Thursday 21 September 2017

Expanding to cater for increased demand

Home of ex-Irish captain and All Black beater ready to show their ambition with major revamp

Ciarán McGreal

Located on the Limerick/Kerry border, Abbeyfeale RFC has enjoyed a great run of success in the last few years and the club has big plans in place for the future.

The club celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009 and its committee continues to look ahead with redevelopment works in the pipeline.

With the support of its dedicated members, aided by a tightly-knit community, Abbeyfeale plan to develop its facilities in order to foster and promote its underage stars.

On the back of winning promotion from the Munster Junior League Division 2 last season, the club's first team have enjoyed a solid season in the top flight.

With a thriving underage section driven by the commitment of coaches and parents, Abbeyfeale are well-placed to consolidate their position at the top level of junior rugby in the province in the years ahead.

"There's a great underage structure there," explains club PRO Conor Prendiville.

"It's thriving. Massive credit must go to the coaches and parents involved. The commitment and dedication they put in is just phenomenal.

"Our gratitude to them is almost impossible to express, truth be told.

"If it wasn't for their commitment, things could very easily fall apart. The underage, both boys and girls. . . they are the future of the club, so it's vital that we maintain them and aid them in their development."

Underage

The club caters for over 180 players in its underage structure. The minis section runs from U-6s upwards and in its youth section the club caters for both boys' and girls' teams from U-13s up to U-18s.

With a large catchment area spanning west Limerick, north Kerry and north Cork, coupled with the increase in playing numbers, Abbeyfeale plan to develop their facilities in order to cater for their many teams.

"Our top pitch is mainly used for training purposes but what we're trying to do is to change the direction of that pitch which would give us a full playing field for the adults and room for a small juvenile pitch," says Prendiville.

"It's a massive task. There's no two ways about it. We're applying for grants and what have you.

"It's going to take a lot of organising and a lot of help from sponsors and members to get the wheels in motion. It's a big task but it's one that we're pretty confident of getting done.

"We're very community-oriented. We don't just have players from Abbeyfeale. We have players from the local hinterland as well so we should be able to tap into other areas."

It is an ambitious project for a small club like Abbeyfeale, and according to Prendiville everyone in the club knows the responsibility that they have to ensure the next generation of rugby players are well catered for in the town.

This redevelopment is a serious undertaking, but the PRO is confident in the club's committee and feels the target is achievable.

"It's a big task but the thing about our rugby club is that we've done massive extensions years ago like in the 1980s and early '90s. We're not going in blind. We know what's involved and we have a good committee. I'm confident that we can get things done."

The performance of Abbeyfeale's senior side over the last few years has brought real optimism and pride to the club's members.

Promotion from Division 2 last year was capped with a cup triumph in the Betty O'Mahony Challenge Shield.

This victory was particularly significant given that Betty O'Mahony was president of Abbeyfeale. She served as president for over 20 years and she was the first female president of a rugby club in the country when she took over in 1972.

Conor Magner is in his first year as head coach of the club, having taken over from Eamonn Foley who led the team to promotion last season.

Magner's charges have enjoyed a solid season to date winning three and drawing one of their seven league games.

Adam Roche captains the side who host St Senan's this Sunday at 2.30. Each of the club's three wins this season have come at home so they will be confident of maintaining their unbeaten run on their own patch this weekend.

The wins over Clonakilty, Galbally and Cobh Pirates have resulted in the club being solidly placed in mid-table, leaving them well-positioned to maintain their Division 1 status going into the second half of the season.

Not every club in the country can count a former Irish captain as one of their own, but Abbeyfeale's Philip Danaher had the honour of leading Ireland on the tour to New Zealand in 1992 and in subsequent Five Nations games. Danaher won 28 Irish caps and worked as assistant coach with the team in the late 1990s.

One of Munster's most famous ever victories was the win over the All Blacks in 1978 and Abbeyfeale's Seamus Dennison played a vital role.

The winger's famous tackle on Stu Wilson inspired his team-mates to a 12-0 victory. Christy Cantillon notched Munster's only try of the game with Tony Ward kicking the remainder of the points on that famous day.

"We ask him stuff about it and in fairness to him, he's modest and he plays it down. He says it was just a simple tackle!" remarks Prendiville.

"That's just the type of person he is. We're a small town so if anyone does anything famous like that, we're going to boost them up."

With the likes of Danaher and Dennison to look up to, Abbeyfeale will be hopeful that its underage players can develop and thrive in the game of rugby. Who knows, maybe some of them will beat the All Blacks one day!

Abbeyfeale RFC

Address: The Grove Grounds, Abbeyfeale, Co. Limerick

Founded: 1959

President: Maurice Cotter

Head coach: Conor Magner

Captain: Adam Roche

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/abbeyfealerugbyclub/

Twitter: @AbbeyfealeRugby

Irish Independent

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