From Club to Country
By Andrew Mc Namara
International Rugby is what every schoolboy player dreams of. To stand shoulder to shoulder with 14 other players from your country is the pinnacle. To receive the adulation and acclaim of the masses that bear witness to your labours on the field is a lifelong ambition. Some international players have a gift bestowed upon them from birth, for others, it’s a more arduous road for the ultimate prize. The determination and commitment of these players has changed little over the years, even in the era of professionalism, and when a player dons an International jersey for the first time, their pride resounds around those that know them. This is no different in Shannon RFC; 20 times our club has stood united in pride, urging, willing our club men to glory. Whether they are part of our club since underage or recent recruits, there is no dilution in the sense of esteem felt as “one of our own “lines out for the first time in a senior Irish side. It all began for Shannon in 1968, 15 years after achieving senior status, when Brian O’Brien began the club’s influence on the National stage. While it certainly wasn’t an avalanche, from then on a steady trickle of Shannon men have honoured their club and country. The British and Irish Lions have also had the presence of Shannon men in their midst. In 1980 Colm Tucker was the first of three Shannon men to tour with the famous side. He was followed in 1983 by Gerry Mc Loughlin and then in 1993 by perhaps Shannon’s and indeed Ireland's most charismatic player, Micheal Galwey. It’s amazing to think that although Shannon has a relative small number of Internationals, compared to other clubs, that on two occasions an Irish side lined out with one third of the team comprising of Shannon players. In 2000 against Italy, Micheal Galwey was joined by Anthony Foley, Alan Quinlan, John Hayes and Peter Stringer in that unique line-up and in 2003 Marcus Horan replaced Mick Galwey in the quintet against Wales.
Not only has Shannon been served well on the senior side, numerous players have played at each of the international levels form youths to schools to ladies and the AIB Club international team. Indeed with the advent of women’s rugby in Ireland, Shannon has been well represented at national level. 2001/02 was another unique season for Shannon when no less than six International sides were captained by players from the club. Two U/19 captains, John O’Connor and Fiach O’Loughlin, the ladies, Fiona Steed, The Irish schools, Eoin Nighil, The U/21 captain Maurice Lawler joined Mick Galwey as he captained Ireland for the first time. Anthony Foley has the honour of being the first club player to captain the Irish senior side in 2001when Samoa came to Lansdowne road, and it is Anthony who is Shannon’s most capped player, just five away from a half century, prior to the 2003 world Cup.
Shannon’s service to the National cause has been without doubt exemplary. Many more Shannon players certainly had the ability to attain an Irish cap, but for reasons of varying degrees of credibility their hopes were dashed. Shannon has also been the home to players who have been capped before and after there time with the club and not only for Ireland. Brian Rigney played for Ireland eight times before he joined Shannon from Greystones. How many Shannon supporters remember the affable New Zealander, Mark Allen? The original “Bull”, long before our own Cappamore man attained the title, played with Shannon during the 1992/93 season and went on to be capped on numerous occasions with the All Blacks. John Langford, who exuded positivity when he played with Shannon and Munster, arrived to these shores with 6 Australian caps to his credit and a wealth of experience that he was only too willing to share amongst his younger colleagues. Even without delving into the management and administration of the International game, Shannon can be proud of their contribution to the national cause and along with every other club in Ireland their often undervalued toil in the national interest will continue unabated for many years.