Thursday 29 September 2016

A proud pillar of the sporting community

Focus on youths and progressive initiatives to grow the game keep Laois club thriving at all levels

Brian Lowry

Published 16/09/2016 | 02:30

Portarlington have enjoyed a successful run of form last year with its U-13 team claiming the spoils in the Leinster league last season
Portarlington have enjoyed a successful run of form last year with its U-13 team claiming the spoils in the Leinster league last season

Based on the Offaly-Laois border, Portarlington RFC continues to thrive more than 40 years after their foundation in 1974.

Club Focus: Portarlington RFC

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A proud junior club, they are one of the most vibrant and progressive clubs in the province.

The club's first team plays in Division 2A of the Leinster League where they finished fourth last season behind their local rivals Portlaoise.

You don't have to scroll back through the years too far to find success.

In 2011-12, the Laois men, who play at Lea Road, won the Leinster league Division 2A as well as the Provincial Towns Plate and the Hosie Cup.

It was a memorable season for all involved and although they found the going tough in Division 1B after their promotion and are now back down in 2A, they showed last year that they are not far off mounting another promotion charge.

Indeed, the season ahead is already throwing up some interesting games as their J2s take on local rivals Portlaoise in the Lalor Cup this weekend.

Ross Doyle has played a big part in the club both on the field and as a coach in recent years.

A club that looks forward to the Towns Cup every January, they had one of their finest hours in recent times when they went to Naas in 2015 with a bulging travelling support and turned over the fancied home side.

Credit

At youths level the club is developing strongly and former youths co-ordinator and current director of rugby Pádraig Mahon can take huge credit for that.

With two girls' teams and five boys' teams fielding every week, there is a strong production line of quality players being generated.

There has been some notable success at this level also with the U-19s winning the area league in 2014 while the U-17s won Division 1 of the Leinster League and their U-13s won the Leinster Bowl.

Mahon has been a huge plus to the club and has seen a number of players come up through the underage system in the club.

The likes of James Brennan, Robert Piggot, Warren Murray and Dylan Stronge have benefited from the underage system in the club, despite moving on.

Scrum-half Keith Kavanagh is one of the club's biggest talents. He has also blossomed in Cistercian College, Roscrea where he won a scholarship and helped them to many a fine victory in the Senior Schools Cup and since that, he has reached new heights this year, touring with the Leinster U-20s this summer.

Jordan Fitzpatrick lined out for the Leinster U-18 Clubs in the recent Interprovincial series. The club also had six representatives on the North Midlands Summer Development squad.

The women's section of the club has also seen players go on to provincial level, with Jessica Weiss and Michelle Murphy part of the Leinster Girls squad in 2015.

Last season also saw Portarlington produce wining underage teams. The U-15 and U-18 boys' teams won league titles, while the girls' U-18 team were unlucky to lose the league final.

Those league finals were played in Donnybrook in a bid to emphasise the experience for the players and Portarlington were one club that really embraced the occasion.

Despite the games being played on different weekends, the 'Port' support travelled in big numbers each day with the U-15s kicking things off on April 3 to win a thrilling final 26-24 against North Meath.

The U-18 Women teamed up with Cill/Dara but their combined powers could only see them draw 5-5 with Ardee/Boyne - the Meath outfit were awarded the game on the 'result on the day' rules.

The U-18 boys, powered on by the superb Jordan Fitzpatrick, who landed a late kick, won the U-18 league by defeating Clane 30-27 in another high quality and nail biting game in Donnybrook.

At minis level, the club is continuing to expand, with 150 boys and girls playing rugby from U-7s to U-12s. Under the watchful eye of coordinator Darren Hennessy, these future stars train regularly and play in area blitzes.

The club has built up a strong reputation for their outstanding hosting of these events and in 2014; they were awarded the staging of the Leinster U-12s blitz.

Big emphasis is also put on getting coaching into the vast amount of local schools while in recent years there has also been Summer 'Games on the Green' held in local housing estates to ensure the game continues to grow in the town.

The club is at the heart of the community from a social point of view also. They staged a sold out Strictly Come Dancing events in The Heritage Hotel & Spa Resort two years ago with people from right across the community attending and drawing the biggest crowds ever seen in the hotel.

Since then, the fundraising arm of the club has continued to push on with a hugely successful open air music festival and a Lip Sync their last two ventures.

Portarlington has a strong reputation for conducting all of their activities in a very professional manner and many see their staging of the 2012 Provincial Towns Cup as one of the most impressive ever.

Off the field, former PRO Barry Lambkin was awarded Leinster Rugby's PRO of the Year in 2014 which reflected his club's progressive engagement with local media, social media and Leinster Rugby's own media channels.

This club looks set to continue its impressive development having established itself as one of the sporting pillars of the community.

Founded: 1974

Grounds: Lea Road

Club colours: Wine and White

Youths and Minis: U-7s to U-9s

Club president: Jim Coman

Club captain: Connor Dunne

Next week's Club Focus is on Skerries RFC

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