Tuam RFC

Founded 1970

Co. Galway

Club Profiles John Higgins


(This piece was done on 3rd November, 2020)

This week our club profile focuses on former player, captain, president and coach JOHN HIGGINS.


Thrown in at the deep end with only a few training sessions behind him, the Kilconly man's first experience of the sport turned him away from it for a decade.


"When I was in secondary school I was asked would I play rugby so I said I'd give it a go. I'd only two practice sessions behind me at our then pitch in Parkmore when I was asked to play for Tuam in the Sprtsgrounds. I gave away a late penalty and I got the head eat of me so I said sod this, this is not for me.


"I took up running for ten years. Running can be a lonely sport but I loved it. I never missed a day. I ran a hundred miles a week, twenty on a Sunday. I ended up running loads of marathons. I just found it great for the head," says John.


With his rugby career seemingly over before it had been given time to flourish, a day in the bog would result in a second shot at the sport for John.


"Dáithí Quinn, who was heavily involved in Tuam RFC at the time, asked me would I help him with turf in his bog. I had a Massey Ferguson 35 at the time. He had to be at a Tuam game that afternoon so he had organised a number of the rugby lads to be there too. We got the turf done but the old Massey Ferguson 35 got stuck. You can picture all of us pushing the tractor but we got it free! Dáithí then asked me would I come and play this game at three o'clock. I said I would and I kept playing until I was forty-five."


With the rugby boots replacing the runners, John saw opportunities to develop as a player when he sampled life at the top table of club rugby with stints at Creggs and Corinthians.


"I enjoyed my start with Tuam RFC but I decided to go to Creggs for four years and I did enjoy it. We won the Junior Cup and the league one year which meant the following season we played AIL rugby. This was a great experience traveling to places like Colraine and down as far as Waterford.


"I also played AIL with Corinthians. I wore the number three jersey for them as I did for every team I played for. I remember one year Galwegians were looking for me because they needed a tighthead prop. It just turned out a couple of weeks later we got them in the cup. I remember after the game one of the lads asked me what did I think of my opposite number. I said he was some new lad they got from Loughrea and he was only middling! To which my teammate turned to me and said what do you mean, he's an all black they've signed recently. His name was Warren Gatland!" laughs John.


Having returned to Tuam RFC, John was made captain for the 1989/1990 season. He recalls; "I was always roaring and shouting anyways but it helped the cause when I was named captain. It was a proud moment of course to be captain of Tuam. The club as a whole was going in the right direction. There was great structure within the club.


"For example every Tuesday a committee meeting was held. At that meeting the first and second teams were picked, written on a card then posted out to the players. If you were lucky enough on the Thursday, the postman would give you one of these cards. On it you were told you were picked to play whoever at such a time. There were three landline numbers on these cards which you had the choice of ringing to confirm your availability or not whichever was the case."


Once John turned forty-five, he decided to put the rugby boots beside the runners and call time on his playing career. However he stayed involved with the club taking up the role as club president on two occasions in 1995/96 and again in 2013/14. Yet he had his eyes set on a different role once he retired from playing.


"I wanted to be a referee. Its something I had in my head once I knew my playing days were coming to an end. However work got in the way so I decided to do a bit of coaching. I helped Sean Lelevre when he took the firsts for a season and I really enjoyed it". 


John says one of the biggest differences he sees from his playing days to the lads nowadays is the professionalism. "In our time we were just glad to play rugby. That's all we wanted was to simply play rugby. Today I have to say the club is up there in the top three. There is a hunger to win. These lads deserve to win a trophy. They are being very well coached by Barry.


"We have had great teams down through the years but it would be lovely to see us win a junior Cup. In many ways we are the Mayo of rugby," says John tongue in cheek!!


As John looks back on his rugby career he does admit that it is tinged with a bit of regret. "When I was that eighteen year old that made that mistake in the Sportsgrounds, I turned against the sport. Who knows what would have happened if things were different. However I'll always be grateful for that tractor getting stuck in the bog," laughs John.


Having taken a three year break, John is back in the club as a committee member and is also helping out in a coaching capacity.


"I took a break alright but it's great to be involved again. I did miss it. It's great to see where the club is at. I think it's very rewarding seeing young lads come up through the ranks. I see a lot of that here. That augurs well for the future," concludes John.

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