THIS COMING SEPTEMBER, Garryowen FC will host the sixth annual Shane Geoghegan Memorial Tournament in tribute to the former captain of the club’s senior thirds team.
The Limerick man was murdered no more than 200 yards away from the front gates of the club’s Dooradoyle grounds in a case of mistaken identity on the 9th of November, 2008.
Fergus Sheahan, close friend and former teammate of Geoghegan, is one of the organisers of the memorial tournament, and explains that he and Geoghegan’s other friends didn’t want the murder “to be the only thing he was remembered for.”
In five years time, you’ll look up Shane Geoghegan and it won’t just read ‘murdered rugby player’. We wanted to have a tournament based around some of the things he liked.”
Sheahan recounts that Geoghegan was a winger-converted-to-prop during his playing days and always led the social side of rugby with the Garryowen thirds.
“He was tough and great craic; first into the bar, that kind of thing. Any sign of a tour, he was the first name down. He was very good with younger players and new players coming into the club.
“Everyone would have respected him because he did it on the pitch, and was a good man to help out at training and with anyone new to Limerick.”
That welcoming nature and love for all aspects of rugby has been encapsulated in the memorial event, with rugby 10s, a tug of war, barbeques and lots of action in the bar all involved.
From a starting point of having just four teams, the ‘Geoghegan 10s’ has grown to include a 20-team senior 10-a-side competition [two halves of 10 minutes], an under-12s section and a tag tournament for players with intellectual disabilities.
“Without going nuts in the first year, we’ve grown and grown and grown,” says Sheahan. “We’re hoping to keep that going.”
Other clubs have been brilliant along the way and many of them retired their number three jersey when they played against us. That was the plan as well, to give back to the other teams. Shane was murdered near Garryowen rugby club, so it was as if to say ‘that’s not Limerick, this is Limerick’.”
All proceeds from the tournament this year will go to the Garryowen Lions, a tag rugby team that provides Limerick adults with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to enjoy the sport.
The Lions – coached by former Irish international Neville Furlong - are involved in the tournament itself again this year, with Sheahan outlining what the money raised does for them.
“They train in Garryowen, so we thought it was a great connection to have. The poor guys don’t have much. They’re playing a tournament in Belfast this weekend and we bought them gear for it, and we’ll do the same again next year.
“It’s great to watch them play, they’re unbelievable. They played a Leinster team last year, so they were done up in Munster jerseys. It was a serious rivalry!”
There has been plentiful help from local rugby celebrities in raising those funds for the Garryowen Lions, and the now wound-up Shane Geoghegan Trust before that, as Sheahan outlines.
“Conor Murray came last year and donated a Lions jersey and got pictures taken with all the teams. Keith Wood was there last year and Barry O’Mahony, the Munster player, was there as well.
We’ve always got stuff off Paul O’Connell, Damien Varley has donated stuff as well. It’s great to have them here and they retweet our links online so it gives us some publicity.”
Teams from Cork and Donegal have been involved in recent years as the competition continues to grow in name around the country, and Sheahan is hoping to see an even wider spectrum of counties represented in September.
All the while, Geoghegan’s love for the “the physical and social sides” of rugby will be remembered by all involved at Garryowen FC.
The sixth Shane Geoghegan Memorial Tournament takes place at Garryowen FC on the 6th of September. Those looking to take part can contact the organisers through Facebook.