Pride and joy Popplewell enjoyed glittering career
WITH SO much positivity flowing out of the rugby revolution in Gorey, it shouldn't be forgotten that, by many other clubs' standards in the south-east, Gorey Rugby Football Club, at just 46 years old, is a relatively new entity.
The club that currently borders Naomh Eanna G.A.A. club in Clonattin wasn't the first attempt to bring rugby to Wexford's most northerly town, but it was the first one that stuck.
Courtown native and former Irish international Karl Mullen came to Gorey in the '40s and played a home selection. Yet, the numbers and deep-seated love for rugby just weren't there after the war and the club didn't last long. Nor did it last long after its resurrection a few years later as the fifties came to an end.
Finally, after years of failures, history will forever show that it was an Enniscorthy man, Eric Deacon, who built the house that has seen so many successful and joyful days since. He called a meeting in 1968 and from that day on Gorey has boasted a progressive rugby club.
It wasn't all tea and scones and tales of glory in the early days. Gorey built steadily, eventually adding a clubhouse in the late seventies, but it wasn't until a few years later that the club carried over its improvements off the field into victories at Clonattin.
The eighties saw the club flourish with five teams competing in the adult grades. The victorious years were sparked by three south-east cups in succession in the early part of the decade and that was added to by an impressive treble as the seconds won the Provincial Towns Cup, Shield and South East league in the mid-eighties. As a south-east Junior club, Gorey also had the unprecedented glory of coming through qualifying for the Senior Cup and into the draw proper.
The backdrop of the magnetic eighties for the club, when they came from all over the area to join in, was the emergence of Gorey's greatest-ever player, Nick Popplewell. 'Nicky' as he is known within the club played as a teenager for Gorey and was part of several successes with the adult teams before moving on to Greystones, to Ireland and then the Lions. A large selection of his memorabilia is currently on show in the 0clubhouse in Clonattin.
After a time in the nineties when the club stagnated on the pitch, Gorey is vibrant again. Several players have competed at under-age international level for Ireland in recent years - including James Nolan who last year captained Ireland at Under-18 level - ensuring that all the time and energy going into the incredible youth development is well spent.