The family is the backbone of any close-knit sporting community and Kilkenny Rugby Club is no exception.
While father and son combinations have held the presidency at various stages in the club’s history, such as the Kielys, the Crottys, and the Brickells, Kilkenny’s family ties go much further.
That link continues on to playing field, where current captain Joe Manuel will lead the side into Sunday’s Provincial Towns Cup final hoping to following in his father Simon’s footsteps. Simon captained the winning Kilkenny team to Provincial Towns Cup glory in 2001 against Portlaoise and was also a member of the winning team in 2002.
Assistant coach to the current Kilkenny squad, Barry Daly, was a member of both those winning teams. His experience will be of great benefit to the current team. Barry’s brothers, Nigel and Kelvin are also active members of the club, the former coaching the Seconds squad last season.
The current squad of players consists of six sets of brothers who regularly turn out for the senior teams who have actively played this season.
The Harpers, John and Victor, began their rugby in Kilkenny College prior to playing for Kilkenny. They were members of the Thirds squad that won the inaugural Metro League title this season. They have also played with the Firsts and Seconds in previous seasons.
Ronnie Moran is a regular player with the Seconds while his younger brother Sean will be on duty for the Firsts on Sunday. Sean has also proudly represented Leinster and Ireland at under-18 level.
The Pembroke brothers, Alan and Ray, have served the club for many years at both under-age and senior levels. Both are active members of the current squad but Alan had to retire earlier this season due to injury. Their father, Ray senior, has been an instrumental member of the club for many years and managed the Seconds up until last season.
The Walsh brothers, Philly and Robbie, are two very accomplished hurlers who have thrown the sliotar to one side for the present as they prepare to take to the field to represent their city and club.
Others to bridge the Gaelic games gap are the Phelan brothers, John and Conor. Both are well-known as hurlers, having won senior county and intermediate All-Ireland honours with their club, Clara, as well as representing the Cats at various inter-county levels.
Completing the brotherly link are the Ryans, Victor and Philip, who have been long serving members of the club. Philip, a former club captain, currently has the dual role as player and forwards coach of the team.