1930′s and 1940′s

A Cherished Alliance Between Towns Begins

Around 1933 the club went into abeyance for several seasons. However, Rathkeale were flourishing at the time, under the captaincy of Moss Fennell and the keener Newcastle West players threw in their lot with the neighbouring town. Rathkeale in fact had the honour of being the first Munster club to affiliate with the I. R. F. U., in 1874/75. Their grounds were on the banks of the Deel. Among their large panel of players were Moss Cowhig, who led the side when Moss Fennell went to the Spanish Civil War, Jimmy McGrane, Paddy Carlon, J. J. Lynch, Mick Healy, Mick White, Paddy Lynch, Gerry Madden, Mick Giltinan, Jimmy Ahern, Martin Tracey, Jack Killackey, Dan Johnson, Larry Walshe, P. Stephenson, Denny Reilly, Jimmy Traynor, John Fuller, Pat Cahill, Eddie Roche and Askeaton men, John Culhane and Jack O’Mahony.

Mossy Curtin, Moss Dee, Larry Curtin, Tom and Matt McCoy and Timmy Mulcahy, from Newcastle West, played regularly with this side  and indeed, laid the foundation of a cherished rugby alliance between the both towns. Though “auld enemies” in other codes, Rathkeale rugby players down through the years, gave sterling service to Newcastle West.

Bill Mulcahy, the immortal “Wigs” of Cap fame, played his first ever club rugby with us – an under-age game against Nenagh – in 1951 but his brother John, who won a Munster senior Cup medal with Bohs, played great stuff for us in the fifties. Tom and John Lynch, Seanie Goodwin, Tom Keating, Vincent O’Brien and DJ Madden were among our trump cards in recent years. The demise of Rathkeale Rugby Club, which was the first Munster club to affiliate to the I.R.F.U., (then the I.F.U.), in 1875, was a source of sorrow in all Irish rugby circles.

In 1937, it was apparent that there was enough active enthusiasts in Newcastle West, to revive the team, and under a splendid organising committee of Jack Ambrose, President, Johnny Culhane, Secretary, Barry McEnery, trainer, Ned Naughton, Con Harnett and jersey orderly Jimmy “Scoop” Sheehy, an outstanding panel of players was assembled. This panel formed the nucelus of a side that became a household word in Munster rugby circles, for the next twenty years.

Spear heading the active service men was Micky Dee’s younger brother, the larger than life Moss, who did all his business in the engine room. Down through the years he was at various times, captain, chief selector, team secretary, field liner, jersey washer, (his sister Peg helping here) transport organiser  and reviver of flagging spirits in the hostlery, after the odd trouncing by some fitter, possibly more competent, but definitely less colourful, side.

With fourteen Munster Senior Caps and a Munster Senior Cup medal with Garryowen in 1940, Mossy Curtin was our long suit in the backs. Despite his heavy schedule of club and representative Saturday football, he never failed to rally to the flag on Sunday. His father’s hotel, the Courtenay Arms in North Quay, was club headquarters. Joe Crowley, though still a student, was showing up in the three quarters. Michael O’Donoghue, an accomplished Gaelic player from Currow, and at the time a chemist at Billy Knight’s, was a place-kicking full back. Tipperary men Jim Power, Tom Harnett and Jimmy Phillips, with Paddy and Billy O’Mahony, were playing great stuff in the backs, as was Tom McCoy and Mattie, who afterwards took over as club referee. In this role, he served for many seasons in the best traditions of Jack Ambrose, Jim Sullivan and Johnny Culhane. Tommy Culhane and Tim Mulcahy of Bishop Street, and Michael Nash of Riverview, were our jumping forwards. Famous flankers  were the renowned Jack Buckley and assistant creamery manager in Kantoher and Milford, Michael Corcoran. Dan “pints” O’Connor, who learned his rugby with the club, went on to play senior for Garryowen and Munster, was foremost of a well-remembered Athea lobby made up of his brothers, Jimmy and Ted, the Woulfe brothers, Bud Enright, Seamus McGrath, Owen O’Brien and Mick Sheehy. The O’Brien brothers of Ballyhahill, Gus, Donie and Liam, who were U.C.D. and army players, and Garryowen seniors, John Halpin, Brendan Morgan, Paddy Walshe and Whacker Daly, were regular guests. Bankers Jerry Coolicen, Jim Peterson and Dunmanway born Tom McCarthy, were stallwarts as was Bill “Jeff” Dunworth, whose last ditch tackle on Castleisland’s Jack Breen, in which Jack’s leg was broken, is often recalled.

Barry McEnery had whipped the side into great shape using a heavy friendly programme to team build and we went into the final of the coveted Garryowen Cup, meeting Clanwilliam. We had beaten them in a Christmas friendly, in which John Halpin had subdued the great Dave O’Loughlin at the back of the line out. In the final, O’Loughlin, playing in the centre, was effectively marked by Tom McCoy. The failure of the O’Brien brothers to get down from Dublin, hampered us some what, but the sides were level right up to the last few minutes. Mossy Curtin, playing at scrum-half, had sent Tom Cribbin over from the half way line. Bunny O’Rahilly with a mammoth last minute drop goal, snached victory from our grasp.

In the following year 1938/39, Harry Knight and Neil Condon came into the side. A nephew of founding member Billy, Castleisland-born Harry was an accomplished scrum half or wing forward. After a distinguished playing career, he stayed on at the committee serving terms as secretary and treasurer, putting far more into the club than he ever got out of it.

Neil Condon learned his rugby with Roscrea, playing at scrum half or out half, right up to 1950 and remained on the committee for many years. Nenagh beat us in the Garryowen cup that year, but Neil suffered a severe knee injury and we had to play most of the game with fourteen men.

Teenager Finny Phillips joined his brother Jimmy on the panel the following season. The side had a remarkable run of success in friendlies and got into the Garryowen cup final against Cashel. It is claimed still, that Newcastle West never allowed Cashel out of their own half for the entire game, but a  prodigious penalty from half way,  put them ahead early on, and altough Mossy Curtin hit the post with a drop goal attempt, and Jack Buckley, Neil Condon and Mossy Dee were held up just short of the line, Cashel emerged winners.

Sides from the entire province were hosted or hosted us during these seasons, and respect and friendship were built up between us and distant clubs, which has withstood the passing years.