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It is indeed an honour and a privilege that I have been asked to pen a few lines in the Young Munster RFC 120th anniversary programme. Young Munster has made an immense contribution to rugby life not only in their club but also in Limerick, Munster, Ireland and the British and I rish Lions. Their Youth Programme has long been a major contributor to quality players for the adult section of the club and beyond.

Young Munster has been committed over many years to develop their club and pitch facilities to a standard that is becoming of its members and playing personnel. Tonight is another chapter in this club’s development when floodlights are officially switched on and on what better occasion than in their opening home Friday Night Lights Ulster Bank League Division 1A fixture against their great Limerick opponents a nd doughty rivals, Garryowen RFC.

My first real experience with Young Munster was back in April 1973 when I played against them for Bandon in the semi final of the Munster Junior Cup in Musgrave Park. I was lucky enough on that day to be at the right side of a 12-6 scoreline. We were subsequently well beaten in the final by Cork Con, the club that I then joined the following season. In the 2nd row that day was Michael O’Connell, father of Paul. Michael played hurling with the famed Rockies in Cork prior to him being domiciled in Limerick. That semi final is often part of our conversation when we have met over the years. I must at this stage commend Paul for his contribution to Young Munster, Munster, Irish and Lions rugby over the last 16+ years. He has been an inspiration to all and our good wishes go to him as he leads Ireland in the forthcoming World Cup and then when he moves to the South of France to play with Toulon. Best World Cup wishes also go to Keith Earls (he will surely be selected), son of Ger, whom I ‘jousted’ with many times in my refereeing days. I was lucky I was carrying a whistle. I would never have survived those bone crunching tackles!!

In my refereeing career in the 80s and 90s, I had many memorable days in the company of great Young Munster players inside the white lines. Those who come to mind are the outstanding front row of John ‘Paco’ Fitzgerald, Mark Fitzgerald and Peter Clohessy. There was also that great second row partnership of Peter Meehan and Ray Ryan. The aforementioned Ger Earls was a brilliant No. 7 – he should have been capped! Ger Copeley played at No. 8. What a great footballer! Declan Edwards was also a durable No. 8 of quality. Ger Clohessy policed the blind side with passion and guts! I remember 4 great scrum halves. Referees always remember them. In the course of a game both generally have the same lines of running. They are Eddie Costelloe, Johnny Moloney, Derek Tobin and Ger Fitzgerald. And Young Munster had outside backs as well. Gerry Casey, what an out half! There was that great centre partnership of Francis Brosnahan and Pat Cross. And in those days I also same across Francis when I was involved in taking fitness training sessions with Cork City FC. I also remember Ger McNamara at full back and Derek McCarthy on the wing, whose son Diarmuid, I witnessed playing a starring role for Munster in the World Se7ens in Thomond Park back in August. Thanks lads for all the memories – for me not all, but mostly good! But I'm sure you'll all have your own thoughts!

And before signing off, I will look forward to chairing the AGM of the Munster Branch in the Young Munster Clubhouse next June at which I will have huge pleasure of proposing your very own Gerry O’Shea as President of the Munster Branch for 2016.2017. He afforded me absolute support as Senior Vice President last year in his Junior Vice Presidency and is continuing to do so as Senior Vice President in this my Presidential year. Young Munster has put forward no better man to be next year’s Munster President!

Good luck to Gerry going forward and to all Young Munster teams, coaches, managers, medical personnel, team secretaries and supporters, but especially the Senior squad, in the season ahead. I hope and trust you enjoy it and that above all, that the players remain injury free.

‘Beautiful, beautiful Munsters…………’

Bertie Smith

President Munster Branch IRFU 2015/2016