In a week that has started with former Munster and Ireland prop Tony Buckley ending his professional career and returning to his boyhood club and debutants to the Ulster Bank League, Kanturk, we take a look at some of Tipperary’s retired rugby stars that have given back to their childhood clubs and rugby in Tipperary.
Alan Quinlan of Clanwilliam Rugby Club in Tipperary Town was Tipperary’s first decorated professional rugby player. Quinlan, a legend of Munster Rugby, earning 27 Irish Caps and narrowly missing out on the Lions Tour of South Africa in 2009, has always been proud of his Clanwilliam roots. He is regularly spotted on the training pitch and during warm ups at Clanwilliam lending some of his vast experience to his fellow clubmen as they prepare for the challenges in the Junior ranks. Clanwilliam had a reasonably successful year, a few wins short of reclaiming a spot in Division 1 of the Munster Junior and were narrowly defeated by rivals Clonmel in the Munster Junior Cup. If they can keep the likes of Alan Quinlan and the latest Clanwilliam clubman on the Irish scene, Tommy O’Donnell, involved with the club, it won’t be long before the Tipperary Town club are back on the map. Quinlan, when not helping out his local club can be seen displaying his rugby knowledge on programmes on RTE, Sky Sports and TG4.
Denis Leamy, an established underage hurler with Boherlahan-Dualla until he committed to a career in rugby, establishing himself in the Rugby stronghold of Rockwell College just outside Cashel. Leamy carved out a very successful career with Munster and Ireland before hanging up his boots due to a hip injury in 2012. Leamy finished with 145 appearances for Munster, winning 2 Heineken Cups and a Grand Slam with Ireland (57 Caps) in 2009 among the highlights. Since retirement, Leamy has eased into the coaching side of things, coaching the forward pack at his own club Cashel as they made the quick jump from Junior rugby to the dizzy heights of Division 2A of the Ulster Bank League where they have comfortably held their own over the past two seasons. Leamy has also took charge of the reins at Clonmel Rugby Club, in which he lead them to, what many might consider, one of the best in their history, by finishing second to now senior club Kanturk, winning the Garryowen Cup and by winning the Munster Junior Cup for the first time in their history. Leamy has brought many traits to Clonmel Rugby that defined himself as a player, professionalism, discipline, consistency and hunger that had been lacking at the club in recent years. If Leamy’s managerial career continues grow in an upward curve don’t be surprised to see him drafted into the Munster scene in the near future.
Trevor Hogan of Nenagh Ormond, never a player to make the back page headlines but always highly respected for the “unseen” work he would do on the pitch always getting the job done but more often than not an unsung hero during his playing career at Munster and Leinster where he picked up a Heineken Cup medal at each club, also picking up 15 Caps for Ireland ‘A’ and 3 full Irish Caps. Hogan’s career was prematurely ended in 2011 due to persistent knee injuries. Hogan, always grateful for the start his hometown club Nenagh Ormond gave him as a youth player; was eager to repay them and in the summer of 2011 he took up the challenge of Head Coach. Hogan was soon leaving his mark, looking to bring Nenagh to the next level, implementing changes, bringing in a more professional approach and new ideas to and habits to the club in order to achieve their goals. Like all change it takes time to take effect and see results. In his first season, Nenagh started brightly but an after Christmas slump, Hogan’s men finished mid table but back he went to the drawing board. Hogan surrounded himself with an impressive coaching team made up of player-coach, Derek Corcoran and former club captain, Mike Kennedy, with that Nenagh started the season brightly, well up the League at Christmas and also claiming the inaugural Cyril Fitzgerald Munster Senior Plate, beating Division 1A side Dolphin in an exciting final. Nenagh continued to play well but a few narrow defeats cost them in the run in. Hogan and his Nenagh troops regrouped again for the 2013/14 season, reclaimed the Munster Senior Plate, beating Young Munster comfortably in the final and continued to pick off team after team as the season went on. There were a few close shaves here and there and a draw against a solid Navan team but Nenagh finished the season off in style with a 7-29 win away to an Ards side that weren’t going to lie down easily. Nenagh, Tipperary’s ‘First Senior Club’ were on the rise again, to Division 2A where they will renew their rivalry with Cashel as they both aim to keep progressing with predominantly Tipperary born and bred players. Hogan will have been immensely proud of his clubs achievements but the thinking cap will be on again this summer as they aim to make a big impression in the All Ireland League Division 2A.
It is no coincidence that the clubs in Tipperary that have recruited the help of the local former professionals are the ones that are reaping the rewards in some shape or form, hopefully this trend continues and more players in the future will come back to the club where it all started for them and help promote rugby in Tipperary.
As preseason approaches its return around the County, we will keep a close eye on all our teams and their progress throughout the season.
Ulster Bank Senior All Ireland League Division 2A:
Cashel and Nenagh Ormond
Munster Junior League Division 1:
Clonmel and Kilfeacle and District
Munster Junior League Division 2:
Clanwilliam, Newport and Thurles
Not to forget Fethard and District, a relatively new club who continue to go from strength to strength, with success in the Evans Cup this year they will look to keep building in 2014/15 season.