Half the time, it seems like the Irish rugby league is nothing but a Limerick derby! You may have heard of Garryowen, Young Munster, Shannon and Old Crescent who are the big names of Irish rugby and have also played in Europe too. Thomond Park is the main rugby pitch in Limerick.
Rugby has a kind of middle-class, slightly elitist image in Ireland, but in Limerick city, that was never the case. County Limerick would be well into their Gaelic football & hurling and soccer though.
One of the Barringtons (this family owned Barringtons hospital in the city) came back from Trinity college Dublin is credited with bringing this game down from Dublin and setting up the first rugby club in Rathkeale in the 1850s. The Garryowen & Shannon rugby clubs were founded in 1884, Young Munster 1895 and Old Crescent in 1947.
In the late 1940s the National side had some excellent Limerick players on board. They toured Down Under and did really well. Players like Tom Clifford (Young Munster) became household names and rugby's popularity in Limerick just grew from there.
Rugby really brought people together and created an excellent community spirit in the city when the Ireland rugby league was set up. All but 2 of Limerick city's boy schools offer rugby as an extra-curricular activity.
No Limerick rugby supporter would dream of attending a game without singing 'There is an Isle' - or try to! Though no place names are actually referred to in the song, it is widely adopted as a 'Limerick' song, just like 'Limerick, you're a lady' [which I think is utter drivel].
You think Manchester and soccer, you also think Limerick and rugby.
Limerick is known as the spiritual home of Irish Rugby and if you are in Limerick between September and April you should visit Thomand Park and catch a Munster Rugby game. Munster which is the provincial team representing the counties of Limerick, Cork, Kerry, Clare, Waterford and Tipperary and this team is the current European Rugby champions (2006).
Tickets for the European cup games are hard to come by but tickets for Celtic league games can be got more easily. Either way if you have the chance you should go and watch a game and savour the atmosphere.
Equipment: Irish weather being Irish weather /7 with most games played in the winter you should wear a woolly hat, a waterproof and warm jacket and gloves and also bring money for your hot whiskey's :-)