The re-entry of Presentation R.F.C. into Munster football in 1968 will probably be regarded by most as the second beginning of the Club. In truth, one must admit that things of this nature that “resurrect”, have never really “died” in the first place. Therefore, it is not correct to say that Presentation were re-founded during the Summer of ‘68, but we can say that they resumed on-the-field activities.
My own earliest memories of Presentation are of those twilight years of the ‘50s and ‘60s when I often sat enthralled in the back room• of my father’s public house in Robert St., surrounded by a gathering of men, who to my childish eyes appeared to be engaged in the solution and fulfillment of some of life’s great mysteries. This annual event took place on November Sundays, when the time-honoured Irish tradition of remembering departed colleagues was adhered to by the men of Presentation. Their duty done in St. Michael’s Church, the gathering would re-assemble in the back-room of O’Gradys Bar for the remainder of the ritual. Each street and alleyway in the Parish would be retraced in minute detail — house by house, flat by flat, and the various connections with the club would be listed family by family. It was there that I first heard the mention of Presentation, and of the exotically, yet quaintly named “Gaubies”, along with a myriad other strange tales of this mysterious game, come way of life, called rugby football. In it’s own way death kept Presentation alive.
Soccer and Rugby
It being the nature of things we grew up, and in the shadow of St. Michael’s we organised and played our street games of football and hurling. Denmark St., Chapel Lane, Todd’s Bow, Pillar Lane, were our Croke Park, our Wembley. We progressed and flourished, until eventually we entered our team, St. Michael’s in a street league—soccer being the favoured sport. After some tremendous battles in Healy’s Field against our counterparts from the “Parish”, we were victorious in both League and Cup. So successful had that campaign been that, seeking new conquests we entered the L.D.M.C.’s Minor League, under the name of Wolfe Tones. The year was 1968.
However, unnoticed by us, the men from the back room had been watching us and taking notice of our prowess. That same Autumn, Presentation mere re-launched on the local scene. The committee that was set up included Rev Fr LBoyle, Tom Keane, Tim Rice, Phonsie O’Donnell, T. Mclnearney, J. Staunton, R. O’Halloran and Jimmy Burke. However, the three main characters of this revival known to us youngsters were Pat O’Shea, President (RIP), Paddy Walshe, Secretary, and John Joe Ryan, (RIP). They were the ones that we saw guiding us through the precarious initial couple of years. It was from these that we picked up the threads of the story, as well as the reins of the club. Playing facilities were provided by Janesboro Sporting and Athletic Club. Eamonn Ryan of Shannon (1960 — Senior Cup fame) came into the fold as coach to the team, and it’s to his credit that he managed to teach a bunch of new recruits to the code the basics of rugby in a very short space of time. At a meeting in the Shannon Arms Hotel, the players elected Pat Powell as captain. A certain amount of confusion ensued over the vote, which was by show of hands — as one intrepid voter used both his hands. The result left Gerry McLoughlin with Shannon, although he turned out for Presentation in many friendlies and acted as a selector for a number of the earlier years.
Presentation returned quietly to the local rugby scene — participating in the Under 18 League and Cup. A comprehensive win over Nenagh b.y. 12-0, with Con Costello scoring two tries, saw them qualify for the semifinal of the U-18 Cup in which St. Marys, with Brendan Foley starring, had a narrow 3-0 victory. At Junior level Presentation had one outing, in which their inexperience was exposed by Young Munster who scored 40 points without reply for a facile win. Interestingly the venue for Presentation’s home games in that season was Pearse Statium, courtesy of Janesboro S.A.C.
Return to the Munster Junior Cup Scene
Season 1969/70, with Ger Mulconry as President, the Club competed at three levels: Junior, U-20 and U-14. At Junior level the revived Presentation had an early season away win in Listowel on a score of 13 to 3 against the locals (Tom McDonagh and Gerry McLoughlin, who played on the wing — being the try scorers). Club coach, and former Shannon stalwart Eamonn Ryan also lined out on that occasion. That same season saw their return to Munster Junior Cup action. The game was played at Garryowen’s ground in Dooradoyle. Young Munster proved too strong for Presentation and ran out winners by 17-0. Playing for Presentation on that occasion was Jim Mangan, the noted cyclist, and a youthful Pat O’Donnell and John O’Grady — both of whom went on to play senior for Bohemians.
Garry Lawlor arrived as club coach in season 1970/71. Despite a tremendous performance in the Cup, Ennis with 2 tries in injury time snatched victory on a 12-6 scoreline. This Junior Cup game was played on March 7, on the back pitch in Thomond Park with a senior game being played on the front pitch.
Having lost to St. Mary’s out in Mungret College in 1972, we had to wait until the following season for our first win in the Junior Cup. This was a tremendous victory in Thurles on a scoréline of 16-8. Mick McLoughlin (a try and 3 penalties) and Pat Collins (penalty) were the Presentation scorers. In the third round Garryowen had a narrow 10-6 win over Presentation, and eventually went out three points to nil against Cork Constitution, the ultimate winners in the semi-final. So Presentation had begun to come of age. That season we also competed in the Webb Cup, and in the Under 20 competitions.
It was during the next four seasons that the club was to enjoy its most sucessful period since it’s revival. The competition that provided the scenario for this success was our old friend the Transfield Cup. Season 1973/74’s Transfield Cup campaign was a prolonged affair. Early season victories over Young Munster (13-9) and St. Marys (10-0), left Presentation requiring only a draw with Shannon to qualify for the final. This game was rearranged for the seventh occasion before eventually being played, with Presentation winning by 15 pts. to 4 pts. As a result of the delay the final against Thomond was played at the end of the season on the day after Garryowen’s runaway victory over Shannon in the Senior Cup Final.
A major upset looked on the cards at half-time, when Presentation held a 10-4 lead The much heavier Thomond pack got into their stride in the second period to enable their side win by 11 pts. to 10. Donal Fitzgerald, who was kicking for Presentation, almost snatched what would have been a sensational victory in the last minute. However, his shot shaved the post, and Presentation had to wait for another day to savour victory. Having ran the mighty Thomond so close people began to notice that Presentation were now a force to be reckoned with.
In that year’s Junior Cup, Presentation defeated Newport, 12 pts. to 3 at Thomond Park, before going out to Ennis on a score of 12-6, aftera3-3 drawn game in Rathbane. The weather proved to be the victor that season, with Presentation having fourteen games cancelled, including the prolonged Shannon saga.
VICTORY AT LAST
So the 1974/75 season was approached with a definite sense of purpose. An early season 10-0 win over Young Munster in the Transfield League, was followed by wins over Ballina, Newport and Shannon, (Kilrush having conceded a walkover), and once again we had qualified for the final. This season things were running to schedule, and the final was set for 12th January, 1975. It was also the Centenary year of the Irish Rugby Football Union. Bruff R.F.C., surprise winners over Thomond in the other half of the draw were to be our opponents in the final. A couple of weeks prior to the final Thomond very sportingly offered us assistance in our training preparations — and the scrummaging practice below in Shelbourne Park was to prove particularly invaluable.
The day of the final was dry, bright and sunny, and a good sized attendance showed up in Thomond Park for the game. Presentation had the advantage of the breeze in the opening half, but suffered an early set-back when Bruff scored a try in the corner, following a blind side break from a scrum. Presentation gradually got back into the game, but found the Bruff defence in top form. Late in the half they were awarded a penalty fifteen yards from the Bruff line. A gasp went up from the crowd when they beheld the unusual penalty. The tactic adopted was known to us as “The Wall” and it involved and elaborate play — reminiscent of American football — in which the ball is effictively hidden. From the move Garry Lawlor was stopped on the line. The resultant scrum brought the inevitable Presentation try. Out-half John O’Grady went on the short-side, catching Bruff off guard, passed to Eddie O’Grady, who had the relatively easy task of scoring in the corner.
At this stage the game was still finely balanced. Bruff for the second half had the advantage of the wind and rain, which had begun to fall. However, they were down to fourteen players, referee Mr Paddy D’Arcy having dismissed one of their number during the first half, Bruff took the lead again withpenalty early in the second half, and the lead until late in the game. The conditions were now against any type of running game. It was also extremely difficult for Presentation to kick downfield due to the wind. Gradually, inch by inch they got to within yards yards of the Bruff line.
Bruff had a scrum, but knocked on, and Presentation now had the put-in. We were gone into time added on. The Presentation pack went for the pushover try. The push was good, and moments later there was elation in the Presentation camp when referee P D’Arcy raised his arm and awarded the score, Frank Ryan being credited with the touchdown. Seconds later the final whistle was blown, and Presentation had won a trophy again, after a gap of over thirty years.
The Presentation team that lined out in that 8-7 victory were:— Eddie O’Grady, Gerry Ryan, Noel Markham, Noel Kirwin, Pat Hickey, John O’Grady, Paudie O’Donovan, Joe McGarry, Pat O’Donnell, Garry Lawlor, Mick Noonan, Mick Cronin (R.l.P.), John Bennis, Frank Ryan, Pat O’Shea (Capt.). Players who had played in the earlier games were Tom Foley, Tony O’Grady, Mick Hehir, Dermot Ward, Tim Cronin and Jimmy McCarthy. The fact that we went out to Bohemians, 6-0, in the Junior Cup could not diminish the celebrations, which went on well into the summer.
Transfield Cup 1975/76
Season 1975/76 saw Presentation relinquish their hold on the Transfield Cup, when they fell to Young Munster on a score of 13-10, at the penultimate stage, having clocked up wins over Shannon (6-3), Garryowen (8-6), Newport (29-6), Ballina (8-6), St. Senans (9-3). This game against “Munsters” was played at Ballysimon in front of a large attendance. Former Presentation player Donal Fitzgerald kicked five penalty goals for “Munsters”, Pat O’Shea with a try and John O’Grady, 3 penalties were the Presentation scorers.
The same fate befell Presentation in the Transfield League the following season. After victories over Shannon (12-10), Listowel (16-0) and a 3-3 draw with Garryowen, we lost to Bruff (4-0) in the semi-final. Bruff defeated Abbyfeale in the final. That defeat by a try to nil was the biggest defeat we had suffered in that competition in four seasons, the best spell the club has had competitively since it’s return.
The undoubted main event of the season ‘1977/78 was the visit of Westside Harlequins from Milwaukee in the U.S.A., the first overseas opposition to be hosted by Presentation. It was an endeavour of major proportion for a club of our size at the time. It involved hosting a party of thirty-seven visitors for three days. Thanks to the help of all the members and friends of the club, our U.S. visitors had a most enjoyable stay in Limerick, which included a number of functions and a civic reception from the Mayor of Limerick, Clir. Frank Prendergast. Old Cresent kindly obliged us with facilities for the game, and were left with a bar drank dry for their trouble. The Presentation hospitality even extended to allowing the visitors win the game 11 pts. to 8. The defection of the home coach to the Americans on the morning of the game was a major factor in this result.
A positive result of this visit was that Presentation finally devised a club emblem, and also came up with a motto, “Honour in Victory, Dignity in Defeat”. On a sadder note the game was refereed by Milo Mclnerney, whose untimely death a month later came as such a shock to his many friends in Limerick and elsewhere.
The following years produced little of note on the Junior Rugby front, as the club were forced to try and rebuild at this level. Spirited performances in the Cup matches, and the odd surprise triumph kept hope for the future alive. A thrashing by Bohemians in the opening round of the Junior Cup in season l984/85, proved to be a blessing in disguise, as this resulted in the club getting a fine run in the Munster Junior Plate. Presentation eventually went out to Tralee in the Semi-Final, after wins over Kilrush, Clanwilliam and Shannon. Having to travel to Tralee on a Thursday evening for the game, only two days after beating Shannon in a replay, proved to be too much of a handicap.
Acquisition of Grounds
The newly elected committee for season 1985/86, under the chairmanship of Garry Lawlor, the club’s President, called an extraordinary general meeting for the 11th June, 1985. The meeting was held in Costelloe’s Tavern. It was to be decided at that meeting whether or not the club was going to purchase playing fields. The subject had been discussed at regular intervals over the years and at this stage it was realised by the clubs mentors that, without a playing pitch of our own, the continued existence of the club could not be guaranteed.
It had been the intention of the original committee in 1968, and of subsequent committees for a time, to build a clubhouse on a vacant plot of ground in Robert St., adjacent to the church. Gradually it was decided that the aquisition of a playing field would be more beneficial than the building of a clubhouse in the middle of a city.
Since our return to the code, Presentation had rented and borrowed fields all over Limerick for playing and training purposes. We “put down posts” in Janesboro’s football ground, the Canal Bank (next to Richmonds grounds), and out the Ballysimon Road. We had also used the grounds of the Redemptorists, Scoil Ide and St. Munchins in Corbally, and Mungret College. Needless to mention all of the local rugby clubs, Bohemians, Garryowen, Old Cresent, Shannon, Young Munster, Richmond, St. Marys, Thomond and St.Senan’s in Shannon Town assisted us with facilities on numerous occasions. This epitomizes the marvellous spirit of cooperation, and the goodwill that exists between the clubs - despite the natural rivalries.
On the fateful June evening, the meeting unanimously authorised the committee to proceed with the acquisition of playing fields. The selected location was an area of roughly nine acres at Rathuard, a short distance outside the city. The purchase was pursed vigorously, and by September we were able to move in. The first game was played on the grounds on Sunday, 8th December, 1985. Kilrush provided the opposition, and Presentation crowned the occasion by recording a 7-6 victory. Presentation’s long- serving Declan Tobin had the honour of scoring the first points, when he converted a penalty. The first and what proved to be the winning try for Presentation, was scored by Ger Madden.
Presentation, like all other Junior Rugby Clubs, have in their time produced quite a number of players who had the ability and skill to grace the game at senior level. It is a natural progression for a player of that calibre to advance to the higher level. Even though the clubs may not like losing their quality players, it is a fact of life, and it is for the betterment both of the players and the overall game of rugby.
All of the Limerick senior clubs have benefited to some extent from the availability of Presentation players. The most well known of our group to go senior was Gerry McLoughlin - we have always claimed him as a product of Presentation, having grown up in the street with the rest of us. He went to Shannon, and further glory, as did his brother Mick McLoughlin. Willie Walshe also spent a couple of seasons with Shannon, and played at out-half for them in the 1974 Senior Cup final. Gerry Ryan, John Bennis, and Paud O’Donovan all wore the colours of the Parish side at different stages.
John O’Grady and Pat O’Donnell went to the other side of Thomond Park to Bohemians. Pat O’Donnell had previously played senior with Shannon, but decided to settle with Bohs. John O’Grady went on to captain Bohs., before having to retire prematurely from the game due to injury. Peter Payne has also lined out at Senior level for Bohemians.
John Hogan played with Old Crescent for a number of seasons. Tom Foley and Jim Kenny also went to the Rosbrien based club. Jim Kenny seemed to have a liking for the south side of town, because he propped with Garryowen for a spell too. Ger Fitzgerald, who played under-age with Presentation later went to Young Munster.
“WON THE CUP, BITTEN BY SAVAGES" by Niall Cantrell
In the days when the telegram was the only means of communication, two of the most dominant teams in Munster Junior rugby in the late 1920s were Limerick club Presentation R.F.C. and Waterford City. The scene was set for a thrilling encounter when the two teams were due to meet in the 1928 final.
The background of both teams could not have been in sharper contrast. The Waterford team was made up with solicitors, bankers, doctors and clergymen while the Limerick team consisted of mostly dockers and builders labourers. The Market's Field was the venue for the final and the attendance was made of a very partisan and vocal local crowd. The game proceeded to get under way and it was nip and tuck throughout until Waterford forged ahead from a penalty kick given as a result of a transgression committed by one Patrick "Nongie" Mc Inerney.
Following a maul, the Reverend Talton emerged with his hands firmly clasped to his backside in an attempt to staunch the flow of blood that was spurting out all over his team-mates. "I've been bitten" he complained bitterly to the referee who as it happened appeared to have seen the same Nongie apply the brutal wound on the Reverend. When the final whistle was sounded the result stood in favour of the Waterford City team. The club President hastened to the post office and dispatched a telegram to his colleagues in Waterford which read "Won the cup but bitten by savages". Needless to say the Presentation team and mentors were bitterly disappointed with the outcome but they were now also faced with the prospect of having to cope with the fallout from the "biting" incident which was going to be reported to the Munster Branch by the referee. Nongie was duly summoned to appear before the green table on Monday night for the club's weekly committee meeting. The question was squarely put to him as to why he bit the Reverend and Nongie's reply in his best Limerick accent was "I did it because I didn't think I'd get caught doing it". The committee was now faced with the dilemma of reducing the odium which was going to result from the Munster branch meeting which was due to take place on the following Friday night.
The club Treasurer was requested to give a report on the accounts and he informed the committee that the club was in the black to the tune of Two Pounds ten shillings and sixpence. Nongie was informed to collect the money the next day and to take himself off to the dentist in Pery Square whereupon the offending molars were to be removed. Nongie dutifully complied and the job was done. Friday night came and Nongie arrived at the Glentworth hotel for the meeting of the Munster Branch. When summoned into the committee room Nongie sat quietly in the chair in front of the members of the branch until one of the members asked him directly if he was the guilty party whereupon Nongie gave the assembled committee members his broadest and now toothless smile. "I couldn't bite nobody, could I, sirs ". The Presentation R.F.C. pride was restored