Club Focus: Cill Dara's graft and hard work paying off
Despite the senior side slipping a division, Cill Dara RFC are determined to force their way back up again, writes Brian Lowry
Set amid the backdrop of the Curragh plains, Cill Dara RFC continues to make great strides both on and off the pitch. The club has had a busy life, incorporating three location changes and a mountain of hard work to get the club in the position it is in today as it celebrates 40 years in existence.
Founded back in 1976, the club was the brainchild of Rev. Father E.D. O'Connor, O. Carm. (ex-Terenure) and Mr Joe Flanagan. An affiliation to the Leinster Branch was made in 1977 and the aforementioned Mr Flanagan went on to act as Club President until 2012 - and is well known among all those involved in junior rugby around Leinster.
They set out by fielding two teams but in the early days they were largely unsuccessful on the field of play. In a beneficial move, the club concentrated on maintaining the club's position in the area and attracting new members. Under the guidance of Joe Flanagan, Cill Dara set about creating and nurturing a youth policy aimed at getting youngsters involved and making rugby prominent in the area.
The National Stud was the setting for the club in its early years, with the generosity and support of Michael Osborne and, in later years, John Clarke, who provided a much-needed boost as the club found its feet.
As time rolled on and the club expanded, plans and major fundraising efforts were put in place to forge a move to Whitesland on the outskirts of the town. Cill Dara moved to their new pitch and changing rooms in 1994, but the building boom and a subsequent change in land zoning of their 11-acre property at Whitesland gave the Kildare club the impetus to move to their third and current home.
The lands committee, under the stewardship of the then Club Chairman, Ger Conway, directed all aspects of the magnificent development where the club is located now. This development incorporates all that is required in playing the modern game, including a state-of-the-art health and fitness centre.
The facilities at The Silken Thomas Park include four full-size rugby pitches, one of which is floodlit to match standard, and Cill Dara have hosted many of their fixtures under lights. The drainage system for all four pitches is also of a very high standard, so even in the middle of winter the pitches stay firm. This has occasionally allowed the Kildare club to host high-profile Leinster Schools' Cup games when other facilities were deemed unplayable.
The club has also played host to many of Leinster Rugby's blue-riband finals. Twice, in 2007 and 2015, Cill Dara has hosted the Provincial Towns Cup Final, as well as hosting the 2013 All-Ireland Junior Cup final between Tullamore and Enniscorthy.
On the playing front Cill Dara R.F.C. are well established as one of the most progressive and competitive clubs in the North Midlands area. Competing at all levels from underage to the Leinster League Division 2A, the club won a Provincial Towns Seconds Cup in 1989 and a Leinster League Division One title in 2008. In 2015 the J3s won the Speirs Cup.
While the club's senior sides are among the teams to beat in the North Midlands area, it is the youth section that has brought the silverware home on a consistent basis. In the 2014/2015 season, every Cill Dara youth team either reached a semi-final or final of a provincial or area competition. A further measure of Cill Dara's progressive underage system was seen last season, when, for the first time in the club's history, Cill Dara were represented by teams at all ages, from U7 to U20.
Their youth system has also supplied two of brightest sparks in the Irish game. Leinster's Fergus McFadden and Johne Murphy, formerly of Munster, both played youth rugby with the club and all at Cill Dara RFC are very proud of their achievements since moving on to pastures new.
Cill Dara's seasoned forward Damien Broughall played for Ireland's U19s and captained the Irish Police Force in their representative match against the French Police Force back in 2013.
Unfortunately for the club, they were relegated back to Division 2A for this season - but they have started brightly and sit second in the league, just behind high-flying Longford. An immediate return to Division 1B is the aim and they are making all the right moves so far.
Perhaps the greatest plaudits in recent years should be reserved for the ladies' section. With girls' teams at U12, U15 and U18, the club has created a progressive system for girls in the area to play rugby. Three of the Cill Dara girls have represented Leinster and Ireland at underage level and many more younger girls are waiting to follow suit.
The senior ladies, who play in a combination team of four area clubs, are called the North Midland Falcons. Previously, the Cill Dara women were runners-up in the Leinster League Division One and Leinster Cup Finalists 2013, following on from been named Leinster team of the year in 2011.The Falcons currently play in Division 2 of the Leinster Women's League.
The proudest moment for Cill Dara in their short history came in 2015, as Áine Donnelly, a Kildare Town native and a senior team stalwart, made her debut for Leinster before making her international debut in a senior friendly against England. Her performances at all levels were rewarded with her selection at centre in last season's Six Nations.
Backed by a proud and storied history, Cill Dara RFC are a pillar of North Midlands Rugby who look set to continue to lead from the front.
Cill Dara RFC
Grounds: Beech Park, Dunmurray West, Kildare
Club Colours: Black jerseys with red and white trim, black shorts and red socks with black trim
Division: Leinster League Division 2A
Youths and Minis: Under 6 to Under 20
Club President: Conor Byrne
Club Captain: Darragh Kennedy
Next week's club focus is on Monkstown FC.