Sparks Rugby Football Club

The Connacht Junior Cup was donated by a man called Senior. He was Alfred Senior, professor of chemistry in UCG from 1891 to 1918. The cup was first played for in 1905, and as Ralph O’Gorman says in his wonderful book entitled Rugby in Connacht, the event always had a unique culture, it was competitive and unpredictable, and had a wide geographical spread of participating clubs.

Some of those in the city had names like Galway Town, City of the Tribes, The Temperance Club, Wanderers, Our Lady's Boys Club. Rovers, which was also known as the Dockers, was an important club and won the trophy many times. Salthill RFC put out a team in 1931, but there followed a split in the club and the breakaway group called themselves Bohemians. Bohemians beat Salthill in the 1932 final, (wouldn’t you love to have been at that game ) and after that, a truce was declared, they re-united and Salthill won the cup the following year. The senior clubs such as Corinthians, Galwegians, and UCG also had junior sections.

Another junior club known as ‘Sparks’ was essentially made up of players who worked with the ESB. Harry Lupton was one of the chief organisers in the club, and in the late 1950s, he decided to put a minor team together. They came from different parts of the city, they were probably the only Sparks minor team ever, they had no jerseys and had nothing to do with the ESB, but they made it to the final where they were beaten 11 – 3 by UCG.

The team was, back row; Paddy Fox, Rosemary Avenue; Martin Newell, Newcastle; Robert Kavanagh, Canal Road; Eamonn Newell, Newcastle; Ronan Gill, Walsh’s Terrace; Matt Hackett, Prospect Hill. Middle Row; Brendan Newell, Bohermore; Gay Copperwhite, Helen Street; Luan Duffy, Salthill; Pat Sweeney; Christy Murray, Presentation Road; Johnny McNally, Fr Griffin Road. In front are Paudie Mannion and Mick Hackett, Prospect Hill. Martin Newell later became a famous Gaelic player who helped Galway win three All Irelands in the 1960s. At the time of the ban he was not allowed to play rugby, so when he did, he played under the name Martin Leonard, Leonard being his middle name.

In last week’s column, we mentioned Ballsbridge in Dominick Street as possibly being named after an engineer called Ball. Brian O’Carra was on to say that in fact the name is derived from the Irish ‘Droichead Maol’. There were three names in Irish for bridge, the first being ‘Cish’ as in “Móinin na gCiseach” and this denoted a small footbridge, sometimes over a boggy patch. The second was ‘Droichead Maol’, a flat platform with no walls, often over a shallow river. This was translated as ‘Bald Bridge’ and evolved to Ballsbridge. The third name was ‘Droichead’, the full bridge as we know it today, complete with parapets. Brian has seen the Dominick Street Bridge referred to on an old map as “Droichead Maol”.

Our thanks to Paddy Fox for today’s photograph.

The Old Galway Society invites you to attend its next talk tonight, October 10 at 8.30pm. The talk, by speaker Michael Conneely, is entitled “The Old Galway Bay – a Lady in Waiting’, and will take place in the Mercy School, Newtownsmith, and all are welcome. The title of the talk has been changed from the original calendar of the society but can be guaranteed to enthral nonetheless.

Galway Archaeological and Historical Society also has a lecture on Monday October 14, entitled "The Tribes of Galway - Their Galway City footprint", to be delivered by Peadar O’Dowd in the Harbour Hotel, Dock Road, Galway at 8.00pm, more information may be had at And finally, An Taisce’s lecture "Leather Wings and Bushy Tails" by Dr Kate McAney will take place on Wednesday October 16 at 8.00pm in The Ardilaun hotel.


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