Date Published: 29-Jun-2012
NEWLY elected President of the Connacht Rugby Branch, Aidan O’Halloran says it is “phenomenal” how much the professional game in the province has grown in recent years and he believes the province may now be ready to take the next step in its development by becoming a greater force in international club rugby.
On a beautiful morning in Foyle’s Hotel, Clifden, O’Halloran – a former member of Offaly’s legendary All-Ireland winning Gaelic football squad of 1982 – takes time out from his heady detail as manager of the local Bank of Ireland branch to chat about his new role in Connacht rugby.
It’s evident from the off that O’Halloran, father of Connacht winger Tiernan, has a great zest for life – something that became apparent from his own early sporting days. In his youth, he won a coveted Hogan Cup with Carmelite College, Moate – defeating St Jarlath’s College in the 1976 All-Ireland decider – before lifting the Sam Maguire Cup following that iconic moment in 1982 when a late goal from Offaly’s Seamus Darby ended Kerry’s five-in-a-row ambitions.
No surprise, then, that O’Halloran talks fondly of those days – days when he also took to the rugby fields of Leinster where he saw Towns Cup action with Athlone (late 1970s), Tullamore (early to mid ‘80s) and Portlaoise (late ‘80s) before he returned to Tullamore again in the early ‘90s.
Invariably, it was the bank job that conjured up this nomadic existence when it came to his club rugby. In the mid ‘90s, he was on the road again, this time his appointment as assistant manager to the bank in Ballygar, leading him to Creggs RFC in 1996.
“I played for Creggs for the two years they were in the All-Ireland League; it (bank appointment) just happened to coincide with those two years Creggs were in Division 4 of the AIL,” says O’Halloran.
“Unfortunately, their stay in the AIL didn’t last beyond the two years. It was always going to be hard for them with a very small pool of players really and probably an ageing team at that stage, with the likes of Ger and Kieran Dowd, Kevin O’Rourke and Barry Kilcommins.”
During this time, O’Halloran would line out with Creggs on the Saturday and, as he had dual status, with Dunmore on the Sunday.
“I had two years with those clubs and then I was appointed as bank manager in Clifden in 1999, so I moved down here then. The natural progression was to join up with Connemara RFC at that stage.”
Then 40 years of age, the father of three decided it was time to bring the curtain down on his playing career and instead began to turn his hand to both coaching and administrative matters with the Connemara All-Blacks, getting involved with both the U-20s and seniors.
“I suppose our biggest success at senior level (with Connemara) would have been the first year we qualified for the All-Ireland League (Division 3), which was the 2001/’02 season. We had finished fourth in the League, proper, but, at that time, there were semifinals and finals. So, we beat Greystones in the semi-final and we beat Trinity in the Old Lansdowne Road in the final.
“That was a huge event for this area, for a small club in Connemara to be playing in Lansdowne Road. Trinity would also have been a very prominent and strong team at that time and, obviously, so would have been Greystones.
It is great to think, though, that we have managed to maintain our status in the league since then.”
For more see this week’s Tribune