Did you know today is Connacht Rugby's 133rd birthday? Our Senior Marketing Manager Nicola Barrett has been looking back on our history and some of the major landmarks that have brought us to where we are today.
The story of Connacht Rugby began on the 8th of December 1885 when six fledging clubs came together in Corless’ Burlington Dining Rooms, 27 Andrew Street and 6/7 Church Lane, Dublin after the first interprovincial match between Connacht and Leinster. The six clubs represented at that meeting were Ballinasloe, Castlebar, Galway Town, Galway Grammar School, Queen’s College Galway and Ranelagh School Athlone.
Dr. Richard Biggs, Headmaster of the Galway Grammar School was invited to become the first President of the Connacht Brand of the IRFU.
Their ambition? To grow the game of Rugby in Connacht and to provide a platform for our best talent to shine at local, provincial and ultimately international level. Since then little has changed in terms of the aim of everyone involved in rugby in Connacht, only the rugby landscape itself has changed.
In the early days, the growth of the game in Connacht was driven by a handful of schools who were playing rugby. As the decades progressed, some competitions had to be abandoned during World War I and also during the War of Independence. Post Civil war is pinpointed as the era when the game really began to take off in the West. Henry J. Anderson was the first Connacht person to play for Ireland in 1903. Later, he became President of Connacht Rugby and in 1927, opened a new sports facility called ‘The Sportsground’ – which remains the home of Rugby in Connacht today.
The Interprovincial Championships were first played in the 1946/47 season. The competition was very successful for the mindset it built up in the provinces, and for the opportunities it offered good club players to make themselves known on a national stage. There were also occasional games against teams from Fiji, Canada, Western Samoa, Argentina, Spain, Australia, and New Zealand held at The Sportsground.
When the game turned professional in 1995, supporters, crowds and the numbers participating in the game began to grow – as did the number of clubs opening and thriving across the province. Today there are 26 clubs affiliated with Connacht Rugby.
There have been highs and lows throughout the rich history of Connacht Rugby, ranging from the Club risking near extinction in 2003, to an ultimate high of Connacht Rugby winning the PRO 12 Trophy in 2016. One thing that has remained a constant is the unwavering support of our fans, schools, clubs, players and partners. As we embark on a journey to inspire a new Connacht, shining a light on all that is great about who we are and where we are from, we have exciting and ambitious plans for the future. A €30m redevelopment of The Sportsground, continued hard work and dedication to grow our numbers at a grassroots level, supporting our schools and clubs, fuelling our Academy’s growth and driving continued success at a Professional level is to name but a few.
On this the 133rd birthday of Connacht Rugby, we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their continued support and look forward to many more successful years to come.