Well-known Galwegian and former Irish Rugby Union president, Don Crowley, passed away this week.
One of seven Galwegians to hold the prestigious post at IRFU headquarters, Don spent a life-time involved in the game he loved both as a player and an administrator.
A Galway City native educated at The Bish, Don was a distinguished open-side flanker during his playing career. He won a Connacht Schools Senior Cup medal and captained Connacht Schools XV before going on to study engineering at UCH winning a Connacht Senior Cup medal. However, at club level he would go on to have a life-long association with Galwegians, with whom he also won a Connacht Junior League medal.
After hanging up his boots, Don retained his involvement with Wegians where he became a club legend and one of its greatest ambassadors. He had the honour of being President of Galwegians during the famous club tour of Canada in 1977. After serving as club President, he then went on to serve his province in a lengthy and distinguished career. His administrative talents saw him serve as Hon Secretary of the Connacht Branch from 1981 to 1989, before being elected Branch President for the 1993/1994 season.
At national level his abilities were soon spotted, and he was first elected as a delegate to the IRFU Committee in 1987/88. He would sit on a range of various sub-committees, notably the Charitable Trust for 11 years. In 2002/03 he achieved a personal ambition when he was elected to the highest office in Irish Rugby by becoming President of the IRFU. Quoted at the time, he said: “I am very proud on a personal level and also for my club Galwegians and the Connacht Branch. After my very enjoyable playing career, I was very happy to serve the game at club, provincial and national level.”
That year his club Galwegians held a celebratory dinner in his honour with more 300 friends and club colleagues attending the memorable occasion. It would also prove to be a momentous season as the fate of Connacht rugby and its funding was under serious threat from the IRFU at the time. It was a hugely difficult time for the Galwegian coming as it did during his presidency, but with his stewardship, and strong public backing from the grassroots rugby community, the province’s professional status was preserved.
A hugely popular man, Don’s efficiency and personality made him perfect for the role of liaison officer to major touring teams coming into Ireland down the years, including the All Blacks, Australians, South Africa, the Barbarians, Italy, Canada and Fiji.
Galwegians' president Frank Kinneen paid tribute to Don: “Don Crowley ..our incredible statesman, life-long member of Galwegians, and an absolute gentleman. May he rest in peace.”
Off the rugby field, Don, the engineer, spent many years working in Africa where he met his wife Vicki. Together with their children, they lived in Sierra Leone, Cameroon, West Africa and Malta before returning to Galway in 1970 where he immediately continued his rugby career with Galwegians.
Don is survived by his loving wife Vicki and children, extended family, and the many rugby friends he made throughout the world.