When Tullow won the Towns
7 MIN READ
Tullow Rugby club were founded back in the mists of time and re-founded in 1971. Fast forward 45 years and they were still waiting to win the Provincial Towns Cup. They had teams they felt were capable of winning it but didn’t quite go all the way. They lost seven semi-finals. The first final they reached was 2008. They lost it 30-13 to Navan. Their second final, 2012, up against Enniscorthy, they lost 23-17. But in 2017, 46 years after they were founded, they won it beating Skerries 2nds 20-3. After waiting so long, victory was sweet and, just as importantly, it was shared. It wasn’t just a victory for the 15 players on the pitch and the replacements on the bench, it was a win for everyone who ever played, coached or supported Tullow. And, in Tullow, that was everyone.
“‘Red’ Pat Nolan – he was crying like a little baby.”
Will O’Brien (player)
“We started at a young age. We were down at the club from when we were five or six. Sean just loves it. He’s real driven and he wants it to be the best that it can be. He’s very very passionate about the club. Sean was down coaching kids last week and they’re just like ‘oh, yeah, Sean O’Brien coached me’ and they tell all their friends. You can see that each week when he’s down at the club for our games right down from the top to the bottom. He’s a passionate sort of fella.
What’s it like being Sean’s brother? Sean is really down-to-earth, he loves helping out the club. He’s down at the club a good bit. I’m living with him at the moment when he’s down here so that does be interesting. That’s all I can say!
I find everyone just looks after each other. I’ve played in Seniors for 11 years and I’ve played right the way through from minis and I love it. It’s all a big family.
We’ve had some mixed fortunes. I was on the team in 2008 the first Towns Cup Final we’d ever reached and we got beat that year. We had a bit of a slump for three or four years then came back in 2012 and reached another final. But the support stayed throughout the good and the bad and everyone stuck together. We finally landed a Towns Cup last year. We stick together through thick and thin.
“To see the faces of the men who’ve been with the club for years was very special”
It was my third attempt at the final so it was pretty special for me. There was a lot of younger players and obviously it was the first time they’d experienced such a crowd. There was four thousand people there which can be overwhelming but there was three or four of us who have been there throughout the years. We tried to keep them calm and stuck together. After, it was like a weight off our shoulders. Unbelievable experience afterwards to see the crowd, the kids, it was good. A special moment that will always be with us. To see the faces of the men who’ve been with the club for years was very special.
We’re working hard but the support helps massively; it’s an extra man on the field. We’re lucky to have it. We get there but it just brings us to that extra level when we’re down in the dogs and we just fire on.
We’ve got a massive squad this year. Aho Bloomfield is the captain this year and he’s real settled, real calm but he leads by example. Then you’ve got some real loose characters in Shane Rowan and Stevie Smith. We’ve got some good characters but we’ve got some great leaders as well – Kyle Hambridge, Frank Murphy just all quiet lads who really drive it out. I’d say the biggest messer is Shane Rowan – he’d start a row in heaven! You probably can’t put that in can you?”
“I played in five semi-finals and we were beaten in all five”
Pat Nolan ‘Red lad’ (ex-player and supporter)
I played in a few Towns Cups anyway. From 1977 for about fifteen seasons. I played wing forward and number 8 and I ended up, unfortunately for my troubles, at hooker. I was getting too old. I started off at 18 years of age. I actually played in the first team that came out of here that was in 1971. The club had just been reformed by a couple of lads from the Bank of Ireland. In the early years there was no coaching but my first would be Mick Jackman, Killer Jackman.
We’d no grounds. Farmers gave us pitches in that time and there was very few clubhouses when I was playing. We used to tog up at the Tara Arms and we used the showers there. There was one shower for us and one for the visitors. It was basic but at that time that was how it was.
I played in five semi-finals and we were beaten in all five. And of the five teams that beat us, four of them went on to win it. Unlucky. I honestly thought that we’d never win a final. We were nearly fifty years trying to win it. It brought tears to my eyes, to be honest with you, to actually win it. Because we were beaten in two finals as well. Navan had a very good team the year they beat us, Enniscorthy beat us and then we eventually won it. The holy grail.
I had lots of great matches I remember. We used to have a match on Stephen’s Day. Mick Jackman, our coach at that time, brought down a selection of players from Dublin and it was a great day. We’d play that day and we’d have a great night afterwards and have a few.
I’ll tell you the truth, I’m getting more enjoyment out of that team than nearly when I played. Last Sunday I was up there and they’re playing brilliant rugby. Nearly Senior standard. The coaching they are getting is unreal. It’s nearly gone professional. Sean is a big influence. He’s put Tullow on the map. Any Sunday morning there’s a 100 plus kids out there and that’s down to him and Tom and all the backroom team.
“It means more to me than Ireland to beat the All Blacks for Tullow to win that Towns Cup”
Antony O’Brien (supporter)
I was in the Millennium Stadium the day that Sean O’Brien got ‘man of the match’ for winning the Heineken Cup and it was a brilliant comeback by Leinster against Northampton and I’d still put that in the ha’penny place compared to winning the Towns cup and what that meant.
It means more to me than Ireland to beat the All Blacks for Tullow to win that Towns Cup. It’s just that local parochial thing like, you know?
From the time the club was formed, we were there from 71 to 76, then we won the Seconds cup in 1976 and from 77 on we played in the Towns cup. We got pretty close a few times and got to a couple of finals before. But we didn’t win it until last year. We were beaten, I think, in seven semi-finals. It got to the stage I thought it’d never happen. It meant more to guys of my vintage than it did to guys on the field. There was a couple of guys, our full back, Sean Doyle, it was the second game of rugby he’d played for the team and now he’s a Towns cup medal.
It was like winning the Lotto. Every time you’d go to a Towns Cup final, you’d read the programme and there’d be a list of the winners there and we weren’t on it.
“…the referee gives me a red card before the game starts. I’m very enthusiastic. I get over-enthusiastic”
Ciaran O’Byrne (supporter)
I’m a very big fan of the rugby club but lately not as big as I was because of an illness. I only live across the fields, a couple of miles from Tullow rugby club, and I used to cross the fields to come and see these fellas. That’s going back fifty years. If you were seen at a rugby match… …there were lots of things back then that are different today.
I have got great enjoyment out of Tullow Rugby. They go out and play a match and the two sides could be hitting one another and when the game is over everything is forgotten about.
I drive in my car and sit and watch Tullow play in every game. Because every referee gives me a red card before the game starts. I’m very enthusiastic. I get over-enthusiastic. They have good reasons to talk to me at times. They come up to me in the car to stay quiet.
I’ll die happy now. I’ve gone years when I thought we had teams that would win the Towns cup. I didn’t think I’d have to wait as long as last year to win it. Even though I hadn’t fully recovered by God that made me feel a lot better. I wasn’t in the car that day! I was nearly the first man across the field (I was being watched very carefully I was). People thought I’d have a heart attack!
Ah the enjoyment of that day! It really helped me, it helped my health and it was a day I’d waited for a long time. We had good teams. We should have won it before. But it was lovely to win it.
“…that game was won for everybody that ever put on a jersey in Tullow”
Robin Johnson (Tullow RFC youth coordinator)
I’m the youth coordinator for this year. It’s going good, busy, hectic. We’ve some good lads. What have we? Seven, eight, nine under-age teams including girls. Under 13s, 14s, 15s, 16s, 17s, 18 and a halfs, 14 girls, 16 girls and 18 and a half girls and then you go back down to minis. Both my sons play. I was a player for Tullow myself years ago on the wing. My grandfather was one of the founding members. It was founded twice. Founded then re-founded in 1971. My first memory of rugby was a game played out where Mount Wolsey is now so it’s a long time.
As I say both my sons play. They roped me in as Youth Coordinator. It was tough to see the lads to put in all the effort and them go out of the cup but it was brilliant to see them put in the effort and go out and win by the margin that they won by this year. To see people on the sidelines running in that’d put years in playing rugby and never got to that level. As was said afterwards that game was won for everybody that ever put on a jersey in Tullow.
To see the older generation of the club getting onto the field to shake the hands of the players and pick up the cup and all that. As Aho, the captain, said, he’s not from town but he realised coming up to it the significance it meant to anybody who ever put on a jersey in Tullow. Yeah it was a great night, the clubhouse was full and the lads enjoyed it for a couple of weeks. But there was a tradition after a up game in Tullow be it a final, first round, second round, whatever, the lads always had Monday off. They enjoyed themselves and they earned it.
They’re still working hard, there were back early for their pre-season and top of the league. Morris, to be fair to him, the coach he’s taken on the under 18 and a half boys and the under 17s, he gives them an hour and a half every Tuesday night before senior training. So he’s really working for the club and the lads appreciate it and they respect him. He’s good. Then Sean comes down and gives a hand.
Find out more
To find out more about the Provincial Towns Cup click here.