RACING 92 were no strangers to visiting Limerick to play rugby fixtures in the club's former guise as Racing Club de France.
Racing Club was established in 1882, it became Racing Club de France in 1885, as an athletics club, one of the first in France.
A rugby section was founded in 1890, which became an immediate protagonist of the early French championship and to which, until 1898, only Parisian teams were invited.
Two of Racing Club's visits to Limerick came in the 1950s, the first of which was in September 1955, when a star-studded Garryowen Selection took on the French aristocrats in a glamour international friendly at Thomond Park.
Racing Club returned to Limerick to face Old Crescent in the 1959/1960 season.
Reporting on the arrival of the French club in Limerick in 1955, the Limerick Leader of that week reported that the squad had lunched in Cruise's Hotel upon arrival. Later the squad visited Shannon Airport where they were guests of An Bord Failte. The players were also made honorary members of Castletroy Golf Club where they visited.
The report of the game published in the Limerick Chronicle, dated October 1, 1955, revealed the final score as the 'Garryowen Selection' 14pts, Racing Club de France 11pts, under a headline 'Garryowen's Amazing Forward Rally Turned the Tide'.
Part of the match report read: “ Niall Brophy, the youthful UCD winger, in his second season in senior ranks, was the Garryowen hero in a sensational 14-11 win over Racing Club de France at Thomond Park on Sunday.
With the visitors leading by 11-3 and only 20 minutes remaining, it looked long odds against Garryowen succeeding. However, the 'Light Blues' threw everything into those closing, hectic minutes and bit by bit they cut the lead until the Frenchmen had just two points to spare.
Then came Brophy's dramatic score which clinched the issue two minutes' from time.
Brophy took a poor pass from Goff on the bounce, slipped back towards the centre, veered away towards the left, and rounded off the movement with a brilliant 60 yard dash which took him over at the corner.
Seamus Kelly out on the finishing touch with a lovely goal kicked from the touch-line. Racing Club had led 8-3 at half-time.”
The Racing Club line-up for the game included renowned French internationals in full-back Michel Vannier and scrum-half and captain G Dufau who had already won 28 international caps by the time he came to Limerick.
The Chronicle's match report continued: “Fierce foot-rushes played havoc with the Racing Club defence in the final quarter, and even the immaculate full-back, Vannier, top class in all other respects was not prepared to 'mix it'.
“The home side's pack came to life after a slow start with trojan work by Spillane, Clifford and Wood, coupled with the consistent play of Cunningham. McGrath and O'Connell helped turn the tables.”
GARRYOWEN SELECTION: Jim Kiernan (UCC & Munster); Sean Quinlan (Highfield), Paul Goff (Blackrock College & Leinster), Kevin J Quilligan (Garryowen & Munster), Niall Brophy (UCD); Seamus Kelly (Lansdowne & Ireland), John A O'Meara (Dolphin & Ireland), Tom Clifford (Young Munster & Ireland), Michael Collins (Garryowen), Gordon Wood (Garryowen & Ireland); Tom Nesdale (Garryowen) (Captain), Geoff Spillane (Old Crescent); Marney Cunningham (Cork Con & Ireland), Tim McGrath (Garryowen), Martin O'Connell (Young Munster).
RACING CLUB DE FRANCE: M Vannier; A Chappuis, J Dachary, L Fernandez, M Deveaud; R Lamoliate, G Dufau; B Samyn, R Bonnet, J Brun; S Boize, J Deligne, P Mogou, J eqbeque, D Carricaburu.
REFEREE: DAN MEANY