Saturday 21 October 2017

Driven by huge desire to reach out to the community

Club focus: Thormond RFC

Dermot Fitzgerald on the charge for Thormond against Instonians in the AIL
Dermot Fitzgerald on the charge for Thormond against Instonians in the AIL
Thormond RFC Underage Section

Thomond RFC was officially formed in 1944, playing its first competitive match against Garryowen at Thomond Park in the Junior League.

With this demanding first game in prospect, preparations began on Sunday, September 17 of that year when the first practice session was held at Shelbourne Park.

Thus began a relationship with a venue that was to be their home until 1978, when the club secured a pitch in the area between Woodview and Moyross known today as in Liam Fitzgerald Park -- Liam Fitzgerald was a stalwart of the club; his sister Hilary Dillon later became president of Thomond, the first lady president in the history of the All-Ireland League.

"We played our first match at Liam Fitzgerald Park in January 1980 and in January 1982 we opened our clubhouse", said Declan Cusack, former senior coach, captain and now chairman of Thomond's underage set-up.

"Since our formation we played in the Junior League until season 1999/2000, when we were promoted to senior level. Soon after the move, the Moyross houses started being built around us, which created a huge catchment area for the club.

"Unfortunately we currently have only one pitch, and with the population growing we are desperately looking to expand our facilitates and accommodate all our 14 teams."

With up to 200 mini and youth players training every week, Cusack says that to maintain the club's sole pitch for competitive fixtures they have no choice but to relocate for training, stressing the need for redevelopment.

"All our underage training on Sunday mornings is done at LIT in order to preserve our own pitch for matches. Our seniors train three times during the week, once at home and twice away at LIT, which is not ideal.

"Through the Limerick Regeneration Project there have been houses knocked down, creating land opportunities right alongside us and, thanks to the enormous efforts of Oliver O'Loughlin in the Limerick City Council, we are hopeful this land will become available for us to develop.

"As well as new pitches we are hopeful the regeneration project will allow us to upgrade our facilities including dressing-rooms, showers and a gym, which we hope will commence as soon as possible."

Boasting 11 underage teams, Thomond acknowledge the importance of recruiting players and this year they've seen an increase in numbers thanks to the work of Kenneth McNamara, the club's youth development officer.

"In conjunction with the Limerick Regeneration Project, we are currently going into four local primary schools (St Munchins, Caherdavin, JFK and Moyross) for an hour a week to get the kids out playing rugby", said McNamara.

POSITIVE

"The feedback from the teachers and principals has been very positive and they are delighted with the initiative."

"In some cases the kids have never played rugby before and have liked it so much they want to join the club -- so far we've recruited about 26 youth players, which is great!

"We're doing really well at underage level and I would put that down to our youth structure. About 80pc of players in our senior team have come through our youths system, which is a testament to the great work being done at grassroots level.

"We are currently fielding three adult teams and a team from every level from U-6 up to U-18, except U-16s, which we are working on. Unfortunately we do not have an U-20 side, which is our main priority for the season".

Following a disappointing 13-5 away defeat to Skerries last weekend, Thomond are fourth in Division 2B.

"We have a massive game against Nenagh in the middle of February -- they haven't lost a game yet so it will be hard to catch them," said Cusack.

"This is a rebuilding year for us, but we'd love to finish in the top three with a chance of promotion. With our next three games at home I am confident our players have the ability to achieve this."

Thomond have been represented at international level by Jimmy Tydings, Eddie Halvey and Keith Earls. Earls' father, former Thomond head coach Ger, has also represented Munster, as has out-half Declan Cusack, who now plays for English side Plymouth.

"It is very much a family club," McNamara offered. "You'd still see Keith up at the club on occasions. He has a lot of family members involved with Thomond and has a few cousins who play, including our captain Eoin O'Neill, so he often comes up to support them."

Also actively involved with Thomond is international referee Peter Fitzgibbon, who Cusack says plays a huge part in the club's development.

"It's great to have a referee of Peter's standard involved and I would like to acknowledge all his hard work," he said. "He will always oblige and make himself available to help in any way he can.

"We are also very proud of Thomond's long-serving club man and this season's Munster president John Hartery. John was a PRO with the club in the '70s when he was only 15, which is pretty impressive. He also coached with us for years and was part of the 1991 Junior Cup-winning side.

"He has a long history with Thomond as does his entire family, who are massively involved also. He is very busy this year but still finds the time to support all our adult and underage teams as much as he can.

"Like John, we have a lot of former players who give back to the club. As well as being part of our committee, many of our ex-players are happy to help out at underage level and pass on the values we have all been brought up with at Thomond Rugby Club.

"It is not about the winning of the trophies, it's all about getting players involved and making sure they are enjoying themselves while developing life-long friendships -- that is what we are all about."

CLUB OFFICERS

President: Mick O'Donnell

Chairman: Eddie Hughes

Honorary secretary: Leon Ledger

Honorary treasurer: Kieran O'Neill

Fixture secretary: JJ Ryan

Youth officer: Pat Daly

Underage chairman: Declan Cusack

Irish Independent

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