Rugby started back in 1983 through the efforts of a Welshman, Colin Evans. Subsequent to this, Athlone Institute oF Technology were also founder members of the Irish Colleges Rugby Union formed in 1986. Paul “Hammo” Hamilton joined Colin in 1987 as coach and when Colin left the college, Hammo persuaded Charlie Couper to become coach in 1988. Apart from a two year period when Charlie was on sabbatical he has been coach of the rugby club right up to current times. When Hammo left in 1996, Charlie persuaded Kevin O’Sullivan to become manager and they have worked together developing the rugby in Athlone I.T. for the past 17 years. In recent years Geoff Kenny and Conor Galvin, both former students, have been added to the coaching team, and Michael Tobin is helping on the management side.
The main achievement for the rugby club has been the increasing number of students playing rugby which at its height totalled nearly 100 and has consistently been in excess of 50 players. They have also had significant success in the competitions they have played in. Their first success was winning the Senior Cup in 1992 when they overcame UU Coleraine in the final. Two years later they lost a very close final to University of Limerick but many of those players returned to win the Senior Cup against a very strong Limerick I.T. team in 1997. It was during this year that Athlone fielded its first Freshers team. Frustrated with the ‘hit and miss’ approach to building a team Charlie and Kevin saw the Freshers as the foundation of a successful team although Kevin did warn Charlie that it would be 5 years before they saw the real benefit of it.
The prophecy proved very accurate because having lost the 1999 O’Boyle Cup (Freshers’) final to UL (one Paul O’Connell hoisted the trophy) and the 2000 final to Limerick I.T. AIT Rugby then entered their glory years. From 2001 to 2004 they won every student competition they entered – four successive Senior Cup Finals, Freshers’ Finals, and All-Ireland Student 7s titles. They also entered the Longford Floodlit Cup for club teams, losing to Tullamore in the final in the first year but going on to win the final three competitions and winning the trophy outright. The Freshers then lost in the 2005 and 2006 Finals so appeared in 8 successive finals. The Freshers have consistently performed for AIT losing the finals in 2008 and 2010 before winning the O’Boyle Cup again in 2013. The Seniors have been building momentum winning the Senior Cup in 2010 and losing the last three finals so they have appeared in four successive Senior Cup Finals. There have been 22 Senior Cup Finals since AIT’s first success in 1991 and the college has appeared in 12 of them winning 8, and the Freshers have appeared in 11 of the O’Boyle Cup Finals since they were first formed 17 years ago. We should also add that in 2013 the Second Team won the Division 3 title. We recently won the 2014 Senior All Ireland title and are still in contention for the Freshers crown.
The college have a strategic alliance with the Buccaneers and have provided them with many fine players over the year and also have a close relationship with Connacht Rugby and a number of students have played for Connacht as a result of joining the college.
We have had four players who have played for Ireland As – Ted Robinson, Peter Bracken, Chris Keane, and Ronnie McCormack – and three of these have Heineken European Cup medals, Peter with Wasps and Chris and Ronnie with Leinster. We also, on two occasions, had six players who played for the Irish Colleges team at the same time. The 2004 team featured the aforementioned Chris Keane as well as one of our current coaches Geoff Kenny, and we repeated the feat again in 2010.
The college trains on Monday nights, Tuesday morning in the gym, and Thursday for Freshers.
- Charlie Couper – tba
- Geoff Kenny – tba
- Conor Galvin – tba
- David Curley – tba
- Emmet Egan – tba
The college offers scholarships to talented rugby players who come to study in Athlone I.T. There are three levels of scholarship, all include free use of gym, free nutritional advice, free physiotherapy and also academy clothing and for the top two there is also a monetary element on successful completion of exams.
We hold two screening sessions during the year – one in early January and the other in March. This involves various rugby drills etc and also a talk about courses and the academic support you will get in Athlone I.T. You can also meet coaches and management on a one to one basis to discuss your specific needs.
Athlone I.T. have gone on two major tours to the U.S. – one to the West Coast and the other to New England. Semesterisation has made these tours more difficult but tours closer to home would still be part of our plans in the future.