Club Focus: Scariff RFC - French connection icing on cake as Clare side look to youth
Founded in 1963, Scariff RFC competes in Division 3 of the Junior League and has grown from humble beginnings to a thriving club in the East Clare region.
Since the club's success in 1997 winning the Culligan Cup and their more recent Gleeson Cup and Evan Cup titles claimed in 2008, Scariff have put a huge emphasis on their underage structure, which club vice-president Michael Madden says is imperative for future growth.
"There was only an adult team at Scariff until 1988 when Tom Broderick started up an U-15 side. We won a few cups in the '90s at adult level and most of the players from that era came out of that particular underage team," he says.
"Paul Denning then came along and he, along with fellow club members, introduced another round of underage rugby and they did a great job. Unfortunately Paul passed away and our youth rugby fell back for a couple of years.
"At the moment we're struggling a bit at adult level. Our big downfall is we hadn't an underage programme until about five years ago, which meant many of our players didn't have a lot of rugby experience."
Amalgamating with a neighbouring club, Scariff now field five youth teams with an average of 60 players also taking part at mini level, and Madden is confident the clubs is progressing well for the future.
"About five years ago Brendan McGill and Joey Shaughnessy reformed our underage structure and they've done a great job since," he says.
"We have joined Ballina/Killaloe and have U-13, U-14, U-15, U-16 and U-18 sides competing who are all doing really well.
"Ideally we'd like to field our own sides but for now we don't have the playing numbers to form a strong enough side.
"What is very important to us is that we try to give every young person in the area a chance to play rugby and that is what we are concentrating on now."
"We saw the shortage of adult number coming a few years ago which is why put plans in place to develop our underage. If we could get a full U-18 team together to compete even every two years it would be a great boost for our playing numbers at senior level.
"We've got involved with Scariff Community College as part of our recruitment strategy. Our U-15s have been competing in the McCarthy Cup schools competition which has been great for their development.
"I must give credit to the school principal Angela McNamara, who has been very supportive in facilitating rugby in the school and also acknowledge the time given by Brendan McGill and Joe O'Shaughnessy who also coach at the school.
Based at Fossabeg, Scariff have had some major development since their first game at Craven's Field in 1994, with further plans to expand in the long term.
"There was a committee formed about 20 years ago who got involved with lotto grants and from that we got enough money to buy our own club and build a clubhouse complete with changing rooms, shower facilities, storage room, referees' changing room and a gym," says Madden.
"We have a training field and a main pitch which are both floodlit. We also have further plans to develop a second pitch once we have sufficient funding in place which will be the next milestone for the club."
In 1993 a chance meeting between then Scariff president Rob Madden and Jean-Marie Martinez of St Apollinaire Rugby Club, Bourgogne, France led to a friendship that has created a bond through the years between the two clubs.
"We go to St Apollinaire about every three years and they have been coming over to us for the Six Nations over the last 22 years.
"My late father and Jean-Marie got the relationship going between the two clubs and it has since grown throughout the years," explains Michael Madden.
"It's a massive thing for our club - there is a great buzz around the place when St Apollinaire come to visit and equally it's great for our players to have the opportunity to play rugby in France.
"We also went to Italy on tour last October which was a great experience for everyone involved with Scariff."
Looking ahead Madden said the club will continue to grow its underage structure and is confident there will be increased numbers at adult level which may lead to promotion.
"We went down to Division 3 in the league so to get back up competing in Division 2 would be outstanding and we also hope to be competitive in cup rugby again," he says.
"The underage is the key for our success. If we can have our own 15 aside teams at age grade - that's probably the way forward.
"Our main objective is to keep rugby going in East Clare and to give boys and girls the opportunity to learn basic rugby skills at an early age which will stand to them as they progress within the game."