Formation of Newport RFC
Incredible as it may sound, Rugby was actually played across Tipperary well over 100 years ago and there is evidence of Rugby Games actually being played at St John's College in Newport.
The origins of Newport RFC go back to an opportunist game held on Stephen's Day in 1970. Ballina RFC were already in existence at that time, and many of their players actually came from Newport. The then Ballina Chairman, Mr. Jack Hall, suggested to hold a game between the Ballina and Newport men, as a bit of Christmas celebration. The match was duly organized and was played in McKeogh's field, adjacent to the Lakeside Hotel.
Much to everyone's surprise, over twenty players turned out for Newport, some of whom had never held a rugby ball before ! Birdhill's Eamon Coffey, of Garryowen FC fame, captained Newport for this intrepid game. Accompanying Eamon on Newports side were, PJ Kelly, Christy Heffernan, John Duggan, Martin Duggan, Donal Duggan, Matthew Duggan, Ned Ryan Óg, Michael Ryan, Willie Ryan, John Hackett, Noel O'Shea, Paul Moloney, Denis Floyd and Johnsey Moloney amongst others.
After a most entertaining and competitive match, where no quarter was asked or given, Newport were the victors, by one try to nil, scored by Johnesy Moloney.
To tremendous applause, the Ballina Chairman presented the trophy to Newport Captain Eamon Coffey. The aforementioned trophy was pulled out of a cardboard box and to explosive laughter, as the winning trophy was a "Chamber Pot" !
Following the game, the Newport contingent proposed the formation of a rugby club for Newport itself. A meeting was later arranged for O'Sullivans Bar in Newport, at which a committee was duly elected and Newport RFC was officially born in 1971. Martin O'Sullivan of O'Sullivans Bar, who was a wonderful ambassador for the sport of Rugby , spawned no doubt from his days in Clongowes College, immediately made his land at Freigh available as a playing pitch, and so it began, Newport RFC had been formed and Freigh Park became the home venue. Initially Newport RFC competed in friendly games before progressing to play in the various Cup competitions under the auspices of the Munster Branch. Success in the AIB, Webb Evans and McGarry Cups brought intermittent joyto Newport RFCin the 70' and 80's, but undoubtedly 1985 was the pinnacle of Newport's history, winning a unique treble comprising of the Webb, McGarry & Evans Cups. In that year they also had the honor of hosting the first major final at Freigh, with the renowned Gleeson Cup decider being played. Even though it was a losing experience, the occasion was a historic and momentous one for the club. They did make amends the following year by becoming the first non-Limerick Club to win the Gleeson Cup. For all Junior clubs, the attraction of playing in the Munster Cup is the big ambition.
Newport fulfilled that aim in the 70's & 80's and some stirring contests are recalled, especially against neighboring Tipperary Club Nenagh RFC. Later Newport decided to concentrate on the North Munster competitions, fielding two adult teams. The underage scene has been nurtured diligently in Newport with teams fielding from U10 to U18 and the mini section is particularly buoyant. Down through the years Newport players have featured at several levels with Aidan O'Gorman and Declan O'Connell receiving the highest honour, gaining international recognition by being capped with the Irish Youths team. Shane O'Connor and Tom Ryan both featured with Munster Youths whilst Tom Cregan won a Munster Junior Cap when playing with Newport.
In recent years Newport RFC have concentrated on developing both the youth player base and the facilities. In 2018 Newport RFC took the ambitious step, supported by the IRFU, to acquire a permanent facility, to be owned outright by the club. The IRFU visited Newport on several occasions and a suitable property was identified at Rockvale and was eventually purchased. Newport now have a new home, Rockvale Park. A limited Company was then set up "Rockvale Rugby & Community Park" to run the club and develop the new facility. Currently Rockvale Park is well on the way to becoming one of the finest Rugby pitches in Tipperary.