The Greatest Decade
Constitution had by now settled very well into the Temple Hill grounds. The club had added an extended hall and bar to the existing dressing rooms and two playing pitches. The facility had become a popular venue with social events adding much needed revenue to the club coffers, and George O’Connell and Ned Fitzgerald became known to a generation of teenage dance goers.
Ray Hennessy was captain when Garryowen were beaten 11-6 at Thomond Park in the 1961 Munster Senior Cup final. The win gave renewed confidence, as a number of young players came through, and together with Noel Murphy, now an established international player, and Tom Kiernan, who joined from UCC in 1963/64 season, the club had the nucleus of a side that would dominate Munster rugby throughout the decade. The Munster Senior League competition was restructured to give more competitive rugby, and Constitution rose to the challenge, setting a new standard of consistency for club rugby. In all, the club won five Munster Senior Cup and seven successive Munster Senior League titles during the period.
There were two ‘grand slams’ of Cup, League and Charity Cup in 1967 and 1970. The 1967 success with Jerry Murray, Captain, and Jim Donovan, President, coincided with the celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of the club’s foundation. Tom Kiernan was captain in 1970 when Garryowen were beaten in both Cup and League finals.
Noel Murphy and Tom Kiernan played with Ireland throughout the decade and were both honoured with captaincy. Noel Murphy gained his second Lions tour to Australia & New Zealand in 1966, while Tom Kiernan was selected as Captain of the Lions tour to South Africa in 1968, having previously toured South Africa in 1962. Barry McGann joined the club in 1966, and although moving to Lansdowne for two seasons, was a key player in the successes at the later end of the decade. Noel Murphy’s international career ended against Wales in a Triple Crown decider at Cardiff in 1969. He won 41 caps and captained Ireland in five games.
Tom Kiernan captained Munster against the All Blacks at Thomond Park in 1963. A gallant performance by Munster resulted in a narrow 3-6 defeat. Noel Murphy and Jerry Murray were also members of the team. They, together with Anthony Horgan and Liam Coughlan, were also on the 1967 team against Australia that gained the first ever 11-8 victory for Munster over a southern hemisphere touring team.
Noel F.Murphy was IRFU President 1960-61, during which he also managed the Irish party to South Africa, when his son Noel was a member of the squad. Dr Reg Sutton, the much-respected and one-time medical advisor to the club, was honoured as President Munster Branch IRFU 1967-68, while former club President Tim West, representing the School’s, was Munster Branch President 1962-63.
A stand, with seating for 300 spectators, dedicated to the memory of Dan O’Connell, was built and opened in 1970 with a game against a Presidents XV, which contained many overseas international players.