Creggs keen to build on their success
Club focus: Creggs RFC
With the professional game in the province at an all-time high, clubs all around Connacht are looking to make the most of last summer's Pro12 success.
One such club is Creggs RFC, and they are currently in the process of beginning a major development project at their ground in The Green to cater for their expanding club.
The club recently purchased seven acres of land and club president Kieran Dowd says there is a real buzz about the club that has been generated by the development.
"We're very excited about the new development because we've been looking over the fence longingly for years," Dowd says.
"Thanks to a lot of hard work and thanks to great support from our sponsors Ward & Burke and Murray Timber and many more and the good will of the local community, we have been able to purchase ground.
"We're after buying seven acres. We hope, in time, to have four full-sized pitches all on site."
Michael Ward of sponsors Ward & Burke Construction played with Creggs in the past and also represented Ireland's Universities side.
The development is in its infancy but Dowd hopes the plans will be a big asset to the community.
"It's just starting now. We're putting together a five-year plan. We're going to take it one pitch at a time and take it bit by bit," explains Dowd.
"We may put in some facilities for the community as well. Maybe a tennis court or a walk around it. The country roads are so narrow, it's dangerous for people going for a walk.
"Lots of parents like to go for a walk when they leave the kids into play rugby. We'd like to give something back to the community in the rural area. It's important that we do something like that."
With the game of rugby slowly but surely reaching into the unexplored corners of the province, clubs like Creggs will soon have plenty of competition within their own county of Roscommon.
And Dowd feels the development is timely given the popularity of rugby in the local area - especially in the schools' game.
"Rugby has never been more popular in the community thanks to Connacht's great success. The demand is there. We're providing the facilities.
"We currently have three schools that are playing a lot of rugby, particularly Roscommon CBS, who have had a lot of success in recent years, Roscommon Community School and St Mary's in Ballygar as well.
"We provide a pitch for all those schools but our aim is that we would get rugby into Glenamaddy and into Castlerea. At the moment, we're trying to set that up," explains Dowd. "Ladies rugby has taken off as well. In the past, our Ladies' teams were All-Ireland champions about ten or 15 years ago. We're starting again. Larry Mannion is doing a lot of good work with the ladies."
Connacht's Denis Buckley is Creggs most notable past player at the moment. The prop won the Pro12 title with Connacht last season and played underage with Creggs.
If Buckley is capped for Ireland which, given his form, looks likely, he will be Creggs' first full senior international.
Buckley began his underage career with Creggs and went onto play for Athlone club Buccaneers. The Roscommon native joined the Connacht academy in 2009 and made his debut for Connacht in the 2011/'12 season against Benetton Treviso.
Buckley was named in the 2015/'16 Pro12 Dream Team after Connacht's incredible season. His colleagues Tom McCartney and Finlay Bealham were also named in an all-Connacht front-row, while Ultan Dillane, Kieran Marmion, Bundee Aki and Matt Healy were all included also.
Cregg's underage set-up caters for players from U-8s to U-18.5s. There are approximately 400 underage players involved with club under the guidance of their hard-working coaches including Dave Purcell and Aidan Farrell.
Brian Diffley and James Brandon have been flying the flag for Creggs' underage set-up. Both players are involved with Connacht at underage level while Brian's brother, Michael won a number of Ireland U-20 caps in the past.
The senior team play in Division 1B of the Connacht Junior League and are coached by Pat Cunningham. The former Corinthians coach is a Creggs man and this is his first year in charge.
The club's first game of the league season ended 13-13 against Mayo side Ballinrobe.
Last season, the club missed out on promotion to Division 1A after losing the play-off. Creggs played Connemara, who finished bottom of Division 1A, but were defeated.
The club have had three past presidents of the Connacht Branch namely Adrian Leddy, Frank Petit and Joe Daly.
Dowd is quick to praise the importance of these men to Creggs RFC.
"They were men who were instrumental in setting it up in the '70s and putting a shape on it. Our club would never have survived without them," remarks Dowd.
President Dowd was also keen to praise the effort of all of the club's hard-working coaches and committee members since the club was founded in 1975.
"Without the likes of Sean Brandon, our club secretary and second team manager, the club would not function. Aengus Oates was heavily involved when we were acquiring the extra land and club PRO Padraic Deane who is on our finance committee. He's also the club's vice president," adds Dowd.
"Bernie Higgins has done an immense amount of work on the club grounds and buildings. Ger Dowd trained successful youth teams in the early years of our successful youth rugby program.
"Our underage setup began in the early '80s and two other names who were prominent in the underage set-up in the initial stages are Derry O'Dwyer and Adrian Leddy, while David Kearney and Pat O'Gorman are doing invaluable work in finance and coaching respectively.
"I actually played on the club's first underage team under the guidance of Mick Flanagan, Liam Callaghan and Liam Scahill. The club was built on the Brandon brothers.
"There were six of them. And John Cunningham and Ger Dowd. The club was built on fellas like that. They were all involved in Connacht youth teams over the years."
Club name: Creggs RFC
Address: The Green, Creggs, Co Galway
Club founded: 1974
President: Kieran Dowd
Head coach: Pat Cunningham
Captain: Tom Callaghan