What is a Garryowen?

Not to be confused with American stand-up comedian Gary Owen, ‘Garryowen’ is a rugby union term used to describe a high, tactical kick, otherwise known as an ‘up-and-under’. Garryowen is Gaelic for ‘Eóin’s Garden’, but its use to describe a rugby manoeuvre derives from the name of Garryowen Football Club, or Garryowen, for short, in Limerick, Ireland. Historically, one of the most successful clubs in Irish rugby union, Garryowen FC won the Munster Senior Cup three years running between 1924 and 1926, executing the tactic on each occasion.

Although there are risks involved, the Garryowen is an attacking tactic. The aim is to kick underneath the ball, so that it travels as high in the air as possible, rotating end over end, without covering any great distance. Correctly executed, the Garryowen allows attacking players enough time to chase down the kick, arrive in numbers and compete for the ball as it descends from the heavens.

Of course, it is entirely possible that a defending player can safely win back possession, but catching a high ball is often touch-and-go, especially in the face of opposing players, in potentially wet and/or windy conditions. Consequently, the risk of losing possession is mitigated by putting the defending team under pressure, which can lead to handling errors, infringements and scoring opportunities for the attacking team.