(An Unsung Hero)
There are probably a fair number of younger members who do not know Vincent, (or Vino to his friends), but those who know him, know what a hidden, sparkling St Marys’ gem he is. Vino has been a major asset to the club for well over sixty years now and still contributes quietly, but importantly in the background.
On the field of play, and off it, Vino is a star. He is a true Marys’ pioneer, a man who is dedicated to his club and helped build it and its reputation by action and example not only on field but equally so off it. Anything that was going on of importance, in the middle of it, with sleeves rolled up was Vincent McGovern. In his highly successful insurance career too, he had an eye out for Marys and many a young player arriving up to Dublin was to be grateful for life, for the help and support he got from Vino.
His vast array of contacts are still used to direct young players arriving in Dublin towards St Mary. Any opportunity in the wider rugby world that may present itself, Vino quickly alerts the club to it. A man with a smile on his face, an acute brain and quick wit, he is much sought after socially. His rugby tales and anecdotes are legendary, holding gatherings spellbound. And he meets regularly with his peer group from St Marys and his old colleagues and friends from other clubs, Leinster and IRFU.
The story of Vino and St Marys, probably really started while he was at school. At St Mary’s College Rathmines he was an outstanding student and athlete, and captained Leinster schools in the season 1950/51. He brought his brilliance with him when he came directly from school to St Mary’s College RFC, then at Kimmage Grove. He became engrossed straight away, and with his pals and teammates of the time, set about fund raising for a move and upgrade of the club. He was to the fore, with his friend Otto Palsic, in organising two highly successful carnivals on the front rugby pitch of his old school in Rathmines. All part of the enormous and successful efforts to get the club to its sparkling, new, own grounds at College Drive.
Meanwhile his rugby career was zooming, as he won a Metropolitan cup medal in 1953, then moved up to the senior team where he thrived at fullback, with his pacey power in attack, a raking boot and uncanny radar in defence. These qualities were to pay dividends for his team some years later. He was recognised by Leinster in 1955, when he was capped at fullback. And in 1958 on the wonderfully popular Joe Fanagan’s famous team, he organised the iron defence from his place at the back, and was a most deserving recipient of a Leinster Senior Cup (LSC) medal. This was the first of many Leinster Senior Cup victories for Marys. At that time a LSC was probably the most prestigious trophy in Irish domestic rugby. The club celebrated long and ecstatically. This was the start of a great propulsion.
Vino received a severe concussion in that earlier Metropolitan Cup final and does not remember kicking the winning penalty. However, it was to have serious after effects. Sadly, that memorable 1958 LSC final was the last rugby game Vino played, for he had had a series of concussions, and was forced to retire when at his peak. He was not to be grounded, however, and so became a senior referee in 1961; following the still extant tradition in the club of refereeing. He refereed until 1965. As in everything else he did, he did it with exactitude, knowledge and sportsmanship; and was highly respected by players, officials and spectators.
Vino continued his involvement in club administration. He also continued his intimate involvement in rugby affairs at the club and was manager of the Metropolitan Cup winning teamin 1970. He then managed the senior team that won the LSC in 1971 with his good friend Johnny Moloney as captain. They remain warm friends today. The club moved again to the needed, more spacious grounds at Templeville Road in 1976, with Vino one of the drivers. This was all part of the development story of St Mary’s College RFC. The opening game when St Marys played an international XV led by Willie John McBride, is imprinted in the memories of all Marys’ men there present. Vino played a large part in assembling that team and arranging the game.
He then successfully guided the senior team to a Leinster Senior League success in 1977, and the same year his team won the Blackrock Festival, open to all senior clubs. This was our golden era; and Vino was at the heart of it.
Soon, he was called to higher endeavours as the club president in 1980/81, and was then appointed as the Leinster Branch representative in 1981 a pleasant duty he discharged to 1989. He won much admiration and made many lasting friends for his ability, work, and his straight, clear communication style. That has always been Vino’s way, he makes friends easily, but also for life.
During that period, he was elected and served as the Senior Leinster Selector (1983 to 1989). This was a singular honourfor him and the club, one that he carried out with immense knowledge, scrupulous integrity, and fairness.
You might have guessed by now, that he would be doing even more, and yes he was, he was playing for St Marys in the Lorcan Sherlock inter Rugby Clubs Golf Cup and was on the successful teams of 1972,1978 and 1982.
He was appointed a club trustee in 2002 and carried out his role impeccably until he retired from it at the end of 2006.
When members look around now at the salubrious and impressive surroundings at Templeville Road, they often take it all for granted. They do not see the ingrained sweat and plan marks in the stones and wood or grass and soil, of the great men like Vincent and his peers; some dead and indeed some like him still living. These men gave all their off time,building the reputation and the edifice that now makes St Mary’s College RFC one of the foremost senior rugby clubs in Ireland. What a deep debt we owe them, yet they looked not for our gratitude nor reverence but for our fulfilment. However, we must salute Vino, his predecessors and his peers. They built a dream. We say thank you Vino, an unsung hero.