Friday 22 September 2017

Cork club keen to be a force in province

Club Focus: Youghal RFC

The Youghal U-18s take on a visiting Welsh team
The Youghal U-18s take on a visiting Welsh team
Peter O’Mahony and Stephen Archer during a Munster squad training session in Limerick this week. Photo: Sportsfile

Ciarán McGreal

In 2013, Youghal RFC celebrated its 50th anniversary and the club are continuing to look forward, while continuing to develop some stars for the future.

The club's senior men's side are flying high in the Munster Junior League Division 2 and the club also boast a thriving women's set-up and a handful of their former players have made a huge impact on Irish and international rugby over the years.

In order to foster that development, Youghal RFC is constantly looking to improve its facilities, and club PRO and vice president Ciara O'Flaherty outlines the ongoing efforts in the club.

"We opened new dressing rooms in 2015 and we got floodlights that year as well in November 2015," says O'Flaherty.

"We're always trying to develop the facilities. We're currently doing up our gym so there'll be a new gym in the next few months hopefully."

In order to facilitate this development, Youghal run a number of fundraising initiatives. "We do the usual bag-packing and all those kind of things. We have a last man standing competition for the Premier League and at the moment we're raffling off two tickets for the Ireland v England along with accommodation," remarks O'Flaherty.

The club have played at its current grounds at Frogmore since 1964 and the club hosted a junior inter-provincial game in May 2013 between Munster and Ulster at Frogmore to mark the club's 50th year of existence.

Storming

Youghal enjoyed an extremely successful season last year as the club won promotion to Munster Junior League Division 2 and also secured silverware in both the Martin O'Sullivan Cup and the O'Neill Cup.

After storming to promotion, the club have carried on their winning habit and sit second in Division 2 after winning six of their seven league games to date.

The Co Cork club opened the season with a 30-9 home victory over Ennis and followed that win up with an away triumph over Tralee with a scoreline of 32-13. Three further wins followed against three different Cork clubs: Charleville, Mallow and Crosshaven.

Another Cork club, Kinsale overturned Youghal 23-15 at the end of November but Youghal proved that result was just a blip as they got back to winning ways with a high-scoring 36-17 victory over Castleisland.

The club has amassed 28 league points so far and table-toppers Waterpark are five points above Youghal at the top of the league. The two clubs will do battle next Sunday in an eagerly-anticipated clash in Waterford. Youghal are at home this Sunday in the Munster Junior Cup as the club plays host to Sunday's Well at Frogmore.

The club's minis train on Sundays at 11am and comprises boys and girls from U-6s to U-12s. At youth level, the club has boys teams at U-14, U-16 and U-18 level as well as U-15 and U-18 girls teams which the club runs in partnership with Midleton RFC.

"About four years ago we were struggling for numbers so we looked at starting underage teams," explains O'Flaherty. "At the moment we have an U-15s and U-18s girls team. We're joined with Midleton. We're an east Cork team trying to promote the game and get girls playing. They play in leagues and cups at U-15 and U-18."

Youghal have a successful senior women's team which has been in existence since 2003 and the team won the All-Ireland Development Plate in 2006.

Claire Keohane played underage with Youghal and currently plays for the Ireland Women Sevens team. She has also played for Cork in both football and camogie.

Dave O'Callaghan is a native of Youghal and the Munster flanker began his rugby career with the Cork club. O'Callaghan joined the Munster academy in 2009 and made his senior debut for Munster against Ospreys in October 2011.

O'Callaghan plays primarily as a blindside flanker and he made two appearances for the Emerging Ireland squad in the 2013 Tbilisi Cup against South Africa and Uruguay.

Former Ireland head coach Eddie O'Sullivan also began his rugby career with Youghal.

O'Sullivan played for Munster in the 1980s and also represented the Ireland 'A' team during his playing career. With Youghal, he won the Newson Cup in 1983. As it happens, this was the club's maiden cup victory.

Later on, O'Sullivan worked as a teacher in Galway and began his coaching career with Galway side Monivea.

O'Sullivan worked as a Development Officer with the IRFU from 1988 to 1991 and went on to work with the USA national team from 1997 to 1999. He returned to Ireland and took up a position as assistant coach of the Irish team in 1999. When Warren Gatland departed his head coach position, O'Sullivan earned promotion to the top position which he held from 2001 to 2008.

Under O'Sullivan, Ireland secured Triple Crown success in 2004 which was their first Triple Crown since 1985. Further Triple Crowns followed in 2006 and 2007 in what was a successful period in Irish rugby.

USA international John Quill was born in Youghal and he too started his rugby career with Youghal RFC. He qualified to represent USA through his American mother. The flanker helped London Welsh secure promotion to the English Premiership in 2014. Quill was named in USA's squad for the 2015 World Cup along with fellow Irishman AJ MacGinty who went on to play for Connacht.

While high-tier success may not have arrived to Frogmore, the club boasts a right tradition of producing players and coaches that have graced the highest levels of the game.

If Ireland is successful in its bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup, the competition will coincide with Youghal RFC's 60th anniversary. It would be a fitting time to mark another decade of success. "We could have some events in coordination with it. It would be great if we got it!" adds O'Flaherty.

Irish Independent

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