First Captain of Sefton 

Roger Aloysius O'Donnell

Written and researched by David Bohl, with the kind help and photos of the O'Donnell Family tree on Ancestry.

Roger Aloysius O'Donnell(RAO) was born on the 18th April 1887 in Knocknagopple, a very rural locality near Ballyporeen in Tipperary, Ireland. He lived on the farm with 5 brothers and 4 sisters, his dad unable to read or write according to the 1901 census. Whilst having his education in Cork, RAO played rugby for the Cork Constitution

On moving to Liverpool for teacher training or employment he ended up as an assistant schoolmaster at a the challenging Industrial School of St George's on Everton Lane.

He joined the Aliens for the start of the 1911-12 season and scored a couple of tries in his 15 games for the first XV. He must have impressed as the following season he was appointed sub-captain under W.B.Croxford.


The Aliens of Liverpool have developed quite a strong side, and Eccles only beat them by two tries (six points) to one goal (five points). The same, however, lasted only 35 minutes, for at half time the captains and referee decided that the condition of the ground had become so bad as to render further play dangerous. What play there was, however, was exhilarating, and although there was much bone in the ground there was some vigorous tackling. The Aliens have a pack much weightier than Eccles, but owing to the hard state of the ground they were unable to get a foothold for the push in the scrummages. In the scrummages Eccles got the advantage by smarter heeling out. In the loose they were quite as good as Eccles, and one player, R. A. O'Donnell, formerly of Cork Constitution was very prominent. There were some good passing runs, and the game had not been in progress more than ten minute's when the Aliens backs indulged in one of the cleverest moves that has been seen on the Eccles ground. Eccles forced a scrummage near thc Aliens' line, and the ball corning out to the A1iens' scrummage half he ran round to J. H. Helme, who gave the inside pass to W. B. Croxford. Croxford received the ball near his own "25," and, after a race three-quarters the length of the field, scored a try between the posts. H. N. Ellis converted. Some good work in a loose dribble by H. Bowker, J. Bolton, and W. T. Pearson forced the ball over the Aliens' line, and T. Whitehead dashed up and scored. Shortly afterwards Eccles took the lead by a clever move by E. Kendal, who received the ball from a scrummage and punted across to F. L. H. Oakley, who took the catch while at full speed and scored a try at the corner. The remaining play fluctuated considerably, and it is to the credit of the two full backs, W.H. Eidsforth (Eccles) and J. W. A. Taylor (Aliens) that there was no further scoring. Both of them, considering the hard nature of the ground, tackled in very daring fashion, and their kicking was clean.

Manchester Gaurdian 2/12/1912


The Aliens gave quite a smart display against Vale of Lune at Lancaster, who had an unbeaten home record to maintain, the result of a close contest being a win for Vale of Lune by 2 tries, scored by Pinch and Regan, forwards, to 1 try scored for the visitors by O'Donnell, who was in the County trial pack this season.

The conditions favoured a fast game, but the contest was for the most part a forward scramble. The Vale forwards were up against one of the heaviest packs they have faced this season, and if the Vale had the better of matters in the packs the visitors were quite effective in the loose.

The Vale were without their captain, J.W.Gardner, and Macnamara, who usually plays at stand-off half, only made an indifferent substitute, and the three-quarter backs rarely got going. S.A.Pakeman and D.H.Ostrehan were of invaluable service to the Vale at centre three-quarter back, initiating many attacks, which the wings did not profit by, and doing yeoman work in front of an ineffective full-back.

The splendid work of the Vale forwards was manifest, and players like Pinch, G.Eccles, J.Mount, and T.Salthouse, are good enough for any club. The visitors were best represented by O'Donnell, Bishop, and S.S.Jones in the forwards, and G.H.Mudge, W.B.Croxford, H.N.Ellis, among the backs, Croxford and Ellis doing many smart things.

Athletic News 13/12/1913

With his immediate Irish heritage RAO was not involved in the Great War and on the resumption of play in 1919-20 he joined the committee. 

He was obviously like a 'Corked' spring after a long lay off and his vigourous forward play was always observed in the newspapers.

A Triumph for Young Lancashire.

Lancashire put what on paper may to some have appeared a weak team in the field against Northumberland on Saturday, but really the young pack of forwards is possibly the fastest and best available, except possibly Captain Wakefield and R. T. Annesley; and it is likely this will be proved in another season.

Such players as H. G. Periton, J. B. Whittaker, J. L. Cruickshank, E. J. R. Kirby, and W. A. Grierson, all recommended in these columns, should have gained in experience, and, if allowed to work together, should produce excellent results; while R. A. O'Donnell, a powerful forward of the Aliens, should also he serviceable.

Athletic News 6/1/1920

The committee minutes of 16th April 1920 noted:-

"One of our members R.A.O'Donnell played for Lancashire v Northumberland and scored two tries. His play was highly commended in the press. S.Dumbell, and Alien trained player, now with University appeared v Durham, and F.Outhwaite was first reserve v Cheshire."

At the General Meeting held at Bee Hotel on August 31st 1920 it was decided that the change in the name of the club was desirable from many points of view, and while regretting the passing of the old name, it was agreed that from the date of the meeting the club should be called The "Sefton" Rugby Union Football Club.

Mr R.A.O'Donnell was appointed the very first captain of the Sefton Club.

A Ground Fund.

Eight players reported fit in 1919, and a fresh start was made. The old name no longer seemed suitable, and the present name - Sefton - was adopted. First team results have not been very thrilling, there having been a sad lack of weight and height, but there are now signs that these defects will shortly be remedied, and with a playing membership of about 120, and a general level of ability through the five teams which the club now puts regularly in the field, the outlook is bright. N. W. Hutchings, the captain of the side, has been missing most of the season for business reasons, and his absence has been badly felt. Of the present side, Arrowsmith, in the centre, and Sorenson forward, are the most promising. Foggo, the stand-off half, is a splendid kick with very good hands, who only needs resolution to make him a very fine plover.

The club is in a sound financial position, and with the knowledge that the need for a permanent ground is the greatest of the present handicaps, a start has been made with a ground fund, to which, thanks to the energies of the treasurer, Mr. J. Milbourn, and the president, Mr W. J. Smith, the old Bristol and Gloucestershire forward, substantial contributions have already been made. A club dance held at the Embassy Rooms on Tuesday last, at which over 300 members and friends were present, should result in a further addition to the fund.

Old players of the club still take a very active part in club legislation. R. A. O'Donnell, the Lancashire forward, is very keenly interested in the St. Edward's Club; F. P. Arthur, a founder and secretary of Hoylake, still plays, and F.Outhwaite, who was reserve for the Lancashire scrum in 1921, was chosen for the Western Province SA.trials last year, but stood down to give younger men a chance. With an enthusiastic body of young players, and the steadying influence of an imposing group of vice-presidents, not the least honoured of whom is Mr. R.K. Mackenzie, the founder of the Watsonians, there are signs of an advance in the near future.

The 1939 Register finds Roger and his wife in Buckley, Flintshire as a school headmaster. However the Buckley Society have looked at their records and have not found any trace of him at their local schools. He moved down to the London area after ww2 to be with his family.

[Relaxing with the family in St James Park, London 1950]

Roger passed away in Rickmansworth, Watford in 1978




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