Progressive outfit leads way in the community
Club Focus: Longford RFC - Nestled in the North Midlands, Longford RFC is a club built on strong foundations of family and local pride, writes Brian Lowry
Longford RFC is one of the most long-standing junior clubs not only in Leinster, but in Ireland. 1897 saw the club play their first recorded game, although it is believed that games took place before this date, but with no evidence to back this up, the club stands as been established an astounding 119 years ago this year.
Hard-working committees have left legacies that are being continued to this very day, from the time of their first president Dr VS Delaney right up to the current day committee led by club president Michael Connellan.
The club also provided the IRFU president in 2014. Pat Fitzgerald came up through the administrative ranks in the Longford club in the 1970s to become the IRFU president and the first from a junior club.
Since his progression to the Leinster Branch and the IRFU, Fitzgerald has always remained loyal to Longford and is a trustee and a member of the development committee. He had the distinction of receiving the Mr Boots award in his home club in 2014.
Longford RFC were also pioneers when it comes to facilities in the South of Ireland when back in the 1970s, they were the first club to install Prunty sand-based pitches, something that still serves the club well today.
They were also the first club in the South of Ireland to have a fully floodlit pitch back in 1992. The Heineken Floodlit Tournament was run mid-week for eight years with teams taking part from all four provinces.
Longford were also the first club in Ireland to open the club grounds for GAA teams to train back in the early 1980s, a tradition that still holds today despite the improvements across the board in training facilities countrywide.
Longford, Leitrim and Sligo have all used the club for their county teams.
The club made a big move back in 2011 when they invested over half a million on a conference centre, restaurant and a gym while updating their dressing rooms and clubhouse.
Longford endeavour to make this the finest, most accessible rugby club in Leinster with the central motivation for this, to uphold their core value of participation for all.
This stage of development will aim to provide open access to all who wish to play sports in Longford Rugby Club. As a community-based club, that is driven by the efforts of everyone associated with the club to continue their rich history of inclusiveness.
The minis and youths section in the club is one they are very proud of. They start them early in Longford. U-6 to U-20s are catered for and dedicated coaches and club officers are constantly overseeing the development of the future flag bearers of the rugby club.
On the field, Longford compete in a number of competitions. The first XV play in Leinster League Division 2A, while their second XV take up residence in Division 2A of the Provincial Seconds League. Both the firsts and the seconds compete in the prestigious Provincial Towns Cup and in their respective Midland Leagues.
Every club strives for success and 2011 was a particularly rewarding year for the Longford men. The 2010/2011 season saw Longford claim Leinster League Division 2 glory when they amassed 70 points to finish seven points clear of their nearest rivals Ashbourne.
They went on to build on that success by finishing joint third with Co Carlow and Clondalkin in Division 1B 2012/2013 while also reaching the Towns Cup Final in 2013 and the Towns Plate Final in 2016.
The Ladies are also a big part of the club and they ply their trade in the Leinster League. They have also played in the AIL.
The openness of the club has brought them many new members over the years and the present levels of participation, particularly the huge numbers of young people engaging with the game from minis up to seniors, is a reflection of that inclusiveness.
The club has always been there to provide a nurturing environment for young people to participate in. Sport is not about winning, but about participation and they hope, in the next phase of development, to broaden the scope of people using the club and its facilities.
The growth and evolution of Longford RFC from their origins in 1897 is down to the families that have united in sport. Families that have contributed to the tapestry of sport in Longford and enriched the club with contributions by playing, supporting and planning.
With so much emphasis on the playing teams, it's easy to forget about all the stalwarts that once wore the famous black colours of Longford.
With that in mind, the 2009/2010 season saw a novel concept born. The "Auld Blacks" was set up to act as a past players' society and a link to keep some of Longford's greatest servants still involved with the club.
It is the vision of the Auld Blacks to develop into an integral part of the club in terms of establishing and maintaining ties between not only former players but anyone who has contributed and been part of what is a cornerstone of Longford and the North Midlands sporting community.
The society may have come too late for the likes of Frazer 'Horsey' Browne who was the club's first international but recent retirees and Longford Rugby core now have a link back to their beloved club from a society that is likely to get stronger and stronger as the years go by.
Young, old, male or female; Longford RFC has a place for you at the table. A huge servant to the community and a club making great strides in tough times.
Colours: Black jersey, white shorts and black socks
Grounds: CPL Park, Demesne, Longford
Male Division: Leinster League and Leinster Seconds League 2A
Female Division: Leinster League
Youths: Under 6 to Under 20's
President: Michael Connellan
Next week's club focus is on Kilkenny RFC