Cork Constitution Rugby Club is one of the most famous and successful rugby clubs in Ireland. The club known as “Con” was founded in 1892 by members of the Constitution Cricket Club composed of employees of the Cork Constitution Newspaper, based at Marlboro St. This was a Unionist newspaper, published six days a week. The newspaper was taken over in 1885 by Henry Lawrence Tivy, who was from a butter merchant family.
The cricket club played on the grounds of Tivy’s home at Barnstead, Blackrock Road, (now the site of the Barnstead estate off Church Road). It appears the new rugby club initially played and trained there as Tivy was its patron and first President from 1892-1923. David Kilroy, a printer at the newspaper, was the real motivational force behind the rugby club and served as its captain for the initial six years until 1898. The club played its first game in Cobh against the Pirates on 3rd November 1894. The first home game was played at the city end of the Marina, known as the “Park”.
Constitution then began their nomadic journey, leading to their present Temple Hill grounds which they purchased in 1952. Initially, they played in Turners Cross, later transferring to the Agricultural Grounds in Ballintemple. Other venues used included the Lough and a long stay of almost five decades at the Mardyke.
The official opening of the pavilion was on 30th November 1952, with the official opening of the pitch and the first match taking place there on Saturday 26th September 1953. Constitution played Lansdowne in what was a big occasion for the club. Among those who played for Con was Charlie Hennessy, who ironically later played with the Lansdowne Club. He was active in the Cork Film Festival and Chairperson of the Cork Opera House. The match programme cost 6d and a total of £7 was realised from the sale of programmes on the day.
Eventually, a site was acquired in the early 50s at Temple Hill. At a meeting on the 30th November 1951, club members agreed to purchase a six and a half-acre site on the eastern end of Boreenmanna Road for £3,000. A pitch was laid out by labour and a modest pavilion which included two dressing rooms and a small bar costing £1,500 was erected in 1952.
A stand was added in 1969, named after Danno O’Connell a stalwart of the club. Later in the mid-70s, further ground was purchased. A move to Ballyorban in Monkstown in 2007 was planned during the Celtic Tiger era. This was later abandoned as Cork City Council refused planning for the rezoning of and development of Templehill. Instead, a new bar and sports facilities were erected in 2012 so it has eventually grown into the fine complex one sees today at the “top of Temple Hill”.
In 2016, the City Council approved the granting of a 99-year sporting lease to Constitution for a pitch in Mahon. This location was reclaimed from the river Lee in the mid-90s as a result of the construction of the Jack Lynch Tunnel, the entrance to the pitch lies off the Ringmahon Road.