Mallow RFC: Close-knit Cork club vital to its locality
Family ethos and open doors makes north Cork outfit a special club to play your rugby in, writes Ciarán McGreal
For any small club there will always be both dark days and bright days along the way, but it is the efforts of a club's members and volunteers that make every day special.
The person who lines the pitch, makes the tea or pulls on the high-vis jacket on a wintry Saturday keeps clubs like Mallow RFC ticking over. Coaches, administrators or players are usually in the firing line when results go askew, but without the solid foundations there would be nothing to represent.
Mallow RFC were founded in 1883, making it one of the oldest rugby clubs in the country and president John Barry stresses the family-oriented nature of the club. He has been president for many years but he is quick to point the club's volunteers as the people who make it a special place.
"My ethos is, and always has been, is that a rugby club is a family. The more you can have in that family, the better," says Barry.
"The club is made up of a lot of people who do a lot of different work. They are unsung heroes. They won't take any credit but they do all the work in the background.
"The big thing about the club ethos in rugby is that everyone is a volunteer. You have younger guys coming to help more and more. You have to give them responsibility and show what it means to be part of the club."
The club's current grounds in Parkdillane were purchased in 1982 around the time of the club's centenary and they have resided there since. When the club initially set up, they were based at Town Park and the club still train there to this day.
The club's senior side have a three-man coaching panel of Andrew Cashman, John McAuliffe and Frank Thornton, while John Enright looks after the strength and conditioning of the players.
The team have endured a tough start to their Munster Junior League Division 2 campaign this season, recording one win and four losses to date. Mallow played fellow Cork club Kinsale at home on Sunday and suffered a narrow 14-9 loss.
They have been involved in a number of tight games this season, securing losing bonus points in three of their four losses. The club's sole victory so far this season came away to Tralee by a scoreline of 23-16.
Mallow RFC will hope to get back to winning ways in their next game when they take on Waterpark away on Sunday, November 27.
The club have a prominent underage set-up comprising approximately 250 players from U-8s to U-18s and that's encouraging for the future, says Barry.
"The underage structure is very well-run. The car park would have 100 cars in it on a Saturday morning.
"In each one of those teams you'd have three or four coaches and helpers so you'd have between 40 or 50 juvenile coaches who work well. It's a massive task."
Recently those involved in Mallow RFC got their ladies' set-up going again with teams at U-15 and U-18 level.
"It fell by the wayside for a couple of years but we have started the U-15 and U-18 teams again. You only have to travel to Munster games and see the amount of ladies at games. That is massive for the ladies' rugby taking off," Barry says.
Mallow have produced a number of notable players down through the years. Jerry Cronin went on to play as a prop for Ulster while his brother Sam Cronin is scrum-half for Clontarf in the Ulster Bank League.
The Cronins' father, Billy, played No 8 for Munster in the past and, coincidentally, he made his debut for Munster away to Ulster in 1975. Son Jerry played underage with Mallow before making a name for himself in the All-Ireland League for Ballynahinch which led to him joining Ulster.
Ian Nagle is probably the club's most notable past player of recent years. The Mallow-born lock played for his local club up to U-12 and currently plays for Leinster. Previously, Nagle played for Munster, making his debut in 2010 against the Newport Gwent Dragons. His most memorable appearance in the red of Munster came in the province's historic 15-6 victory over Australia in November 2010.
Nagle was named man of the match in that game at Thomond Park and went on to play for Newcastle Falcons on a short-term loan in 2014 before signing for fellow English Premiership side London Irish in February of this year.
The former Ireland U-20 international returned to Ireland to sign with Leinster at the beginning of the current season.
Barry says the club are proud to see its past players move up the ranks and says they will never stand in the way of a player who makes the grade elsewhere.
"If a player is good enough to play senior rugby and he makes it, he has my blessing. Players that are good enough to play senior, you let them off to play senior.
"I have no problem with a fella moving up. I love to see it. That is the purpose of a club, to get players to enjoy it and motivate them."
Mallow RFC have recently begun a partnership with Cope to run tag rugby for people with special needs. President Barry says that this initiative has become a vital part of the club.
"There's great satisfaction from it. One of the biggest joys I've had was watching them play a game of tag rugby last year.
"There were one or two of them as good as any first-team player.
"It was great to watch and great to see them integrated into it. It's a big part of the club, making sure everybody is included, be it male or female from the ages of zero to one hundred.
"It's important that all members of the family are incorporated. That's what rugby does.
"It lets every child of any size and from every walk of life play. That's what sport is all about."
Address: Parkdillane, St Joseph's Rd, Mallow, Co Cork
Club President: John Barry
Head coach: Andrew Cashman
Captain: Brian Henry