Our Lady's Boys' Club

This club is one of Galway’s treasures. It was founded in 1940 by Fr Leonard Shiel SJ at a time when there were no after-school recreational facilities for working class-area boys in the city. The Jesuit Community gave them the use of a clubhouse at the back of the Columban Hall and here the boys were involved in many activities that helped prepare them for life. They were taught loyalty, self-respect, how to help others, and the importance of team spirit. Much of this was through the medium of sport — soccer, swimming, boxing, Irish dancing, table tennis, snooker, etc.

One of the first projects started by the club was the annual camp, where up to 100 boys were taken on a week’s holidays. It was at such a camp in Oughterard that the game of rugby was introduced to the club. A team of boys played against a team of helpers under rules that could be described as elastic. It was a lot of fun and generated much enthusiasm. The year was 1951.

Fr Michael McGrath started coaching the boys and organised a minor XV. Gerry Glynn and Des Kenny became deeply involved and an approach was made to the Connacht branch to have the club affiliated. With the support of Corinthians and Galwegians senior clubs OLBC RFC was affiliated in 1955. In their first season, they competed at under-15, at minor and at junior level. They won no silverware but they were learning. In their second season they improved slightly as they got to a junior semi-final. Since then they have made an important contribution to the game of rugby in the city.

Paddy McDonagh ran the under-16s section, and in 1968 was rewarded with double success in winning the Sevens Cup and the Juvenile Cup. This photograph was taken on Christmas Eve and all the gear had to be washed for the final on St Stephen’s Day. The Sevens team are, back row: Danny Coady, ‘Blackie’ Burke, Brendan Belton, Mikey McDonagh, ‘Domo’ Nolan. In front are Miko Nola, Pa O’Connell (captain ), and Des Deacy.

But there is a great deal more to OLBC than just rugby. It is the oldest boys' club in the country and for almost 80 years it has been moulding young boys, training them, educating them, getting them jobs, helping them in times of trouble, and preparing them for adult life. It would be impossible to quantify what this club has done for these boys, indeed what OLBC has done to make Galway a better place to live in.

As you read this, OLBC is preparing to bring yet another group of boys on the 79th annual camp, and as usual, it is depending on the generosity of the people of Galway to help finance the project. If you would like to contribute to this wonderful cause, send a donation to Jim Cunningham, president OLBC, Liosbán Estate, Tuam Road, or to Our Lady's Boys' Club, c/o The Columban Hall, Sea Road, Galway. Please be generous.

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