Peter Smyth (Smythy)

Peter Smyth


The Smyhy, a mighty man is he,

With large and sinewy hands;

And the muscles of his brawny arms

Are strong as iron bands.

That Longfellow quote from the Village Blacksmith could well have tones of our Peter (Smythy) Smyth, however far wider parameters, does our Smythy span, having also immense kindness and prodigious leadership and intellectual capacity.

To all in the club, he is Smythy, seldom Peter and indeed, in the rugby fold, players seldom keep their christened name, if it is short it is lengthened it and if it is long it is shortened or some derivation of it is used. A surname or a Christian name may be the chosen one, so he is Smythy. It is probably a form of acceptance. In fact, when Peter first joined St Marys he was fascinated by the nicknames there, Banana, Spike, Titus, The Rat and such. He was so taken by it that soon he became expert himself at divining an apt synonym. Very many players over the past 16 years have been happy to earn a Smythy Alias. Indeed, he got an extra one himself with ursine railway connotations???

There is no person at St Marys who has done more for rugbyand club development here over the past two decades. He is a phenomenon and for us irreplaceable. Smythy has been an outstanding player, leader, coach, strategist, recruiter and inspiration for all. He is a winner and with him, we arewinners.

Seeing him out on the training pitch for hours on ice-cold, windy, sleety winters’ nights, gives a sample of the work and dedication he lovingly administers to his players and the club, this is reinforced by observing him pitch side during matches, as he exhorts and cajoles his team and plots and charts the way to success. However, that is not the end of his dedication. He goes home after these sessions and spends many hours, sometimes sitting up in his bed late into the night, making notes and studying video coverage of games, over and over again. Peter never tells of this work, he never seeks praise nor does he complain, he just does it excellently

It is remarkable, for countless efforts by other clubs and organisations have been made to lure Peter away from St Marys. Very generous offers have been made to him, but he remains. He and his family are steadfast Marys deep down. Indeed, Jimmy and Pamela, Peter’s parents have also contributed most munificently to the club and all his family play their part in club life. Pamela’s passing has been a great loss to all. Gillian, Peter’s wife too, has been an important support to Peter and the club. Peter recalls Gillian saying, after noting his immersion in the club: “Well, if you cannot beat them, join them”. And she did.

Peter, as a player and a coach, has always been greatly liked, deeply respected and admired. He has a profound sense of fairness and a fine sense of fun and adventure and a quick wit that no doubt helps him in his profession, as a teacher at Blackrock College. On a number of occasions, he has spoken at the annual club dinner and other events and held spellbound his audience, showing perception, knowledge and wit. Also,on the sad occasion of the loss of his first son, Peter, he showed the most remarkable fortitude and sensibility in his wonderful eulogy.

For Peter his biggest thrill at Marys has been seeing many of the lads whom he has coached and developed, being successful and of course winning the AIL in 2012. He fondly talks of the Sweeneys, Sextons, Brophys, O’Flanagans, Hudsons, Nasher, Darragh Fanning, Jack Mc Grath and others. Of course, he has the rare ability to be able to socialise with, yet hold the respect of his players. Gillian and he have a close friendship with Caroline and Richard Sweeney; as he has with many of his old Rock School friends.

A Legend’s Progress

Peter V Smyth was born in 1977. He remembers back to 1982 when his dad Jimmy was manager of Blackrock College RFC senior team and the players were regularly in house and some like the great Willie Duggan (up from Kilkenny) often staying over. Rock won the senior League and cup double and centenary trophy that year and young Peter remembers the wonderful party they had in the house. From then on, it was rugby all the way; starting with the rough and tumble with his two brothers James and Stuart and then when he went to Willow Park in 1985 it became a major love of his life. He started off as a scrumhalf but when an U12, Hugh (Hush) Maguire (a former prop and coach at Marys) decided he would be better suited to hooker and Peter loved it. He was on an U13 team that won the Holy Ghost Cup (a prized trophy between all the Holy Ghost Colleges). His captain was Barry Gibney, later to be his captain on JCT and SCT teams and they remain the closest friends. In 1993, ironically, his JCT beat St Marys in the final. He was part of a famous group(including Bob Casey and Leo Cullen) that won the Leinster Senior Schools’ Cup in 1995 and 1996. Peter of course was a schools’ international and later a senior Leinster player from 1998 to 2004.

After School !

He joined Blackrock College RFC from school in 1996 and while there, he won two Mc Corry Cups, Two JP Fanagan Trophies and Two All Ireland U20s Trophies.

He joined St Marys from Rock in 1998 and in 2000, he was hooker on the triumphant AIL winning side.

In 2001 to everyone’s consternation, Peter was diagnosed with a serious tumour. He was operated on; fortunately, it proved to be a benign tumour and he made a total recovery.

When almost everyone else would have cosseted themselves, Peter got back to training and played again. He went to Rotherham to play professionally for the season 2003-04. He was so badly missed; his family and many at Marys made special efforts to get Peter back. Mirabile dictu, he returned to the club for 2004-05 season, won a Leinster Senior Cup medal and the team gained promotion (under senior coach, Steven Hennessy) back to the 1st division. How could young players not be inspired?

He continued to the present, playing on and off; but coaching became his main goal and he formed a marvellous bond with Steve Hennessy. He has a level 3 coaching badge, a very rare qualification for a club coach. Of course, his dedication paid off when he coached the senior team to the club’s second AIL title, with a team of endogenous players that he had developed. This made it special. Here is a man who has attained every honour in schools’ and domestic senior rugby.

During all this rugby, Smythy had not forgotten his career and in 2007, he entered UCD and completed a BA degree. In 2010, he took up a teaching post at his dear alma mater, Blackrock College, there he continued his studies and attained his Higher Diploma in 2012. Meantime he has coached the Blackrock School SCT to outstanding successes, while continuing as senior coach at St Marys. He takes an interest in rugby at every level and every aspect of club prosperity.

He is not pretentious or aloof, he is never arrogant or gloating, he is a warm friendly ordinary man, but he is a very special Marys’ Man. He is SMYTHY.

D O’Brien

October 2014.