The first recorded rugby club in Limerick was Rathkeale in 1874, followed by Limerick County in 1876. These no longer exist, but some that do are also very old. These include Garryowen and Shannon, both founded in 1884 and Young Munster, founded in 1895.
Many people think that rugby was introduced to Limerick by the British garrison. However, rugby was actually brought to Limerick by young middle class men. They had learnt to play it while in boarding school. The most influential of these men was William L Stokes (1851-1910) a butter merchant and Sir Charles Barrington of Glenstal (1848-1943) a landowner.
Limerick is the only place in Ireland where rugby is played by all classes. In this, it resembles Wales and New Zealand. These are many theories why this happened. One is that, unlike their counterparts in Dublin, Belfast and Cork, the Limerick middle classes were not large enough to support rugby on their own. As a result, they got other classes involved to widen the pool of players and supporters. Another is that Limerick rugby clubs were so successful that the game became popular with all classes. Also Limerick produced some of the leading administrators in early Irish rugby, such as William L Stokes, J M O’Sullivan and Jack McAuley. Finally, Limerick had a strong tradition of strong men who worked at hard physical manual labour. These men were drawn to both a tough sport like rugby. The same happened in New Zealand and Wales. Finally, the GAA went into a temporary decline in the 1890s. This allowed rugby to become popular with all classes in Limerick city
Limerick is the only place in Ireland where rugby is played by all classes.
The home ground of Munster Rugby, Shannon RFC and UL Bohemians RFC, Thomond Park is one of the principal rugby union stadia in Ireland and is owned by the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU).
The home ground of Munster Rugby, Shannon RFC and UL Bohemians RFC, Thomond Park is one of the principal rugby union stadia in Ireland and is owned by the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU). The original Thomond Park opened in 1938 and in 1978 was the venue of the famous 12-0 victory of Munster over the All Blacks (the New Zealand national rugby union team) which has held the top ranking in the world for longer than all other countries combined. In 1998-99 the IRFU refurbished the stadium. Before 2008, the maximum official attendance was 18,000.
Thomond Park was entirely rebuilt between 2007 and 2008 and the capacity is now 25,630. The new stadium also houses conference and banqueting facilities and a museum. It has become a concert venue where Elton John, Rod Stewart and Bob Dylan have performed. The Irish heats of the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games were held there in 2010.