URC Origins: Fred Casey - the underage coach behind some of Ireland’s greatest

URC Origins: Fred Casey - the underage coach behind some of Ireland’s greatest

Volunteers are the lifeblood of every rugby club across the world and they don’t much better than former Cork Constitution underage coach, Fred Casey.

Having only recently retired, Fred dedicated his entire life to coaching the U11 and U12 teams at the famous Munster club, getting involved in the set-up at just 16 while still a player.

Munster fans will never forget the day they finally climbed to the top of the mountain in 2006 and tasted European glory – but many will not be aware that the first European trophy was delivered to Munster back in 1990 by Fred and his group of underage players.

Cork Con were invited by the IRFU to represent Ireland in the Under-11 and Under-12 European Championship at Roche-La-Moliere, near St Etienne in France, with Fred’s side winning both championships.

The captain of that underage team on the day was none other than Ronan O’Gara, who was partnered in the halfbacks by a certain Peter Stringer.

Little did we know that thanks to Fred’s vision, the pair would go on to be one of the most successful pairings in history for both Munster and Ireland.

It wouldn’t be the last time Fred coached a future Ireland international, with his list of past players reading like an Irish Rugby Hall of Fame.


Another such player on that list is former Munster, British and Irish Lions, and current Ireland captain, Peter O’Mahony, who Fred knew from an early age was going to become a special player.

“You’d see by his eyes that he was 100% committed, and nothing was going to get through him” Fred tells us.

“All you had to do was look at the eyes.

“Peter would always go fully into it.”  

As for O’Mahony’s playing style at such at a young age – not much has changed when you see him turn out for Munster and Ireland today.

“He was a fella I’d class as a kamikaze player,” Fred added.

“He was a quiet enough young fella but when he was playing he was a different animal.

“Like most of them that made it, you’d see that they were fully committed at those ages more so than those that didn’t make it.”


Another current URC star that came through the ranks with Fred was a certain Simon Zebo who he coached at both Cork Consitution and schools level.

So what was young Zeebs like to coach?

“He was lively!” Fred said.

“He was always a character. 

And did Zebo score as many tries back then as he has throughout his professional career?

“Oh he did,” Fred adds

“He was a fella now that you had to let roam and do his own thing.

“You could see the way he ran around the schoolyard too, dodging in and out.”

Looks like Simon hasn’t changed much either.

Fred will go down as one of the great coaches and volunteers, and if there’s one bit of wisdom he can pass on for generations to come, it’s his simple mantra when it comes to explaining the game to aspiring young rugby players.

“I would always tell them that if they could do four things, they could play rugby,” Fred explains.

“To tackle, to run, to pass… and to use their brain!”

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