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Club History PDF Print E-mail

The beginning
Commenting after several successful dances in 1953, Grosvenor High School Headmaster William Moles told the newly formed Grosvenor Association "Hops are excellent but a fuller range of activities is desirable..." His advice was soon to bear fruit for at the following month's meeting on 26 March1953, the forty members present decided to form the Grosvenor High School Former Pupils Rugby Football Club. Those in attendance 'at the birth' on that fateful night include J Wilson, Dougie Dean, Sam Stewart, Bob McCartney, G Evans, A Wilson, J P Kyle, N Nesbitt and of course W J 'Paddy Patterson'.


1953 teamgrosvenor paddy patterson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early years
The first match was a victory over RAF Aldergrove and Lenny Burrows, a teacher at the school, has the distinction of scoring the first ever try for the club. In it's first season
Grosvenor proved it's worth suffering only one defeat and reaching the McCrea Cup Final.
By 1961 four teams were being fielded and within four years the first piece of silverware
was acquired when the 3rd XV took the 4th Division Championship trophy. Among those
who helped steer the club through the early years was 'Paddy' Patterson, a former school
teacher, who could be described as the father of the club. In his roles of secretary, coach
and chairman, he was the club's main organiser up until 1960 when the first
management committee was formed. Paddy went on to bring great honour to Grosvenor
when he became Ulster Branch President in 1967.


Representative honours

The Ulster Junior side called on many Grosvenor players in this successful period and indeed In 1957/58 side contained three - Ken Armstrong, David Carruthers and Harry Morrison. One notable highlight of the early years was the club's excellent performance at the Jordanstown RFC Sevens Tournament in1957. As a junior club Grosvenor weren't expected to do well. However after disposing of Carrick, Donaghadee and CIYMS, Grosvenor lost the final narrowly to a North side containing the legendary Jack Kyle. Two of that Grosvenor side, Ken Armstrong and Rodney Usher, went on to play for the full Ulster side (Ken as captain) and Ken of course went on to play twice for Ireland.

Growth
The 1960's saw Grosvenor consolidate themselves as a top Junior club and by the end of the decade were fielding five teams. The First XV developed a 'bridesmaid' tag after featuring in five McCrea Cup Finals and losing them all! A club highlight from 1969 was the victory over French touring side Stade Francais (Dick Mackenzie recalls that the attacking threat of our Gallic guests was blunted by their extreme hangovers following a night on the Guinness in The Bot, our then unnofficial clubhouse). In the early 70s Joe Eagleson was selected to captain the Ulster Junior XV, and Joe would soon be joined by Ronnie Andrews and Norman McKeown into the Ulster Junior ranks. 1974 saw the decision to have 'open membership' and in 1978, after featuring in five finals, the First XV finally won the McCrea Cup.

 

1977 1st


Laburnum Clubhouse
By this time plans for a permanent home were well underway and on 20 April 1979 the new clubhouse at Laburnum was officially opened by ex-headmaster William Moles. On that evening Grosvenor played Sid Millar's Ulster Presidents XV featuring internationals Ronnie Elliot and Ronnie Haken, a young Willie Anderson and a certain Ronnie Flanagan from CIYMS. The Grosvenor team that night featured schoolboy 'guest' Colin Wilkinson who went on to play with great distinction for Ulster and win an Ireland cap.

The glorious 80s
Having our own facilities and a lively social scene was a great aid to recruitment and membership numbers rose sharply. As well as new younger players we also attracted more experienced players like Barry Maxwell, Neil Vance, Tom Proctor, Davy Rush and Willie Henry from Malone who helped raise the playing standard considerably. In 1980-81 the 1st XV won the McCrea Cup for the third time in four years and promotion was gained for the 1st XV, 3rd XV and 4th XV. This heralded a golden era for Grosvenor and throughout the 1980's the club went from strength to strength. The 1st XV were arguably the best Junior Team in Greater Belfast who regularly took the scalps of the bigger country clubs. In the mid eighties new recruits from the1983 Grosvenor School's Cup Winning side boosted the playing squad considerably including Roy France, Ian Sloan, Neil Hunter, Norman Crone, Robin Jamison, George Murray, Davy Johnston, the rediculously talented Stewart Lemon and Crawford Dobbin. Among the Grosvenor players who went on to represent Junior Ulster in this era were Robert Moore, Barry Maxwell, Neil Vance, Dermy Maguire, Ian Wilson, Alan Egner and Jim Whitley. Crawford Dobbin went on to represent the full Ulster Senior side while playing for North.

 

1984 1st

 

The nineties started well and in 1990/91 the 1st XV were runners-up in Junior Section 2 and reached the semi-finals of the Junior Cup, losing narrowly to eventual winners Holywood. However life was to become more difficult for the club as the decade progressed. Falling membership and mounting debts were to take their toll and in May 1999 the decision was taken to sell the grounds at Laburnum and accept the kind invitation of the CIYMS Society to relocate to Belmont.

The Belmont years
In 1999 Grosvenor Rugby Club became an integral section of the CIYMS Society, bringing a substantial 'dowry' of over £200k from the sale of Laburnum to help fund the construction of the new clubhouse and ground redevelopment. The Club successfully regrouped and began attracting new players and enjoying success on the field. Following a successful spell in senior rugby a certain Andrew Gibson joined in the late 1990s and made an immediate impact both as a player and recruiting sergeant, bringing fresh talent to the club and re-establishing the link with Grosvenor Grammar School. A winning habit was formed and Grosvenor again won some silverware in the form of the YMCA Tournament and several minor league titles.

 

In 2002 Grosvenor announced their arrival on the world wide web when Jim Egner designed and launched the club website, www.grosvenorrugby.com. The 50th Anniversary celebrations culminated in a fantastic night of nostalgia in The Europa Hotel on 5 April 2003 where Paddy Patterson, Ken Armstrong, Joe Eagleson and Stephen Hilditch were inducted into the Grosvenor Hall of Fame. It was also confirmed on the night that Stephen Hilditch would be Ulster Branch President for coming season, following Paddy Patterson and Joe Eagleson as the third Grosvenor man to take the helm of Ulster Rugby.


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Throughout this period the social side of the club was developed and successful memorable tours to Edinburgh and Glasgow were organised together with several European trips to support Ulster in the European Cup and Ireland in the World Cup. These trips were supplemented by the establishment of a Grosvenor Corner in the Ravenhill Beer Tent and several successful mini tours to the farther flung corners of Junior and Minor rugby in Ulster.

In 2004 a 2nd XV was launched and with the opening of the new CIYMS clubhouse in Spring 2006 Grosvenor had some of the finest facilities in Irish rugby. Andrew Gibson returned as Head Coach for the 2006/7 season and playing standards steadily rose. The club unveiled an ambitious Five Year Strategic Plan in May 2008, key components being the launch of a 3rd XV and moving the 1st XV up to Qualifying 3 for the 2008/09 season. Michael 'Waffle' Smyth and Gareth Bronte joined the coaching team, which was now one of the best in Ulster club rugby. In September 2008 former Presidents and Captains came together at an event to celebrate Grosvenor's revival and officially unveil the new Grosvenor Honours Board.

A new 'golden era'

The 2008/09 season was one of the most successful on record with the First XV winning the Gordon West Cup and coming runners-up in Qualifying 3; the 2nd XV won the Forster Cup and were champions of Junior 5; while at the Carrick Sevens the Under 20s and Senior side won the Plate and Bowl competitions respectively. The season finished on a high with a very successful tour to Den Bosch, Holland.

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colin heyburn forster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2009/10 season was also hugely successful with the 1st XV winning Qualifying 3 and the Gordon West Cup, remaining undefeated throughout both competitions. The 2nd XV were Junior 4 League Champions and Harden Cup finalists. The 3rd XV a.k.a. The Pythons under their inspirational Coach Marty McCullough were Minor East 2 League runners-up. The U19s were Dromore 7s Plate winners and Carrick 7s Plate runners-up. 

 

 

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In 2010 and 2011 we were short-listed for the IRFU Ulster Club of the Year. In March 2012 we were one of only two cubs in Ireland to achieve the IRFU Club Excellence Award and in April 2012 were granted the prestigous Sport NI Club Mark status.

 

In March 2013 we organised a special dinner to celebrate jointly our 60th Anniversary, the 35th Anniversary of winning the McCrea Cup for the first time and the 30th anniversary of Grosvenor's only ever Schools Cup victory in 1983. It was a marvellous night of nostalgia and Alan Egner was inducted into the Hall of Fame for his long and distinguished service to the club. The season finished with our 2nd XV being promoted to Junior 1.

 

The 2013/14 season will live long in the memory for a special night at Ravenhill when the 1st XV won the McCrea Cup for the first time in 30 years, defeating holders CIYMS 20-12 in a thrilling match.

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A new beginning

In 2015 the Trustees of CIYMS made it clear that they wished to have only one rugby section at Belmont. Grosvenor was faced with the choice of either merging with CIYMS RFC or finding a new home. A most inviting and generous offer came from Malone RFC to ground-share with them and enjoy the full use of their excellent facilities and clubhouse. On 1 April 2016 Gibson Park became our new home, allowing us to sustain Grosvenor RFC as a viable, independent rugby club into the future.

In the 2016/17 season Grosvenor's Stephen Hilditch MBE, was elected IRFU President, an honour celebrated at a special gala dinner attended by Irish Coach Joe Schmit. The move to Gibson Park, combined with the arrival of new Head Coach Robert Ford, provided a huge boost for the club. The season ended with Grosvenor having five players in the Interpro-winning Ulster Juniors side and teh 2nd XV gaining promotion.

The 2017/18 season saw the 1st XV and 2nd XV gain promotion and the 2nds narrowly lose at Ravenhill in the Crawford Cup Final. This puts the 1st XV in the top flight of junior rugby for the first time in over 40 years, while the 2nd XV are now in Provincial League Division 1.

The last 60-odd years have been a roller-coaster ride for Grosvenor RFC, enjoying success and tough times in equal measure, but with a new home secured, they can once again proudly boast that they are now one of the top junior clubs in Ulster Rugby.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 July 2018 14:05
 

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