Focus on young guns breathing new life into vibrant club
Club Focus - Presentation RFC
Founded in 1917, Presentation Rugby Club was originally formed in Limerick city by Joe McInemey, Frank Shortt, Jim Mulready, Dan Quaid, John Creamer, Hugh Flannery, Pat McInerney, Charlie McCarthy, Tommy Ryan, Denis Murphy, Willie Ryan, Jimmy English and Patsy Slater.
"The club was formed at the house of a chap named Dan Quaid in Sexton Street. The group were sitting down talking about forming a club and debating over what they would call it. Right across the road was Presentation Girls School which inspired them to name the club Presentation RFC," said Pat Carey, club honorary secretary.
"We were a city club then but we've since gone out to the country. Following a break due to the war, the club reformed and started progressing towards the mid '70s and early '80s.
"There were four trustees appointed to the club who included Jerry Flannery Snr, Gary Lawlor, Dessie Clancy and Jerry Mulconroy, who went as guarantors to purchase land in Ballysheedy, where the club resides today on almost 10 acres of land."
Boasting state-of-the-art facilities, Presentation has two pitches and a training ground as well as a new two-storey clubhouse with a fully equipped gym, four dressing-rooms and a referee's room.
"The junior players did most of the fundraising for the development themselves through organised race nights and other events," said Carey.
"Altogether the project cost €140,000 so we needed extra finance. Dave O'Shea, our treasurer, and myself put a portfolio together with the committee and approached the IRFU for a loan to make up the deficit.
"We secured a loan of €80,000 over 10 years and also received €60,000 from Limerick regeneration."
Presentation will have the opportunity to showcase their facilities, having been selected to host the Munster Juniors final inter-provincial match against Connacht on May 10.
"It's just brilliant for the club," said Brendan Fleming, club president and U-16 head coach. "We hosted an interpro in the past but didn't have the facilities that we have today. We had to hire out Old Crescent rugby club for the post-match meal but thanks to the redevelopment we are proud to now be able to give the representative players the experience they deserve at our own grounds."
Presentation fields two junior teams competing in the Junior 1 League at Division 2 and a seconds team competing in the Gleeson League.
"We were promoted two seasons ago from Division 3 and decided that rather than trying to push up again we'd settle for a year or two at Division 2 and try to progress after that," said Fleming.
"We had a lot of injuries during mid-season and at one stage were second from the bottom. The players came back from injury and to their credit finished up in seventh position overall. Our objective for next season is to push for promotion and we think with the young players coming through we have a very good chance."
With a huge emphasis on underage rugby, Presentation field over 150 youths and are always looking for new initiatives to recruit young players.
"After a break for a few years underage rugby at Pres restarted about eight seasons ago," said Fleming. "It wasn't until my young lad took up playing rugby that I got involved. You know how it is, you hold a tackle bag at a training session and the next thing you know you're the head coach.
"In the second or third season of getting it up and running we went around all the housing estates – Garryowen, Weston, Southill – dropping flyers in letterboxes to recruit young people from the regeneration area."
Carey added: "I'm from the regeneration area myself and was chairman of the Southhill residents committee. Brendan lives down the road so we knew first hand this was a great way to get the kids off the streets.
"What we do is simple," he stressed. "We try to keep the kids out of devilment and away from trouble and give them an alternative outlet.
"We met with Kieran Ryan from Limerick regeneration who was an enormous help to us financially and provided gear and gym equipment for the kids for which we were very grateful."
Fleming added: "We progressed from there and with word of mouth getting out in the area, more and more players got on board and today we field four mini and four youth teams.
"Our coaches are fantastic and I have to acknowledge the amount of time they give up for the youths. There is roughly about two coaches for each team who give up a lot of their time.
"We have a great U-16 squad who developed from a trip to Wales to compete in a tournament at U-13 and came back undefeated. The following year they won the U-15 league. Interestingly, nine of that squad were from the Southill area which proved that our recruitment campaign worked.
"Two of the players involved, Sean O'Connor (centre) and Eric Fleming (scrum-half) have also been named in the Munster Cadets and we are delighted for both lads.
"Our current U-13s won the Limerick District league and cup this season and we are also really proud of them for their achievement.
"We will continue to concentrate on our underage structure and next season will field an U-18 side based on the success of this year's U-16s and have already started training.
"Our plan is to have these players eventually feeding into our junior team and concentrate on the development of home-grown players."
In terms of challenges, Fleming said, like most clubs, raising funds and recruiting coaches can often be a hard task but at this stage of the season they are concentrating on the upcoming interprovincial event.
"A lot of hard work has gone into organising the day which promises to be a great occasion. We're opening it up to all our youths free of charge and will be issuing family passes. We hope to have a big crowd to create a buzz and would urge everyone to come along and support Munster."
Munster Juniors v Connacht Juniors, Saturday, May 10, 3.0.