Friday 22 September 2017

Clondalkin RFC: Tight-knit club starting to realise big potential

Pushing for promotion to top tier of Leinster Junior Rugby, Clondalkin are making strides on and off the field, writes Brian Lowry

Neil Finlay, making a typical burst forward, will captain the side this year
Neil Finlay, making a typical burst forward, will captain the side this year

Brian Lowry - Club Focus

Situated in west Dublin, Clondalkin RFC is a relatively new club.

Founded in 1973, at a time when it was felt that the game should be brought to and developed in this rapidly-expanding area of Dublin, it took a while to get things going and they had a modest beginning.

More than 40 years ago, their first game was played against Old Kilcullen RFC.

Positive vibes and feedback came from this opening fixture and the club saw potential.

As a result, the club was formed and affiliated to the Leinster Branch and the project was under way.

The Marist brothers provided the club's first home in Moyle Park College until the middle of the 1977/78 season.

The Clondalkin side before their 2015 Towns Cup semi-final with Kilkenny.
The Clondalkin side before their 2015 Towns Cup semi-final with Kilkenny.

In those opening five years or so, Clondalkin RFC progressed from being a junior six side to competing at junior three.

Also in that period, the club increased their playing numbers and fielded three teams.

The first steps in juvenile rugby were also undertaken and the development of the underage section in the club had commenced.

With a sound footing and things moving along nicely on the playing front, the decision was made by the committee to start putting plans in place for finding a permanent home.

U-15 and U-18 Clondalkin Girls teams. Photo: Sharon Flanagan Photography
U-15 and U-18 Clondalkin Girls teams. Photo: Sharon Flanagan Photography

Pin-pointed as a key aspect of progressing the club to the next level, the club were also eager to create their own identity.

This was to be a massive task and members put their shoulder to the wheel as well as contributing handsomely out of their own pocket to enable a fund be put in place to acquire their desired land.

Positive

Local businesses were also approached to help out and a positive outcome ensued.

In 1977, the grounds at Kingswood were purchased for the sum of £27,000 and the work of building and development began in earnest.

Since then, the club has steadily progressed and by 1985/86, the club was promoted to junior two level.

Clondalkin were in Division 1A in 2013/2014, the year of their 40th anniversary, before slipping back to Division 1B two seasons ago.

They had a big cut at trying to gain promotion to 1A last season. They finished second in the table to an all-conquering Wicklow side but their second-place finish earned them a promotion/relegation play-off match with Monkstown.

Unfortunately for the Clondalkin men, they fell agonisingly short, losing out 32-28 and they will once again be plotting a return to the top table of Leinster junior rugby in the year ahead.

This year's campaign will begin at the end of September with a trip to Suttonians, who were relegated from 1A last season.

In 2013, Clondalkin were the Leinster Junior Club of the Year, and since that, they contested two Towns Cup semi-finals in a row, with their 2015/2016 semi an agonising last-minute defeat to eventual winners Wicklow.

It was a tough loss to take as the cup was proving a welcome distraction from their poor league form.

Clondalkin RFC have more than 350 active members, three men's senior teams, one women's team, and a vibrant underage section from under-6 to under-19 while they have also started up girls' rugby between the ages of 13 and 18.

The domestic game is the heartbeat of the game and Bank of Ireland's support is critical to developing and expanding the game, particularly in west Dublin.

The extremely successful Leinster CRO, CCRO and CDO programme is a crucial part of underage player and coach development and has allowed the club to touch every school in the area, which has increased their numbers year on year.

The key ethos of the club is about participation, both at underage and senior level, and the club strives to find a place for all.

When it comes to success, Clondalkin RFC have also made their mark.

The 2013/2014 season saw them lay claim to three cups by landing the Hosie, Lalor and Speirs cups.

Underage glory was crowned by being U-16 Leinster champions in 2005, while the U-18 crown was bestowed on them the following year.

Last season they won the Division 1A seconds league while also securing the Metro league division 10 title and the Provincial Towns seconds plate cup. The ladies section also got in on the act when they celebrated LBIRFU Ladies cup success in 2011 while landing the Paul Flood Cup in recent seasons.

They celebrated their 40th season in 2013 and that also coincided with them being named as the Leinster junior club of the year. There are further plans in place to develop the club both on and off the field as they strive to keep moving forward.

The club are always looking for new players and to improve. They are a club going in the right direction and with plenty of potential both on and off the field.

CLONDALKIN RFC

Founded: 1973

Club grounds: Gordon Park, Kingwood, Dublin.

Club colours: Yellow and navy jerseys, navy shorts and navy socks.

Leinster league: Leinster Junior League Division 1B.

Youths and Minis: U-6 to U-19.

Club president: Winston Jebb

Club captain: Neil Finlay

Club chairman: Gerry Gilligan

Website: www.clondalkinrugby.com

Irish Independent

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