Dublin University, founded in 1854, was the first organised Rugby Football Club in Ireland. Students at the University had first learnt the game while at English Public Schools. Other clubs which were formed at the time and are still in existence include, Wanderers founded in 1869; Lansdowne (1873); Dungannon (1873); UCC (1874); Co. Carlow (1873); Ballinasloe (1875); NIFC (1868); Queen's University (1869).
Ballinasloe and Athlone amalgamated in 1994 to form Buccaneers.From 1874 to 1879 there were two Unions. The Irish Football Union had jurisdiction over Clubs in Leinster, Munster and parts of Ulster; the Northern Football Union of Ireland controlled the Belfast area. When the first International was played against England in February 1875, the teams were twenty a side and the Irish team included 12 players from Leinster and eight from Ulster. The first fifteen a side match was in 1877 and the first Munster players were chosen in 1879.
In 1879 the two Unions agreed to amalgamate on the following terms:
(i) A Union to be known as the Irish Rugby Football Union was to be formed for the whole country.
(ii) Branches were to be formed in Leinster, Munster and Ulster.
(iii) The Union was to be run by a Council of eighteen, made up of six from each province.
The Council was to meet annually. The Council of the Union still meets annually, but the day to day affairs are managed by a Committee comprising a President, two Vice-Presidents, the immediate Past President, the Honorary Treasurer and nineteen members. In 1885, twenty-six Clubs were affiliated to the Union of which ten were in Ulster, nine in Leinster, seven in Munster. The Connacht Branch was formed in 1886. There are presently 60,000 (approx.) players in total in Ireland. 56 clubs are affiliated to the Ulster Branch; 71 to the Leinster Branch: 59 to the Munster Branch and 19 to the Connacht Branch. In addition there are 246 Schools playing rugby, Ulster (107), Leinster (75), Munster (41) and Connacht (23).
There is a National League of 50 Senior Clubs.
The Union owns grounds at Lansdowne Road at which International Rugby and Soccer matches are played. The ground is also home to Wanderers and Lansdowne Rugby clubs. Developments in recent years have added greatly to the seating capacity and the ground now holds approx 50,000. The Union also owns Ravenhill Park in Belfast, Thomond Park in Limerick and a number of grounds in provincial areas that have been rented to Clubs.
There is a Branch of the Union in each Province which s managed by a Committee representative of the Clubs in that province. The function of a branch is to regulate the affairs of its Clubs and Schools and to organise Interprovincial matches, Club competitions and Club matches. The Interprovicial series that is played before Christmas each season provides a useful series of trial matches for the Irish Selectors.
It is a sad fact of everyday life that people suffer personal injuries through accidents in their homes, workplace, on our streets and roads and also in the pursuit of leisure activities and sports. In this regard rugby is no different from any other contact sport and unfortunately player injuries occur from time to time. Such injuries can be of a very serious nature, resulting in permanent disability in some cases.
The Irish Rugby Football Union Charitable Trust was formed in 1978 to assist severely injured rugby players in their everyday lives, and help to restore their confidence and independence.
There are currently 33 seriously injured players registered with the Charitable Trust in Ireland, most of whom are wheelchair bound and have some form of permanent paralysis.
The support provided by the Trust takes many forms and includes financial assistance for medical, nursing and caring expenses, home alterations, education and training costs, provision of wheelchairs and specialised equipment together with motor vehicles and vehicle conversion costs. The Trust also maintains regular contact with each injured player and their families.
Over the past few years the average annual cost of financial support provided by the Trust has been approximately €200,000. This is partly funded by direct grants from the IRFU along with various fundraising campaigns and donations. Fundraising events include sponsored walks every two yeas to coincide with Lions tours and the Rugby World Cup, golf tournaments, sports quizzes and gala dinners on the eve of a home Six Nations match along with the Friends of the Charitable Trust scheme.
The Friends scheme is important to the Trust as it provides a regular income from subscriptions with membership currently in excess of 400. A Friends scheme for clubs is also in place with each member club receiving a Friends plaque for display in their clubhouse.
The IRFU monitors the Trust through six Trustees: Ronnie Dawson, Don Crowley, John Hussey, Roly Meates and Jimmy Nelson.
The day to day affairs of the Trust are administered by a sub-committee currently comprising: John Callaghan (Chairman), Cliff Beirne, Ollie Campbell, Nicholas Comyn, Billy Dawson, John Doherty, Gerry Drennan, Joe Gallagher, Leo Galvin, Stan Huey, Keith Mangan, Pat O'Connor, Dr. Noel O'Mahony, Mick Quinn and Michael Whelan.
The IRFU Charitable Trust is registered as a charity in the Republic of Ireland under Charity Reference CHY6120. In Northern Ireland the charity has a Registered Charity number XR87763 and is registered as the IRFU Charitable Trust (Northern Ireland) to take advantage of Gift Aid tax concessions.
STRATEGIC PLAN 2013-17
It is with a sense of realistic optimism for the future that the Irish Rugby Football Union launches its Strategic Plan 2013- 2017.
Our two previous Plans, covering the last eight years, were instrumental in driving Irish rugby to the current levels across all strands of the game.
At the time of printing (November 2013) there remains a lot of debate about the future of one of our premier competitions the Heineken Cup. However, while the negotiations on the future of this great competition are on-going it is incumbent on us to proceed with our plans for the future of our game.
The outcome of the on-going discussions may result in an amendment to this plan, but the overarching ambition, goals and targets for the development of Irish rugby must remain.
As the Governing Body for rugby across the island of Ireland and following almost two years of research and consultation with stakeholders, it is our collective resolve that this next stage in our vision for Irish rugby should be titled:
Pat Fitzgerald, IRFU President Finbarr Crowley, Chairman