It is fairly certain that rugby football was being played in Galway before the formation of the IRFU, but the lack of surviving minutes of meetings or records makes it difficult to pinpoint the actual beginnings of some clubs. We know that in 1886 there were four clubs in existence, Queen’s College (now UG ), The Grammar School, Galway Town, and Old Galwegians. These latter two clubs amalgamated in the 1909/10 season and called themselves Galway Town. They were a successful club. World War I and its aftermath ruled out competitive rugby but in the resumption, in 1921/22 they again won the senior cup and then, for some reason, decided to change the name again, this time to Galwegians RFC.
Henry Anderson became the first president of the newly named club. They used the Galway Rowing and Yachting Club premises as a clubhouse. Their team colours were light blue and they were known as ‘Wegians’. In 1926, they won their first senior cup, and in 1929 became the first team to win it four times in succession. They had no actual clubhouse for many years, moving from the Corrib Club to Richardson’s Pub in Eyre Square to various hotels until November 21, 1963, when they formally opened their premises at Glenina in Renmore, a location regarded by some as being "out in the sticks”.
In 1943, Jimmy Joyce became the first club member to be capped for Ireland. From the mid-fifties to the mid-sixties, ‘Wegians had one of the most successful club teams in the country and during that period, several of their players were rewarded with international caps — Brendan Guerin, Dickie Roche, Johnny Dooley, Charlie Lydon and Tony O’Sullivan, who was known to the French as ‘The Green Ghost’. In later years, Eric Elwood starred many times as the Irish outhalf. Several club members have been elected as president of the IRFU.
Over the century, the club has won many trophies, provided many players to the Connacht team, and introduced countless thousands to the game of rugby. In the 1990s they started a women’s section and today have teams of both genders playing at all levels. They have brought great honour to Galway and great pleasure to many.
To celebrate their remarkable achievements we have today the first ever Galwegians team, formerly Galway Town, 1922-23. The photograph was taken in front of the Corrib Rowing and Yachting Club and shows, back row, from the left: Henry Anderson, Jim Cuthbert, Sam Hill, Geoffrey Kenny, Stanley Studdert, J Donohue, Frank Roche, Mr Mackintosh. Middle row: Dick Gibbons, Michael Whelan, Ray Naughton, ‘Gug’ Kinneen (captain ), Eyre Johnson, and Charlie Morrison. In front are Jack Lamb and Bill Naughton.
Our second image is of the 1957-58 team. Back row: Brendan Guerin, Tony O’Sullivan, Seán Calleary, Tom Tyrrell, Tom Browne, Joe Costelloe, Seán McHale, Noel Corcoran. In front are Johnny Holland, Rynal Coen, Gay Heskin, Seamus McEvoy, Patsy Lynch, Danno Heaslip, and John Callanan.
Finally, we have a side view of Glenina taken from the west c1963, showing the dressing rooms, gym, etc, located in outbuildings at the back. The foreground where the cattle are grazing is now a car park.
Linley MacKenzie is working on a history of the club at the moment, so if you have any old photographs, press clippings, or good stories, you might pass them on to her and remember, if you have images of teams, the names of the players are very important. Linley’s email is [email protected].
On Saturday night, November 20, the club are having a celebratory centenary dinner in the Ardilaun Hotel. There may be some tickets left and if you are interested, you should contact Eric Dunne at 087 223 8643.
Congratulations Wegians, go maire sibh an dá chéad!