Wednesday 18 October 2017

Gladiator spirit gives historic club fighting chance

Club Focus - Gort RFC

Gort RFC Junior team
Gort RFC Junior team
Gort U16 Community College
Gort Mini rugby
Ray Dolan presents Tom Finneran with a cheque
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Since its foundation, Gort RFC has experienced the highs of success and lows of near extinction. Now in its ninth decade, it is a rugby club thriving in a traditional GAA stronghold and has produced players and administrators who have contributed significantly to the history of rugby in Connacht.

Established in 1923 to develop the game of rugby through North Clare and South Galway, the club first tasted success by winning the Connacht Junior Cup in the 1930s.

The club's fortunes declined following this success before a revival in the 1960s renewed the popularity of rugby in the area. Gort RFC won the U-18 cup in 1993 with many of the same players involved in the winning of the Connacht Junior Cup in 2004.

The club reached the semi-final of the Connacht Junior Cup in the 2012/2013 season but, due to the loss of players through emigration, injury and retirement, were unable to field a Junior team during the 2013/2014 season.

Thankfully, due to the hard work and commitment of the team coach and a core team of players, along with the successful recruitment of new members, the club is now fielding a team in the J2 league. The initial target for the 2014/2015 season was to field a team for each fixture. However, recent results have given the club cause for optimism and a new target of challenging for silverware in 2015.

The mini rugby section of Gort RFC (also known as Gladiator Rugby) caters for boys and girls from U-7 to U-12.

Positive

The club has been successful in bringing the game of rugby to many traditionally non-rugby areas, with players and coaches hailing from all over South Galway and North Clare, an area that stretches from Crusheen to Ardrahan and Peterswell to Kinvara.

The aim is to introduce young people to rugby in a fun, friendly and positive environment and to ensure each child is given the best possible experience of the sport. The club has a number of coaches for each age grade to support skills development and both hosts and travels to a number of blitz competitions each season which give players the opportunity to put their skills to the test in safe, supervised matches. The emphasis at these blitzes is on player participation and enjoyment - each child gets playing time during these games.

One challenge has been to establish a structure to give teenagers the chance to continue, and start, playing rugby. Over the past few seasons the club has employed a CCRO to coach rugby, along with club coaches, in Gort Community School. This hard work bore fruit last year with the U-16 team from Gort CS winning the South-West Regional League and progressing to win the Connacht Junior Development Cup, defeating Davitt's College 22-0 in the final.

It is important to note that a number of players within the squad were not participating in other sporting activities prior to being introduced to rugby. The club wishes to thank principal Dennis Corry and the staff of Gort CS for their continued help and support in promoting rugby in the school.

Since the establishment of the club, Gort RFC's home has been St Colman's Park. These grounds are shared with a number of other sports clubs and the club is grateful to the trustees of the Park for their support.

In 2014, Gort RFC was chosen as one of four provincial winners of the Ulster Bank RugbyForce Awards. The award was recognition for the progress that has been made in growing the club within the community and enabled it to carry out maintenance and development work on pitch and facilities. In association with Ulster Bank RugbyForce, the club held a very successful Volunteer Day in August 2014. We were delighted to welcome a number of Ulster Bank staff who came to lend a hand and to welcome Munster and Ireland legend Alan Quinlan, who generously spent time coaching mini rugby players and meeting volunteers on the day.

The club plans to grow and develop facilities to ensure the best possible environment for players and supporters. These plans include floodlighting, additional playing and training areas and player facilities. These amenities will be essential to support the club's aim of having teams for men and women, boys and girls, at all age levels.

Achieving these aims requires a substantial level of funding. The club acknowledges and appreciates the support received from Galway Sports Partnership, our members and the many local businesses who have supported us through the years including the sponsor of the Gladiator jerseys, Mahon's Garage, Gort. In addition, the club has hosted a number of fundraising events including a white collar boxing night (in association with the local Gaelic football club), an annual 10km run/walk and more recently a sponsored Operation Transformation event.

Knowledge

The club is always delighted to welcome new players, committee members, supporters and coaches. Previous rugby experience is not a requirement for new coaches as all coaches attend courses giving them the knowledge and skills required to develop young players and receive guidance from experienced coaches. Within the club there is a child welfare officer and a number of Gort's coaches have attended the SAFE rugby course.

Mini rugby training takes place on Saturdays from 10.30am while Junior rugby training is held on Thursdays at 7.30pm. Anyone interested in Gort RFC can contact the club via Facebook, via its website (www.gortrugby.com) or by phone (086-8495449)

Irish Independent

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