Monday 29 May 2017

Five-year plan drives club's big ambitions

Club Focus: North Kildare

Jack Conan during squad training this week. Photo: Sportsfile
Jack Conan during squad training this week. Photo: Sportsfile
Richardt Strauss and Jamison Gibson-Park in conversation. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Zane Kirchner issues instructions. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
The Cup winning U-16 team. Back row: Mathew Morrow, Mark Prendergast, Rory Dunne, Fergal Waters, Cormac Fawcett, Jack Gartland, Eoin Corrigan, Brendan Kennedy, Dylan Caldwell, Tom Hannigan, Ronan Larkin, Dara Sweeney, Sean Cosgrave, Ross Huebner, Evan Harris. Front row: Conor Duff, Thomas Jones, David Lovely, Eoin Franklin, Conor Lynch, Odran O’Raghaill, Gearoid Gibbins and Seamus Milner

Brian Lowry

Nestled between the towns of Maynooth and Kilcock away from the hustle and bustle of the M4, sits North Kildare Rugby Club, a proud and long-standing club that dates back as far as 1928.

The rugby club is also part of a mini community within itself as it shares residence in a communal North Kildare club with other sports such as hockey, cricket, squash and tennis.

The rugby end of things, which was founded in 1928, first came to real prominence in the late 1940s when a Towns Cup semi-final defeat to Dundalk signalled that North Kildare were closing in on success.

That success came in 1953 during a hugely prominent spell for the club. Following victory over Rathdowney in the decider, they went on to lay further claim on the prestigious cup in 1958 beating Naas while also coming up short in the final on two occasions.

The 1950s also saw the inception of one of the most famous tournaments in the Leinster rugby, The North Kildare Easter 7's. Attracting teams from all over Europe and beyond, it was for a time, the pre-eminent 7's tournament in the country.

Foot and mouth disease unfortunately put an end to the competition, but since 2014 the club has been working hard to re-establish the tournament in the rugby calendar. It has seen steady growth and this year, The Irish Biltong Company have come on board as title sponsors.

The tournament will run again on April 16, this coming Easter weekend, with registration available through the club facebook page.

Dampened

The 1970s were a real purple patch for the club. Fifteen Leinster trophies came through the doors of the club while they were also the first Co Kildare outfit to play in the Leinster cup. Despite all the success in that decade, a Towns Cup defeat to Skerries in 1973 dampened what was the most successful period in the club's history to date.

Five adult teams were in competitive action in the '70s and cups such as the Provincial Towns Plate, Hosie Cup, Lalor Cup, Dowling Cup, Spiers Cup, Dunne Cup and the Anderson Cup were all won by a combination of the firsts, seconds and thirds teams.

That level of success hasn't been revisited so far but the hope is strong and the omens are positive.

The senior team within the club has been steadily moving up through the divisions over the past decade - moving from division three in 2006, up to Division 1B two years ago, where they narrowly missed out on promotion again last season.

Last weekend also saw them secure a hard-fought victory over local rivals Athy in the second round of the Towns Cup.

League form has been hit and miss this season. They sit in fifth place with four wins and seven losses to date while the all-conquering Wicklow have the league already won.

With Division 1B rivals Tullow to come in the quarter-final of the Towns Cup next month, the Kildare men will be hoping to keep their cup dream alive while also picking up as many points as possible in their two remaining league games.

In the last year, under the stewardship of new club president Denis Heneghan, the club has also launched an ambitious five-year plan to grow the club in terms of minis, youths, and senior teams, and also to set about a programme of facilities improvements at the home ground as well.

The plan aims to help support the club in its ambition to be a permanent fixture in Division 1A.

They aim to do this by "promoting the club as a centre of the community, developing a strong and robust youths and minis feeder system, improving training and playing facilities, and having a secure income pipeline".

There is also a big emphasis on youth. From under fives right up to under 20s taking to the rugby fields in the club, the future is bright for the progression of local talent.

Over 300 youths could be training on a particular night. The blueprint is there also.

Bob Casey and current Leinster and Ireland man Devin Toner are products of the underage system in the club with both men having gone on to forge extremely successful careers with both having full international caps to their name.

In addition to the under 20s, the club fields 18 youth and minis teams across the full spectrum of age grades. This is made possible through a huge network of over 30 coaches and volunteers from parents and the wider community, all of which is tirelessly coordinated by Kerry Hartnett and Des Lynch.

The club's biggest success last season came at U-16 level. The team won the Leinster Youths U-16s Cup, defeating Naas 48-24 in the final in Donnybrook - with five of the squad selected to train with the Leinster U-17s development squad.

Ted Robinson of Connacht and Ireland 'A' fame also came from the North Kildare club while former Munster administrator Pat Geraghty spent a number of years playing at the club in his younger days, and has now returned as director of rugby.

Former Leinster branch president - the late Tom Darcy - was also a proud North Kildare man.

The club is also indebted to Louis Fitzgerald and the Roost pub, the Glenroyal Hotel, Coonans, SuperValu and to Ballymooney Foods who have been and continue to be big supporters and sponsors of the club.

With the right moves been made off the field of play, the structures are in place for North Kildare to once again return to the fore of Leinster rugby.

NORTH KILDARE RFC

Founded: 1928.

Colours: Red, Navy and White jerseys, with Navy shorts and socks.

Grounds: The Maws, Kilcock.

Leinster League: Division 1B

Youths: Under 5 to Under 20.

President: Denis Heneghan

Club captain: Tom Satchwell

Next week's club focus is on Clontarf

Irish Independent

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