Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Irish Club Rugby Profiles by Mark Strange : Part 1 - Clontarf Rugby Club

 Introducing a new series of posts by guest contributor Mark Strange featuring a different Irish rugby club each week.  

Mark recently appeared on The Harpin On Rugby Podcast to preview the series.

Part 1

Clontarf Football Club were founded in 1876 and plied their trade for the first 20 years of their existence at the Vernon Avenue grounds before moving to their current home Castle Avenue in the D3 area of the east of Dublin in 1896. 

They are one of the very few remaining rugby clubs in Ireland with the unique ‘FC’ suffix as they were founded before either the Irish Rugby Football Union or Football Association of Ireland.
‘Tarf are most famous and recognisable for their red and blue hooped jersey and club history tells us that these colours were derived from the local boat club whenever they formed. They have had these colours ever since and they are synonymous with the Bulls. The bull which adorns their badge is largely believed to be derived from the district of Clontarf which in Irish is Cluain Tarbh which translates as Meadow or Field of the Bull. Another interesting theory is that the sound of the waves crashing into Dublin Bay sounded like a roaring bull. Whichever story is the truth, the badge and accompanying moniker is famous in Irish club rugby and Castle Avenue has garnered the nickname of the ‘Bull Ring’. The grounds have always been an intimidating place for opposition sides to visit on the pitch but a warm and welcoming one off it.

Whenever I think of Clontarf rugby, I don’t just think of the club colours but also a sponsor that for many years adorned the front of the jersey – Dublin Port Company. Although, the club has recently changed sponsors, the partnership between the two is similar to that of Liverpool FC and ‘Carlsberg’. Many a ‘Tarf man has gone on to wear the blue of Leinster and green of Ireland with the Ireland scrum currently anchored by two men who have togged out at the Bull Ring – Cian Healy and Tadgh Furlong. 

The club’s most recent international is a man who has represented the blue, green and now red of Munster and that man is Joey Carbery Carbery is a perfect example of the All Ireland League being a springboard for higher honours. The Auckland-born out-half was only 20 years old whenever he burst into view of the wider Irish rugby public with a scintillating performance in the victorious 2016 Ulster Bank League final victory over Cork Constitution. He made his Ireland debut later that year in the famous win over the country of his birth in Chicago.

2016 was the club’s second All-Ireland League success after they lifted the trophy in 2014 which was an historic year for the club. A bumper crowd packed into Castle Avenue a week after their league success to witness a remarkable 43-42 victory over a Barbarians sided filled with international players to mark the 1,000th anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf. The battle effectively ended the reign of the Vikings and Norsemen in Ireland. This was not the club’s first notable victory over a touring side either. In 1966, they handed Wellington Athletic Club their only defeat on their world tour which included games against Blackheath and Cardiff. 

So, plenty of history to adorn the walls of the clubhouse and the current squad are hoping to add another chapter to the long story of one of Ireland’s oldest rugby clubs. Head coach Andy Wood and club captain Matt D’Arcy will be hungry to lead the current squad to more success in Division 1A whenever club rugby is able to kick off again. With five senior men’s sides plus the U20s, women’s side – captained by Clio Hughes – minis, youth and the Bulls Additional Needs side raring to take the field again, the Bull Ring will be abuzz on match day in the near future. Let us all hope that that day is sooner rather than later.

With many thanks to Clontarf FC Chairman of Marketing and PRO Sam O’Byrne for providing information for this article.

Next week Mark will profile Dublin University

Mark Strange (@realmarkstrange) : I am a freelance sports writer who has been published in soccer, rugby and baseball. I am also an avid fan of ice hockey and just returned last year from a year living and working in Vancouver. I previously played and was PRO for Randalstown Rugby Club before a knee injury cut me down in my prime! I became a Leinster fan when I was younger due to a certain Felipe Contempomi and I am the only blue in a sea of white in Ulster.


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Series lead photo taken from tallaghtrugby.com


Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019