The All Ireland League: St. Mary's College RFC
1990 to 2006 by Des Daly, Irish Rugby Statistician.
The All Ireland League (AIL) kicked off in the 1990/91 season with the top 19 clubs from the 1987/88, 1988/89 and 1989/90 Provincial League competitions invited to compete in two divisions. Six Leinster clubs completed in the first season. St. Mary’s College RFC had finished the three-season review ranked 1st of the 15 Leinster Senior Clubs so it was game time in Division One in 1990/91. Three seasons later the AIL was extended to involve all 46 senior clubs in the country. Fifteen of these clubs were from Leinster, thirteen from Ulster, eleven from Munster and seven from Connacht. The first division now comprised eleven clubs, the second also included eleven clubs while there were thirteen clubs in Division Three and eleven in Division Four. St. Mary’s College RFC made their debut in the AIL on Saturday 6th October 1990 against Cork Constitution in Cork. The Dubliners lost their Division One opener 9-13. Let history record that Peter MacGiollaRiogh scored St. Mary’s College RFC’s first ever try in the AIL with Steven Hennessy slotting a conversion and a penalty goal.
Ray Hernan elected club captain for a second term; two wins (22-10 home to Wanderers and 12-7 home to Ballymena) in the opening four games and placed fourth in the table halfway through the season; lost all four away games during the campaign including three in Munster (9-13 at Con, 13-15 at Garryowen and 7-11 at Shannon); lost 6-19 home to Instonians in the last (Jan 26th) of eight games; suffered four defeats on the run into the finish to only escape relegation because of a better points difference than Wanderers who were relegated along with Malone; Cork Con win the their first title at Dooradoyle on the last day of the season; at the end of their first campaign St. Mary’s College RFC were ranked 7th club in the land and were the second placed of the six Leinster Clubs now in the AIL.
AIL Stats: Steven Hennessy – 32 points; two tries – Aidan White, Vinny Cunningham, Arthur McEvoy.
Joining from Otago in New Zealand, 31 year old No 8 Brent Pope made an 18-13 winning debut at home to Garryowen on 16th November 1991; John Muldoon had his earlobe ripped off at Young Munster (3-18) by an identifiable player; club found itself in the relegation zone after weeks 4, 6 and 7; forward to week 7 where a win away to Instonians was needed to stay up, this 14-3 won was the first in eight away since AIL began; the following weekend Lansdowne were relegated as a result of St. Mary’s College RFC’ failure at home (10-11) to beat Cork Con in the final game. And now you know why Lansdowne have never lost an AIBL game in eight visits to Templeville Road.
AIL Stats: Steven Hennessy – 37 points; two tries – Derek Dowling, Steve Jameson.
Nicky Barry arrived in from Garryowen; Jim Curran and Kevin Conboy began their St. Mary’s College RFC careers as senior team management; after losing the opener 18-21 at Stradbrook the club went unbeaten in six games and led the table going into final round; for safety reasons, the IRFU moved the Young Munster game to Lansdowne Road. St. Mary’s College RFC lost this decider 14-17 before an attendance of 13,100 according to the IRFU; others said it was nearer 17,000; Brent Pope was sent off by referee David McHugh during the game; away in Cork to Con in February, St. Mary’s College RFC got their first win (12-11) in seven AIL visits to Munster; at the end of third campaign St. Mary’s College RFC were ranked the 3rd club in the land and were the first placed of the eight Leinster clubs now in the AIL.
AIL Stats: Aidan White – 94 points, highest in the division; seven tries – David Wall, the most tries in Division.
Victor Costello, after much head hunting by Declan Coleman, enlisted from Blackrock; at home to Cork Con, Kevin Potts was dismissed by a Welsh referee for retaliation after David Corkery persisted in kissing him at each maul situation; after another acrimonious game at Young Munster (lost 3-18), St. Mary’s College RFC produced video evidence of Peter “The Claw” Clohessy stamping on captain Steve Jameson; lost three games and then won three games and then won three on the trot (two of them at home to Leinster clubs); this season was the first time that the Shay Deering Memorial trophy was played on an AIL date; Garryowen won 13-12 at Dooradoyle to retain the bust for fifth consecutive year; the club were in the relegation zone after weeks 5 and 7; at the end of the season beat Shannon 22-18 at Templeville for the first time.
AIL Stats: Nick Barry – 65 points; three tries – Tony Gillen.
Popey moved across the Liffey to play with Clontarf and Aidan White went west to Corinthians; Greg Maher started his first of three seasons as first XV manager; after opening loss (6-20 away to Shannon), won six on the bounce but never topped the table; along the way there were two wins in Cork on successive October weekends and a first win (21-19) in four fixtures with Young Munster.
AIL Stats: Nick Barry – 57 points; three tries – Gary Halpin.
The professional era (the game goes “open”) in rugby union appeared on the horizon; Denis Hickie motored in from UCD after winning his Colours as a first year student; the first time in six seasons to win opener (beat Old Belvere 24-12); won the opening four games and led the table for the first five rounds; managed no victory in final four games; the IRFU decreed that there would be no relegation from any division as a decision had been made to increase the participating clubs from 45 to 49 and to enlarge Division One from from eleven to 14 clubs; Steve Jameson against Blackrock College (11-7 away win) played in his 50th consecutive AIL game; for the first and only times, all four Munster clubs occupy the top four table positions at the completion of ten rounds in Division One.
AIL Stats: Nick Barry – 38 points; three tries – Malcolm O’Kelly and Denis Hickie.