The Ottawa Irish Rugby Club (OIRC) was founded in 1963 in the Beacon Hill community of Ottawa, joining three other rugby clubs in the Ottawa area: the Bytown Beavers, Deep River, and the Ottawa Indians. Ken Gibson led the club as the first president while George Jones was Captain in the early seasons. Through the efforts of Con Sheehan and others, the new club was able to attract a host of great young football players to the game.
Under the guiding influence of Bob Elder, the late sixties saw the OIRC develop into a coherent force both on and off the field. The club came of age in 1971 with a successful tour to Bermuda. Strengthened by guest players from the Irish Canadians and the Montreal Irish, the Irish club defeated Bermuda marking their first ever loss to a club side. The next overseas tour was to Britain in 1977 with games in Scotland and England. The following year after the tour, the Ottawa Irish became the first Canadian club to win the Saranac Lake Can-Am Trophy.
(Starting from top left) P. Senecal, L. Powell, G. Ashe, B. Foster, D. Cyr, N. Carr, M. Clarkin, D. Turnbull, Lads, S. Browne, P. Duey, R. Monette, A. German, C. Senecal, G. Fownes
Up to 1979, the Ottawa Irish were members of the Quebec Rugby Union (QRU), with most away games being held in Montreal. In 1980, the OIRC became a member of the Ontario Rugby Union (ORU) and the focus moved from Montreal to Toronto with the best players representing Ontario rather than Quebec at the provincial level. The early eighties saw a strong influx of young players who had learned to play rugby at local high schools. These players along with experienced veterans from the QRU days laid the foundation for success throughout the 1980s. The efforts of these young players led to a winning tradition in both the ORU League and Cup competitions and secured the club's reputation as one of the top clubs in Eastern Canada. At this time, the OIRC was fortunate to be coached by David Roberts while he was the Canadian Rugby Union (CRU) Technical Director. On the administrative side, Nancy MacLeod and Peter Sloan were invaluable assets ensuring that the day-to-day organization and finances were in order.
With the club's strong influence in local high schools, the nineties also proved successful, particularly in the Ontario 7s Championship that they won each year from 1991 to 1998. The ORU 'triple crown'--McCormick Cup, League, and Sevens-- was achieved in 1991 and again in 1996. In 1995, the Club expanded to introduce the Ottawa Irish Women's team and it has enjoyed considerable success since its formation.
The late Bill Foster was a teacher by training and is amongst a select few who would be considered Ottawa Irish greats as both a player and coach. Shortly after helping coach the St. Pius boys’ team to a 1989 Provincial Silver medal, Bill moved over to St. Paul’s High School for a new challenge. He transformed the St. Paul’s girl’s rugby program into a high school powerhouse winning multiple championships.
In April 1995 with a core of St. Paul’s grads, a handful of girls from Colonel By, and a few alumni from the St. Francis Xavier University women’s rugby club, Bill led 21 young women into their first Ottawa Irish season in the Quebec III Division league. In the Ottawa Irish Women’s inaugural season, the women won the championship and went on to win a Russel League Championship in 1996.
After winning a playoff game against Beaconsfield, the women qualified to play in the more competitive Quebec Premier Division League in 1997. With an influx of quality players from high school and university, the Ottawa Irish Women won the Premier Division in 1997 and 1999, and were finalists in 1998, 2000-2002. Due to high numbers and increased need, the OIRC Women’s 2nds started in 1999, and demonstrated that they could compete with the 1st team in the newly established EORU Premier league. A formal U19 league was established in 2003, making the number of women’s teams equal to the men’s side within eight years. A U17 squad has since been added to the club which has provided young women the opportunity to excel at the regional, provincial, and national levels.
1963: Ottawa Irish Rugby Club formed
1965: Joined Quebec Rugby Union (QRU/FRQ)
1970: Carling Cup finalist vs Toronto Scottish
1971: Tour to Bermuda
1974: Rugby introduced into High Schools in Ottawa area
1976: Twin Elm Rugby Park opened
1977: Tour to Scotland and England
1978: First Canadian club to win Saranac Lake Can-Am Trophy
1979: Tour to Bermuda
1980: Joined Ontario Rugby Union (ORU)
1981: Competed in the Canadian Rugby Cup in Vancouver
1987: Win against Racing Club de Paris and Tour of Ireland
1988: 25th anniversary
1991: Ontario Triple Crown (League, McCormick Cup & Magnificent 7s)
1995: Women’s team formed
1996: Ontario Triple Crown (League, McCormick Cup & Magnificent 7s)
2002: Al Charron and Sherri Sparling named Captains of Canada’s world cup team
2003: 40th Anniversary
2007: Premier Women win Ontario Championship
2013: 50th anniversary
2015: Alumni tour to Wales for Canada vs Ireland World Cup Rugby match
2016: Alumni tour to Chicago for Ireland vs New Zealand test match
In their inaugural season Bill Foster and the OIRC's Women's 1st XV win the Quebec III Division Championship 1995