Bus Éireann: Young Munster’s Great Sponsor.
On a Wednesday morning in December 1992, four days after Young Munster’s only defeat in the season’s All Ireland League, they lost 26-17 to Old Wesley, Barry Coyle, Marketing Manager, Bus Éireann, phoned his representative in Limerick. He had read the Irish Times that morning. Edmund Van Esbeck reviewed the teams participating in the AIL Division One and referred to the fact that only two teams in the first division did not have a sponsor. Both were from Limerick and one of them was Young Munster. Barry asked his local representative if it would be possible to sponsor a Limerick club and which one would be the most appropriate.
The answer was yes and there was no contest regarding the most appropriate club.
The regional headquarters of Bus Éireann is situated in Colbert Station which is located in the heartland of the traditional Young Munster “back of the monument” area. Many players, committee members, members and supporters of Young Munster worked for the company and its predecessors, The Great Southern Railway, the IOC and now Bus Éireann and Irish Rail.
The Chief Inspector of Bus Éireann, at that time, was the late Sean Gavin who served three successive terms as President of Young Munster. He was President of the Munster Branch IRFU when Munster defeated the New Zealand All-Blacks in 1978. Numerous distinguished and talented Young Munster Players were CIE and, subsequently, Bus Éireann Employees.
The marketing representative to whom Barry Coyle spoke was John Mc Loughlin, a Young Munster supporter and member, who suggested that Young Munster was the obvious and logical choice. John was subsequently honoured with the presidency of the club.
Soon after the initial query, a meeting took place in the Bus Éireann Offices in Colbert Station. Present were; Paddy Benson, President, Michael Quigley, Vice President, Michael Murray, Vice President and Hugh Mc Grath who was the previous year’s President, from Young Munster. Barry Coyle and John Mc Loughlin represented Bus Éireann. An amicable arrangement was agreed which has survived with very few adjustments ever since. Young Munster won the All Ireland League less than two months later on 13th. February 1993.
It was seen, at that time, as a remarkable marketing coup. Barry was, looking for a suitable rugby sponsorship opportunity. Very few in Limerick or, perhaps, in Young Munster apart from Ger Clohessy predicted an AIL victory.
The Young Munster Captain, who predicted that his team would win the league, was one of ten players or “experts “interviewed by a reporter for a national newspaper who asked for their predictions on the outcome of the league.
Apart from Ger, only one of the experts mentioned Young Munster. He suggested that the team could finish third. The optimism following a very good win in Clifford Park over a fancied Ballymena team in the first game of the season was dented by the defeat by Old Wesley in Donnybrook.
In retrospect, the captain was not playing to the gallery. His team was laden with talent. Young Munster's were worthy winners of the league.
Bus Éireann achieved very high exposure as a result its association with the club. The midnight reception as the company’s coaches with the team, officials and supporters returned to Limerick was spectacular.
The day long open top bus celebratory tour on the following Monday will be remembered as a joyous occasion. The whole community, regardless of club affiliation, seemed to embrace the wonderful feeling which the victory had generated. The cup was even filled with milk when some children in Thomondgate expressed a wish to drink from the trophy.
As the milk was being purchased from a local shop, Willie Allen, in the absence of a recording, gave a live rendition of Beautiful; Beautiful Munsters over the public address system on the bus.
Over the years that followed those heady days Bus Éireann remained loyal to the club. The years in division 2 did not affect the company’s support for our club. This, surely, must be the longest continuous sponsorship of club rugby in Ireland.
The club is very grateful for this support and we wish our loyal and unique sponsor many more years of success as we celebrate 120 years in rugby and Bus Éireann approaches its 29th. anniversary.