Sean Thornton and Paddy O'Shea. In January 1970 we erected our first training light just in time for a visit by Mr Roly Meates.
This was our first full season in our Clubhouse and Mr Jack Fulham was employed as steward.
During the season the death occurred of Mr Gerry McMahon, our Hon. Treasurer. Over many years he had given his services to the Club as player, President, Hon. Treasurer, team coach and advisor. In addition to all those offices Gerry McMahon was a prominent member of the Association of Referees. Others who have taken that role were Tom Brangan, a former President of the Club who was President of the Association of Referees Leinster Branch in 1956. Tony Robertson, Vernon McMaster, Paddy Hogan, Des Cashell, Bill Stewart and Nicky Heaney were also members of the Associations of Referees and indeed Jimmy Duff's refereeing was a feature of the game in Skerries in the early days and up to his death in 1966.
This season saw the introduction of a new Cup, The Jenkinson Cup for North East second XV presented by Mr Christy Jenkinson. Not alone did Skerries win the Jenkinson cup but also the McGowan Cup which was played on League basis and went on to win the Provincial Towns Cup and Provincial Towns Seconds Cup.
Under the captaincy of Dara McMahon we beat Edenderry in the first round of the Towns Cup followed by success over Dundalk in extra time, Tullamore and North Kildare in semi-final 5-0. The final was played at Curragh Camp where Skerries defeated Navan 14-6 amid brass bands parading goats and a huge following to bring the Towns Cup back to Skerries for the first time in 19 years. Metropolitan Cup winners, St Mary's seconds defeated Skerries 8-6 in game for Presidents Plaque. Our second XV captured the seconds Towns Cup by beating Mullingar, Drogheda, Dundalk before beating Co Carlow 10-9 in the final.
In this season 1970/71 we were one of three Provincial Clubs to enter the new McCorry (under 19) Cup. We were beaten in the first round by Lansdowne. A junior Inter Provincial Leinster v Ulster was played in Skerries in January 1971 for which we erected permanent railings on Clubhouse side of the pitch. Paddy O'Shea, Jim Dempsey and Sean Thornton represented Leinster during the year.
During the season the De La Salle College (Now Skerries Community College) affiliated to the Leinster Branch and agreed to enter teams in future branch schools competitions.
With Dara McMahon again as Captain, Skerries started the season on a high note by defeating Clontarf First XV by 16-14. That was followed by Blackrock Festival and Arklow Festival where Skerries won the Oval Trophy.
Drogheda won the McGowan Cup and qualified to play in Leinster Senior Cup. In Towns Cup, Skerries beat Navan, Roscrea and Portlaoise and beat Kilkenny in the final staged again at the Curragh. Skerries now played U.C.D. seconds for Presidents Plaque and won 14-6. Skerries had thus become the first Provincial Town Winners to defeat the holders of Metropolitan Cup. Our second team retained the Jenkinson Cup and thirds won the new McGee Cup. During this season we fielded a fourth team.
Dara McMahon had captained his second Towns Cup winners and Michael O'Connor and Terry McDonald had done Trojan work as coaches. David Kinsella, Peter Quirke and Colm Sherlock all played for Leinster Juniors.
The biggest disappointment of the season was the failure of Dunbar to travel for what would have been the 21st fixture between the Clubs following the cancellation of the two home internationals, against Scotland and Wales.
In 1969 the Club had reached an agreement with the owners of the Caravan Park next door to use same as a pitch during the winter in return for an entrance through Club grounds.
In October 1971 the property became available and the Club were fortunate to secure an option to purchase it. The purchase was extremely complicated but was completed in December 1972 for a net £9,000. During the season 1971/72 this field was used for training only and we rented a pitch from Mr Andrew Butler at Loughshinny.
Under the Captaincy of Peter Quirke the standards of play continued to rise. Senior friendlies were played against Clontarf, Terenure and Old Belvedere and also once again in the Blackrock Festival.
However, the McGowan Cup was the prize, as it gave entry to the Leinster Senior Cup. All games were won and we qualified for Senior Cup. On 19th March 1973 Skerries took the field in Lansdowne Road against a star studded St Marys College side to be beaten 18-3. In Towns Cup victories over Enniscorthy, Portlaoise and Athy brought Skerries to a final against North Kildare, which Skerries won 12-11, and this made it three Towns Cups in a row. Skerries subsequently beat Clontarf the Metropolitan Cup holders 22-3 to win Presidents Plaque.
Our second XV again won the Jenkinson Cup while they and our thirds had a good cup run. Juveniles under Frank Callaghan continued to be successful although they had an unhappy experience in the final of under 12 when they were trounced by a much larger Kilkenny side.
The relationship with Dunbar was rekindled when a party of over 60 travelled for the postponed 21st meeting between the Clubs with Skerries again winning the game.
The ditch between the Club and the newly acquired ground next door was removed and work got under way to improve the drainage.
Part of the arrangement in the purchase and re-sale of portion of the property was that the surface water on the proposed Churchfield development would flow to the sea through the Rugby Club and that the Rugby Club would have access to that drain for its pitches.
In view of the number of teams being fielded at adult and juvenile level and use of facilities by De La Salle College it was decided to seek planning permission for an extension with additional dressing rooms and a shower room and a referees room, toilets, entrance foyer and bar facility upstairs. A committee was formed to plan and to capitalise on the success of the Club and to look at the options available into the future.
September 1973 saw the introduction of the Skerries 'Sevens' on the first Sunday in September each year for the 'Jimmy Duff Trophy' presented in memory of the late Jimmy Duff, a founder member of the Club and a Past President, by his brother Tommy. The trophy was usually presented by Mrs Florence Crawford of Belfast, the widow of the great Ernie Crawford, former Irish full back and President of I.R.F.U.
The Trophy was won in first year by U.C.D. and last competed for in 1979 when it was won by Skerries. The competition was dis-continued due to a lack of interest in Sevens.
In 1991 the trophy was, with the permission of Mr Tommy Duff, presented to the Leinster Branch and is now awarded annually to the winners of the Junior Schools Cup Section A. Indeed the Jimmy Duff Cup was won by H.F.D.L.S. in the 1994/95 season.
Under the Captaincy of Colm Sherlock Skerries again won the McGowan Cup which again qualified us as a junior Club for Leinster Senior Cup. In this we were drawn against Terenure College and beaten 17-3. We also played in Blackrock and Arklow Festivals.
In the Towns Cup, Skerries beat Naas, Tullamore and Co Carlow and beat Arklow in the final.
This represented history in the making as the Skerries 4 in a row achieved on Sunday 21st April 1974 has never been equalled.
Earlier that year on 23rd January 1974 Skerries submitted a formal application to the Leinster Branch for Senior Status. An application to succeed required a two thirds majority. In June of the year Greystones application received 13 votes for 11 against Skerries received 14 votes for 10 against. As neither had received required two thirds majority of 16 votes both applications were refused.
During the summer of 1974, a number of meetings were held between the committees of Skerries and Greystones. A number of Senior Clubs considered "friendly" were visited and the support of their committees sought.
The Junior Committee of the branch put a resolution to the Branch Executive Meeting on 29th October 1974 "that Skerries and Greystones play Senior Rugby and lower teams move up". This was carried on a show of hands. As neither Skerries or Greystones were applying for senior status this resolution only required a simple majority. That arrangement to commence in September 1975.
As McGowan Cup winners Skerries entered the Leinster Senior Cup beating Dublin University 13-10 to become the first Junior Club to defeat a Senior Club in the Senior Cup. In the quarter final Skerries were unlucky to concede a try in the last seconds of the match and be beaten by Old Wesley 8-6. Hero of the day was surely Paddy McCluskey at out half who could not put a foot wrong.
The following week it was back to basics with a meeting with The Curragh in the semi-final of Towns Cup. Skerries were well beaten and so ended a marvellous record setting run in the Leinster Provincial Towns Cup.
During the 1974/75 season, our last in junior rugby, we had played 6 senior friendly fixtures.
During the summer of 1975 the building of our Clubhouse extension was commenced by Gerry Halpin for completion by end of year. Both Milo Reddy and Jim Hegarty were involved and the project was completed on time to have an unofficial opening on Sunday 14th December 1975.
In April 1975 the Clubhouse extension was officially opened by Mr Frazer McMullan, President of the Leinster Branch following a game in which Skerries Senior XV played a Leinster Counties selection.
This season we commenced our entry to Senior Rugby under Captain Jim Glennon. Our first game playing senior football, was at Musgrave Park on Saturday 13th September 1975 against Sundays Well. Skerries won this the first senior game 10-9. Skerries had a successful run in the Senior League and were beaten by Clontarf in Leinster Senior Cup.
Our Second XV in their first season in the Towns Cup were beaten 20-0 by Roscrea. However, our 3rd A or Junior 3 team as nowadays called were successful in defeating Co Carlow 9-4 in Final of Anderson Cup.
In previous years an end of season Dinner Dance had been held in the Clubhouse each year. Now that we were playing senior rugby it was decided to invite the President of each senior Club and his partner. On approaching John West, former International Referee and famous after dinner speaker to speak at the function I advised him that it was a "mixed" dinner. "Great" he said "will there be Catholics there as well?"
The dinner is still the only mixed dinner in Leinster Senior Rugby.
After the usual number of friendlies the season, under Captain Barry O'Sullivan with Bill Mulcahy as Coach, got underway in earnest with our first Senior League game at Lansdowne Road against Wanderers. We lost 40-6; we lost to Clontarf 12-10. Drew 9-9 with Clontarf in the second game and awaited the return of Dublin Wanderers to Holmpatrick. In a torrid affair Skerries were worthy winners by 24-16. After a successful season it was Senior Cup time Skerries were drawn against a star studded St Marys College side containing six internationals. On the day Skerries were convincing winners by 16-10 (9-4-77). On 16th April we were unlucky to be beaten by Bective Rangers in the quarter final. The following day our seconds were beaten by Roscrea in the Towns Plate Final.
The season under Seamus McGuinness started with a bang. Our senior team beat Clontarf 21-3; Bohemians 8-0; Old Belvedere 23-13; Greystones 29-7; Armagh 24-7 and that was only the month of September. Little wonder that the Leinster Branch Executive at it s meeting on 4th October 1977 considered a motion proposed by Mr Bill Fraser (Palmerston) seconded by Mr. Brian Cross (U.C.D.) that Skerries be promoted to senior status. On a ballot being taken, Skerries were promoted.
This was Skerries first season as a fully fledged Leinster Senior Club.The Club was again captained by Seamus McGuinness. During this season six adult teams were being fielded together with under 19 and juvenile teams. In addition to two pitches at Holmpatrick there were a further two pitches at Loughshinny.
The season started on a high note with a large party travelling by coach to play Clarkson in Glasgow and Highland at Inverness - both games were well won. Highlight of the season must have been the victory on Sunday 1st April 1979 over Wanderers reigning Leinster Senior League holders 7-4 in the Leinster Senior Cup at Donnybrook. Wanderers were a team of household names yet the scores were level 4-4 at half time. The Skerries forwards dominated the second half and with Robbie McGrath caught in possession Skerries won the ruck and out-half Paddy McCleery dropped a goal to win the match. We were beaten by Old Wesley in the quarter final by 10-7.
In the Towns Cup our second team reached the final and defeated Co Carlow at Arklow 12-7 to win the Provincial Towns Cup for 11th time. Dara McMahon had created a record by captaining 3 Towns Cup winning teams and also winning 5 Towns Cup medals. Others with 5 medals include Des Cashell, Oliver Duff and Paddy O'Shea. Skerries players with four Towns Cup medals include Eamonn McArdle, Joey Sherwin, Colm Sherlock, David Kinsella, Sean Thornton, Peter Quirke and Philip Jenkinson.
Friday 1st December 1979 was our last Annual Dress Dance at the Holmpatrick House Hotel. Changes of managements together with changes in the lay-out of the Hotel meant that these hugely successful occasions came to an end after 14 years.
This season under Captain Colm Sherlock, started with Skerries winning the Jimmy Duff Seven and going the following week to the Blackrock Festival. At that tournament Skerries won their section and defeated Blackrock 3-0 in the semi-final. In the final Skerries were beaten by Garryowen 6-0 in a sudden death after three periods of extra time. Some people said we were robbed! During this season we fielded 6 adult teams and Under 19. After a successful season Skerries were beaten 10-7 by Old Wesley in Senior Cup and our second team was beaten by North Kildare in Provincial Towns Cup. Our third 'A' team was beaten by Balbriggan in Final of Anderson Cup but the following week our third team defeated Portarlington 16-6 in the final of Provincial Seconds Cup.
December 1979 saw Jim Glennon playing for Ireland 'A' v Scotland 'A' at Lansdowne Road. Jim was further honoured when he became the first Skerries player to be capped for Ireland when he lined out against England at Twickenham on 19th January 1980. He thus joined the august ranks of Irish International players, where our Club member Dr Bill Mulcahy has a place of honours with 35 caps, Irish captaincy, and Lions tours to his credit. In more recent time Billy Mulcahy was to gain 'A' caps, Christopher Jenkinson 3 schoolboy caps, Kevin Devlin, Jimmy Dempsey, Brian Higgins, and David O'Sullivan Colleges Caps.
March 1980 saw an unfortunate serious accident to one of our players. A similar accident occurred six years later. No words of sympathy can adequately deal with these situations but the admiration of us all goes to these two young men and their families for the courage and fortitude they have shown.
Michael Murphy was elected Captain for the season. We again fielded six teams and under 19. We were beaten 19-6 by Palmerston in Senior Cup. This was Skerries last season in the Provincial Towns Cup. On Sunday 1st March 1981 we travelled to Roscrea under Captain Gerry McAuley and were beaten 12-9, this was indeed the end of an era. Skerries still hold the record of 11 wins in the Towns Cup and to date "4 in a row" record looks safe for some years to come. During this season the dressing rooms and shower area of the original part of the Clubhouse was re-arranged and re-furbished.
At the end of the 1980/81 season Mr Tommy Jenkinson stepped down and did not go forward for election to Committee. Mr Jenkinson had served the Club as player, Captain, President and Committee member for over 40 years. He remains a Trustee of the Club.
This season Seamus McGuinness was Captain and again we fielded six teams for adults and an under 19. In the Leinster Senior Cup we played Metropolitan Junior Qualifiers, Seapoint and won easily.
The match on the beach had been played in July in connection with the Barn Dance. The beach match had become a tradition in Skerries but it was becoming more difficult to attract international players due to risk of injury.An early season tour took place to the Newcastle-on-Tyne area where we played Rockcliff. On 13th February 1982, Skerries played the first game in Metropolitan Cup against De La Salle.
In November 1981 our President Mr Des Cashell suggested that we ask the Leinster Branch to play first and second rounds of Senior Cup at the ground of top team in draw. This was done in 1984.
Celsius Toye was elected Captain for 1982/83 season. Around this time the New Zealand connection was established through Joe Kelly who was now living in Napier. Over a number of years numerous players from the Marist Napier Club have come to Skerries for a season and Skerries players have made the return journey to New Zealand. This first such player to come to Skerries was Greg Primrose and Skerries players to travel out included Derek O'Leary and Michael Kumnig and many others.
The senior team captain was Cathal Copeland and the Club continued to field six teams plus under 19 and juveniles. This was the first season that the Leinster Branch agreed to have first round game played on ground of team on top of the draw. Skerries drew the current Leinster League holders, Terenure College at Holmpatrick. A stand was erected on the far side of the ground and there was a large attendance. Skerries to everybody's surprise and delight won the game 12-3. In the quarter-final, we drew with U.C.D. and lost the subsequent difficult replay.
This season also saw the appointment of one of our members Mr John Murphy as the first Rugby Development Officer with I.R.F.U. January 1984 saw the appointment of Morrogh McMahon as Club Steward.
Since 1984 the Rugby Club in Skerries has continued to flourish. Captains since then have been:
1984/85: Jim Glennon
1985/86: Paul Jenkinson
1986/87: Gerry Carron
1987/88: Billy Mulcahy
1988/89: Nick Heeney
1989/90: Dean Brassington
1990/91: Mark Jenkinson
1991/92: Christopher Jenkinson
1992/93: Conor McNally
1993/94: Nicky McDonough
1994/95: Billy Mulcahy
1995/96: Billy Mulcahy
Billy Mulcahy has played representative rugby for Connacht as hooker and has also played for the Ireland 'A' team. In addition he has represented Ireland in the Hong Kong Sevens.
Skerries had their first taste of All Ireland League Rugby in the 1993/94 season, when they finished mid-way in Division 4. Last season they earned promotion to Division 3 and in this current season are in position 5 our of 12 at half way stage. Substantial improvements and refurbishment of the Clubhouse took place during the 1993/94 season.
The late eighties have seen the emergence of the 'Old Goats', former players who are continuing to play and tour in such places as Newcastle, Dunbar and Fontainebleau with a regular annual fixture now with the Puffin Gannets from Dunbar.
The current committee under President Billy Murtagh is striving to keep Skerries Rugby Football and its teams to the fore of Irish Rugby, something of which its members and the town of Skerries and surrounding areas can be proud .
It is ironic that Skerries Rugby Club was affiliated to the Leinster Branch in September 1926 and that in this season exactly 70 years on, one of our members, Dr Bill Mulcahy is President of the Leinster Branch.
Midway through the 1995/96 season the I.R.F.U. decided to revamp the sections of the All Ireland League with six teams instead of two to be promoted to Division 2. A keenly contested second-half of the league saw Skerries and Bohemians meet at Holmpatrick in the last match to gain a promotion place. In a tense game Skerries, thanks to Jimmy Dempsey, emerged winning by 12-9 to bring division two Rugby to the Club.
This was a heroic and historical effort by a great team led by Billy Mulcahy and coached by Shay McGuinness and Willie Dawson.
In the same season the Under 20 side was beater in quarter final of Harry Gale Cup while Holy Faith De La Salle were beaten by Kilkenny College in final of Schools Section ‘A’.
The Clubs first season in Division Two with Eamon O’Hare as President and captained again by Billy Mulcahy got off to a flying start with Skerries wining four of the first five games. In all 9 victories and 4 losses were recorded and Skerries finished fourth place missing promotion by one point. The side coached by Shay McGuinness and Willie Dawson reached the semi-final of the Leinster Senior Cup and were beaten in a replay of Bective Rangers. This was Skerries first appearance in a Senior Cup semi-final.
The Under 20 side lost the semi-final replay of the Harry Gale Cup to Mullingar. This side, coached by Gerry Carron, indicated the emergence of a promising squad.
The early part of the season saw the death of Leo Flanagan, an Honorary Life Member, Past President and Trustee of the Club who during his ten year term as President played a major role in the acquisition of the club grounds at Holmpatrick and the provision of our first clubhouse.
Tommy Duff, an Honorary Life Member and a founder member of the Club, who played in the very first fixture also passed away during the season.
It was ironic that Billy Duff, a nephew of Tommy Duff, was President for the season, with Billy Mulcahy as captain.
Our team played in the 14 team Division Two of All Ireland League and had a very successful season finishing in sixth place and the top Leinster side. Captained by Billy Mulcahy and coached by Shay McGuinness and Willie Dawson, they defeated Greystones, St. Mary’s College, Clontarf and Terenure to qualify to meet Lansdowne in the final of the Leinster Senior Cup at Lansdowne Road on 16th May. After a keen and exciting match Lansdowne won 23 -17 and despite the loss the huge following of Skerries supporters celebrated a momentous day and a wonderful season.
Billy Mulcahy continued to represent Connaught and David O’Sullivan represented Leinster scoring the vital try in the victory over Leicester 16-9 in the Heineken European Cup at Donnybrook.
The Under 20 side experience their first season in the J.P. Flanagan League. Soon adjusting to the more competitive game, they in finished seventh place. Coached by Gerry Carron this talented side was mostly comprised of former players from Club Youth sides and Holy Faith De La Salle.
A vast programme of work under the supervision of Tom Ryan commenced on upgrading the floodlights and pitch watering system.
Due to the vagaries of the weather in Dublin 4 on 11th April 1998 the game Wanderers v. Bucaneers in the last series in Division Two did not take place. As a result of a series of subsequent events Division Two for the season had 15 teams ( one extra) and it was decreed that 3 clubs would be demoted in April 1999 to adjust matters.
In early season Skerries suffered a large number of injuries and, as a result, had mixed fortunes. Although many games were lost by small margins we finished third from the bottom and accordingly became the victims of the events in Dublin 4 twelve months earlier.
After five wonderful seasons Billy Mulcahy retired as Captain but vowed to continue playing. He also retired from representative rugby after a long and distinguished career with Connaught, Ireland ‘A’ and the Irish International Sevens side.
Shay McGuinness was appointed coach to Irish Colleges and toured South Africa with that side.
The Under 20 side coached by Gerry Carron fulfilled their earlier promise and in a great season reached the final of the J.P. Flanagan League Cup being beater in the final by Lansdowne 15-7.
For the third season in a row Skerries reached semi-final of Leinster Senior Cup losing to DLSP at that stage.
Division Three of the All Ireland League consisted of 11 teams. Under the captaincy of Brian Higgins a win was registered in the first game against Midleton, however a loss to Corinthians and a draw with Instonians set the tone for a mixed season to finish mid-way in the table.
Shay McGuinness and Willie Dawson retired as coaches at the end of the season after many years of wonderful service to the Club.
Our Junior One side played in the Provincial Towns Cup for the first time since 1980. After an exciting game they lost to Arklow 21-18.
Skerries Community College had a notable double beating Wilsons Hospital in final of Senior Schools final of the Junior Schools (Duff Cup).
Once again the I.R.F.U. decided to reorganise the All Ireland League. Division Four was eliminated and the Leagues now consisted of three divisions of 16 teams each with promotion and relegation between divisions and play-offs between divisions and promotion for qualifying Junior Clubs to Division Three.
Captained by Garett Early and coached by Gerry Carron winning 12 games.
Improvements continued to up-grade the pitch and clubhouse facilities. Major plans are being proposed for a restructuring of the Clubhouse.
This season the club, under the Presidency of Jim Glennon, celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the founding in 1926.
Again captained by Garett Early Skerries played Division Three of All Ireland League. After a mixed season a few vital wins and draws (most notable a win at Bangor 5-3) towards the end of the season kept the club out of the relegation zone.
The 50th Fixture between Skerries and Dunbar was celebrated at Holmpatrick on 1st March 2002. After 50 games the holders of the Shield since 1952 is Skerries 32 Dunbar 18.
Skerries Community College won the Leinster Schools Senior (McMullan Cup) beating St. Columbas 15-8 in Final and qualified for section ‘B’ of Senior Schools Cup where they beat St. Andrews College in first round before being beaten by Roscrea College in a good game.
Postscript : The one name glaringly missing from this paper is that of the author himself. For the many who were part of the club all those years, there will always be a feeling of gratitude towards Sandy. The secretary, who cycled around the town day or night on some errand or other for the club, was synonymous with Skerries Rugby Club. Whether you met people in London, Edinburgh, or any part of Ireland, the first thing they would ask, when it was established that you were from Skerries, was "How is Sandy Heffernan ?" Even my own children, when young were amazed that I knew 'Santy'. It is to be hoped, that, when he reads his own paper on the website, he will decide to continue the story to the present day, and bring great enjoyment to the many fans of the club for many years to come.
1st Sept 2000