Dolphin hope to make big splash
With the seniors now coached by David Corkery and a strong underage set-up, Cork club is thriving, says Declan Rooney
The battle to return to Division 1A of the Ulster Bank League starts in earnest next weekend with their intriguing Munster derby with UL Bohemians, but the hard work behind the scenes has never stopped in Dolphin RFC.
Since the club was founded in 1902 by Louis Daly, Harry Golden and Fred Thomas - three swimmers looking for some sport for the winter time - Dolphin RFC has continued to grow and thrive with teams from U-8s right through to the seniors wearing the club's distinctive blue and yellow jersey.
This weekend the next batch of young boys and girls will start playing the game at the introductory grade, with the first training session of the season for mini rugby players taking place tomorrow morning at 9.45am. Training and matches for players over the age of six will take place on Saturdays until April, with the aim of developing young boys and girls of all abilities in the game of rugby in a safe, enjoyable environment.
"It's brilliant to see the minis in action in particular. The enthusiasm is just beyond belief," says club president Michael Cafferkey.
"I really admire the hunger they have for the game. But it's great, we get to see all the dads that played with the club in the past coming back again. It's like a club within a club really."
David Corkery will be Dolphin's new head coach for the season, while former Munster centre Denis Hurley has recently offered his hand to assist with the team in Division 1B campaign.
Last season was a difficult competition for the Dolphin seniors. Their eight wins from 18 games ensured their status in the second flight, but it was wins in their last two games against Ballymena and St Mary's College that meant they could breathe a little easier. This time round Dolphin will be keen to hit the ground running against their Limerick rivals, who also avoided the drop narrowly last season.
"For myself getting used to a club and getting used to the players has been the big thing. I won't get to know the players and they won't get to know me until we have a few games under our belt. We'll know then what we have to do and what we have to deal with," said Corkery, who played 27 times for Ireland.
"Denis Hurley has been a massive aid to me on the coaching front. I've done a lot of coaching over the years, but I haven't been in the pro game for the last 15 years. Denis is fresh out of the game and having him here is a real attraction to younger guys. They know they are coming into a decent coaching set-up, so it seems to be working well at the moment.
"I could say that we want to win the league, but you have to be realistic too. We were close enough to relegation last year so you have to be realistic in what your aims are.
"First and foremost in every club is getting enough points together to stay in the division; making top four is a realistic aim for us; topping the league might be a bit unrealistic for us, but in saying that, you just don't know how other teams are shaping up," said Corkery.
The seniors have been training alongside the club's U-20 team in order to give the coaching team a good look at the upcoming talent, while Gerry Harrington's J2s and the U-18s and U-16s are also ramping up their season's preparations.
"Last season our U-18s had a particularly good year, winning the south division, but lost out to Bruff by a point in the Munster semi-final," said Cafferkey.
"This year a lot of those U-18s are with us for the U-20s, so we are having the younger guys feeding through to the senior grades all the time."
One interesting programme that the club ran in recent weeks was their 'return to the game' programme.
The aim was to offer players between the ages of 13 and 17 a route back into the game or else a chance for teenagers to take rugby up for the first time. The programme is being run by the club's youth and senior coaches in conjunction with Munster's development coaches.
"There was some take-up for that programme, and it's pretty important. There is a lot of leakage away from the game for players around that age. Maybe they go off to college or decide to focus on their studies.
"Maybe they are being encouraged to put career number one and sport second, but I think both are just as important. Sport can be very important part of your life," added Cafferkey.
But it is the thirds' team, Dolphin J2s, that is giving the club president plenty to ponder of late. He says he is stunned by the numbers showing up to play the game.
"It is at J2 level that we are seeing a big increase in interest.
"Our thirds have doubled in numbers this year. Last year we could hardly get the thirds team going, but I don't see that happening this year.
"There is competition there all the way through. It starts at the top and it pulls the rest of the grades up with it."
Address: Irish Independent Park, Pearse Rd, Ballyphehane, Cork
Famous players: Michael Kiernan, Terry Kingston, Fergus Aherne, Michael Bradley, Jack Clarke, Tomás O'Leary, James Downey
Honours: Munster Senior Cup 1921, '31, '44, '45, '48, '56. AIL Division 2 2002/03
Director of Rugby: Chris Roe
Head coach: David Corkery
Captain: John Fitzgerald
Club president: Michael Cafferkey