Where are they now?: Jim Glennon
November 23, 2022 12:49 pm Des Berry
THEN – Jim played for Leinster from 1976 to 1987, winning six caps for Ireland.
NOW – He is a non-executive director living with his wife Helen in Skerries with his three children Frank, Louise and Joe and four grandchildren nearby.
Jim Glennon’s connection to Leinster is strong, deep and true. It is that way because of the hard road it took to get there.
Having first played the game as 10 year old at Skerries RFC, as a student at Cistercian College in Roscrea, he attended a Leinster Schools trial in 1969. No luck.
He spent two years on the Leinster U19 squad without ever playing as much as a minute. No luck there.
Then, due to Skerries’ junior status in 1974, Jim qualified to play for the Leinster Counties, what might today be referred to as the Provincial Towns team, moving on up to the Leinster Juniors.
In 1975, Skerries moved into the senior club arena whereupon he became part of the Leinster squad without cracking the team. No luck there either.
“Until then, we were just a junior club, the Towns’Cup had been the limit of our ambition, along with the occasional ‘scalp’ of a senior club in the Leinster Senior Cup. Life was very simple !
“My first game for Skerries in adult rugby was as a hooker in September 1970 against Barnhall and I was dropped to the seconds the following week and dropped again to play number eight on the Skerries 3rds the following week again.”
By the end of the month, if anyone had suggested Jim as a Leinster and Ireland second row, they would have been laughed right out of the North Dublin town, not least by the man himself.
However, there was genetic evidence of better times ahead from his six maternal McGowan rugby-playing uncles from Balbriggan (one of whom had earned a final Ireland trial in the 1920s) and three cousins of the same name, two of whom, Joe and Kevin, played for Leinster, the latter getting a Final Trial in 1969.
So the story goes. A Leinster selector attended Skerries’s first senior club match against Old Belvedere on a horrible day in September 1975. He got drenched there and was taken home to a committee member’s house to shower and dry his clothes.
Said selector was taken back to the club where the campaign to have Jim included in a Leinster trial was supported by a scatter of pints. He was invited to the trial. Once again, no luck.
“I didn’t make the team but what I took from the trial was that Leinster wasn’t out of reach. It wasn’t out of sight as I had previously presumed. I decided to have a real go at getting there,” he adds.
“I reckoned that if I managed to be part of a successful Leinster team that it would give me a better chance of sneaking up another level to the ultimate honour.”
At Halloween 1976, Jim met his wife Helen on the night after he was first selected for Leinster; and they brought up their children Frank, Louise and Joe in Skerries, the latter following his father and grandfather as captain of Skerries RFC.
A special place is now reserved for his four grandchildren Silas, Amelia, Xav and Rosa. Jim is making up for the time rugby took him away from his own children.
“Looking back, I am very conscious of the amount of time rugby took away from my family. Yes, I gladly gave it. But, it would never happen nowadays,” he says.
“In those days, Leinster played three interpros, maybe a match in September and, more often than not, they had an annual match in the South of France, on November 11, Armistice Day, a national holiday over there, or against Llannelli in the old Stradey Park.
“I made my debut for Leinster against Perpignan on that day in 1976 in a team with Tom Grace as captain, John Robbie scrum-half, Ollie Campbell out-half, props Phil Orr, Mick Fitzpatrick and Ned Byrne, Louis Magee, Fergus Slattery and, coincidentally, a childhood friend of mine, Johnny Cronin of Terenure making his debut too, at full-back.
“As a raw 23 year-old from Skerries, it was a real eye-opener into French club rugby and all that it implies. The word ‘friendly’ doesn’t appear too often in the annals of French club rugby.
“Very late in the game, my legs were taken from under me in a lineout. I ended up in hospital and lost the interpro season to torn ligaments.
“At least, something good came out of it. When I had to go off, a good friend of mine, Jim Bardon, from Clontarf, came in for me for his first Leinster cap.”
The length of Jim’s Leinster career meant he had to battle it out with the likes of Louis Magee, Emmet O’Rafferty, George Wallace (with whom Jim accumulated a record-breaking total for a Leinster second-row partnership) right up to the emergence of a young Neil Francis in 1986.
In 1979, the Mick ‘Doyler’ Doyle revolution began when the Kerryman was appointed as Leinster coach and Jim became an anchor in the forwards until retiring in 1987.
“Doyler and his chairman Mick Cuddy had a massive impact on Leinster. They completely transformed the culture. By the time they appeared on the scene I had grown slightly disillusioned at how loose and casual it had all become – it was seen by many high-profile players simply as a means to an end (Ireland) rather than an end in itself (Leinster).
“They imbued in Leinster the feel of a tight club side, where everyone wanted to play for the jersey and for the group.We went on a five-year unbeaten run in the inter-pros from 15 matches that netted five Interpro titles from 1979 to 1983.
“It was Doyler’s theory that the best chance any of us had of playing for Ireland was to be part of a successful Leinster team. That was certainly true for me.”
It all led to six Ireland caps, two in 1980, debuting against England’s Bill Beaumont at Twickenham, and four in 1987, including the first World Cup.
“All I will say about my Ireland debut is that it was England’s Grand Slam year,” chuckles Jim.
“In 1987 I actually broke the record for the longest time served between caps, which had been previously held by Tony O’Reilly, and was later broken by Bangor’s Kenny Hooks.
“While I knew I wasn’t quite an international class lock, there’s no better motivation than pulling on the green jersey. In Mick Doyle’s words, you ‘give it a lash.’ You can persuade yourself of a lot of things when you have to.”
Retiring in 1987 after playing in the World Cup, Jim returned as a Leinster sub-selector in 1990, a Leinster selector in 1991, the Leinster coach in two stints from 1992 to 1993 and 1995 to 1997, transitioning over to Leinster Manager for one year under Mike Ruddock.
The now 69 year-old was the last Leinster coach and manager of the amateur era as well as the last Leinsterman to coach the province prior to Leo Cullen, coincidentally a fellow second-row.
Away from rugby, in 1995, in conjunction with the Irish Medical Organisation, Jim set up Medisec Ireland to provide Irish GPs with professional indemnity insurance; he currently acts as non-executive chairman of the company which has grown steadily and now looks after upwards of 2,500 Irish doctors. He has held a similar position with the Irish arm of Edelman, the world’s largest privately-owned communications agency, since 2008.
Jim went into national politics in 2000, serving in the Seanad until 2002 when he won a Dail seat for Fianna Fáil in Dublin North, from which he later stepped down without contesting the 2007 General Election.