Leinster Rugby (LRFU) Archives

The archives of the Leinster Branch of the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) were transferred to UCD Archives in 2014, in consultation with Professor Paul Rouse, UCD School of History. The collection has been catalogued and digitised and is available to view in our reading room by appointment, to holders of a UCDA reader’s ticket. 

The Leinster Branch of the IRFU is responsible for rugby union throughout the Leinster province. The IRFU was formed in 1879 with the amalgamation of the Irish Football Union (Leinster, Munster and parts of Ulster) and the Northern Football Union of Ireland (Belfast). The Connacht branch was formed in 1900. The IRFU was a founding member of the International Rugby Football Board, now known as World Rugby, alongside Scotland and Wales in 1886.

The Leinster provincial team has been active since 1875 and on 31 October 1879 the Leinster Branch of the IRFU was inaugurated at a meeting at 63 Grafton Street, Dublin 2. The clubs represented at this meeting were the Wanderers, Lansdowne, Arlington School, Dublin University, Dundalk, Phoenix F.C. and Stephen’s Hospital. Following the partition of Ireland, the Committee of the IRFU decided that it would continue to administer its affairs based on the full thirty-two counties of Ireland and the four provincial divisions.

The Leinster Schools Senior Cup, which is one of the biggest annual events in Leinster Rugby, commenced in 1887. The first Leinster Senior Challenge Cup was created in 1881, closely followed by the establishment of the Senior League. In the early 1920s the Provincial Towns and Metropolitan Cups were created.

The archives of the Leinster Branch of the IRFU held in UCD Archives, consist exclusively of bound volumes. These include minute books of the Executive Committee, the Junior League Committee, and the Schools Committee as well as letter books, newspaper cuttings and financial accounts. The records in the collection date from 1882–2003 and are a vital source for the history of sport in Ireland and Irish Rugby in particular. The records also reflect a wider social history of Ireland throughout the twentieth century. I have chosen several documents that highlight the richness of this collection for both sporting and wider history.

The Executive Committee Minutes date from 1894–2003. The Committee oversees the running of the Leinster Branch and discusses such topics as rugby seasonal reports; committee elections; match schedules; team and referee selection; travel arrangements; rules and regulations; annual general meetings; fixtures and national and international tournaments. The early minutes contain references to turbulent times in the first few decades of the twentieth century. 

An example is an Executive Committee minute dated 9 October 1914 in which members debated whether to halt the playing of competitive rugby in the province due to the outbreak of war in Europe. Both sides were put forward with Mr Moran considering “the men who have not gone away should play football”, while Dr Clinch points out “it would look very bad in the papers to see the Roll of Honour and at the same time we[sic] playing a football”. The proposal that the programme of games be abandoned, excepting schools’ football, was passed by members.

UCDA P280/2 Archives of the Leinster Branch of the Irish Rugby Football Union. Minutes of 9 October 1914.

The minutes also detail disciplinary matters which range from the standard match time disputes through to truly bizarre encounters. The match report below details intimidation by the Blackrock touch judge (Mr O’Connell) against the referee (Mr C. Stuart) during a match between Blackrock and Dublin University played on 2 December 1922. The Blackrock touch judge “informed the referee that he had with him a revolver and that he would plug him if he (the referee) attempted to give a wrong decision against Blackrock”.

UCDA P280/3 Archives of the Leinster Branch of the Irish Rugby Football Union. Minutes of 13 December 1922.

The executive committee decided to take a somewhat lenient view of proceedings, stating that Blackrock’s explanation “was considered satisfactory” provided they took responsibility for the actions of Mr O’Connell, and he was to “take no official or active part in club affairs”.

UCDA P280/3 Archives of the Leinster Branch of the Irish Rugby Football Union. Minutes of 5 January 1923.

The letter books date from 1928–1962 and consist of bound volumes containing copies of typed and handwritten letters sent by the Leinster Branch. Included are annual general meeting reminders and material relating to various competitions. Once again, wider societal issues are reflected in the letters. In an example of an early live broadcast of a rugby match, on 11 December 1928, the committee of the Leinster Branch wrote to the Secretary of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs to “consent, with pleasure, to the broadcasting of a running commentary on the Inter-Provincial match, Leinster V. Ulster, to be played at Lansdowne Road on Saturday next 15th instant”.

UCDA P280/34 Archives of the Leinster Branch of the Irish Rugby Football Union. Letter book 21 November 1928-31 (August 1929).

The bound volumes of newspaper cuttings in the collection date from 1928–1979. They are a fascinating source for tracing the progression of Irish rugby over the decades as well as highlighting some of the more dramatic and difficult moments in the history of Irish sport. One of these moments occurred fifty years ago when the English Rugby team made the decision to travel to Lansdowne Road for their match against Ireland in the Five Nations Championship on 10 February 1973. This was at the height of the Troubles, and Scotland and Wales had both refused to travel to Dublin. The report below details the severity of security concerns with the Gardaí, the RUC and the Irish Army involved in the operation. The English team were received in Lansdowne Road with a standing ovation from the Irish crowd. This is one of those moments that highlights the importance of sport, offering solidarity and hope, even in the darkest times.

UCDA P280/83 Archives of the Leinster Branch of the Irish Rugby Football Union. Newspaper Cuttings January 1971–April 1974.

This post was written by Niamh Collins, UCD Archives, incorporating a descriptive catalogue prepared by Meadhbh Murphy.

One thought on “Leinster Rugby (LRFU) Archives

  1. Finola says:

    Sounds like a great collection. But I have a question – if it’s digitised why is it not available to search online?

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