For those interested in international rugby, exciting times are back as the 6 Nations Championship is once again in full swing. Midleton is a town that is now steeped in the rugby tradition, with strong links to the game through the town’s AIL club Midleton RFC, and also with Schools Rugby, notably Midleton College. We decided to take a look back through the pages of the Irish Examiner and gain a historic perspective on the game in the town, which stretches back into the 19th century.
More than 120 years before producing the likes of Dave O’ Callaghan and Clive Ross, Midleton College was fielding rugby teams. The Cork Examiner of 9th April 1889 brought news of an “interesting football match, under the Rugby rules” which took place between the College and the second fifteen of Cork Queen’s College. Unfortunately for the Midleton boys, the Cork students “displayed their superiority” from the moment of “the leather being put in motion” and emerged victorious by 1 goal and 2 points to no score.
Midleton College faired much better in a game against Cork Grammar School in 1892. The Midleton ream “rushed to the front” and showed some nice “give and take play” to score a try, which was soon followed by another. However, despite some “well-concentrated rushes” in the second half they failed to add to their tally, but luckily held on for the win, by 1 goal and 2 tries to 2 tries.
Midleton College’s Gloster, who had been a standout in the 1892 game, was still going strong in 1895, when Midleton took on Tipperary College. The strength of the Tipp team left Midleton dependent “almost entirely on the swiftness of their forwards,” but apparently they were ” not able to show on the soft ground.” Whenever “the oval” came into a Midleton forward’s hands, the “would not have gone twenty yards when he made the acquaintance of mother earth.” When the final whistle sounded, Midleton had been defeated by four tries to nil.
Outside of Midleton College, the town’s first Rugby Football Club was founded in the 1927/28 season (for a summary of the history of clubs in the town, see the Midleton RFC site here). It only survived for a few years, but despite that made an impression on the community. The Cork Examiner brought an advertisement on 29th September 1928 for the First Annual Dance to support the club, which was due to take place on Tuesday 2nd October in Midleton Town Hall. Perhaps in an effort to attract the ladies, women enjoyed a reduced entrance fee, while a discount was available for couples. A running buffet was planned, with dancing scheduled from 9 pm on; musical accompaniment was to brought by Brierley’s Dance Band.
We are fortunate that some images of this iteration of Midleton RFC are left to us. The Cork Examiner of 27th March 1929 ran a photograph of the team that had put Dungarvan to the sword by 16 points to 3.
Despite the demise of the first Midleton RFC, the town was not left without a team, as there was separate entity called the Midletonettes taking the field. As explained by the present-day Midleton RFC website, it was this team that is regarded as the direct antecedent of the current club.
The modern Midleton RFC played their first game against Bandon in 1967, the beginning of a long and proud tradition. The “oval ball” still gets a consistent outing in the town, drawing crowds today much as it did more than 125 years ago. The story of the game, and indeed of the town’s history in other sporting codes, is something we hope to return to in future posts.