Progressive Cork club continues to broaden its horizons
Club focus: Charleville RFC
Based at Shandrum on Smith Road in the town, Charleville RFC plays a pivotal role in the recruitment and development of young players in the North Cork area and hopes to continue on last season's success.
The club's most notable achievement of the year was in gaining promotion from Division 3 to Division 2 in the Junior League.
Founded in 1926, club president Pa Leahy said the club operated from various venues before eventually securing their own grounds where they now boast state-of-the-art facilities.
"The club enjoyed many temporary homes over the years," Leahy explains. "At the start we didn't have our own dressing rooms and would use the likes Cronin's Hotel on the main street to change and that eventually led to temporary dressing rooms round the back of Davey Ryan's Bar in the late 1970s.
"Our current pitch on Smith's Road we purchased in 1983 having moved from pillar to post for many years. It was also the first proper pitch we had as previously we played in farmers' fields and made makeshift pitches in them.
"Over the years with the help of volunteers, committees and local businesses we have the whole site transformed into two superb pitches where the Munster team would have trained for a long time under Declan Kidney.
"Unlike the days gone by, we have changing rooms, medical rooms, meeting rooms, a car park and all we need on site. Thanks to a hard-working committee and some novel fundraising initiatives including the club lotto we are constantly upgrading our facilities."
Although it took 20 years before the club claimed its first title, Leahy said that Charleville RFC has since gone from strength to strength.
"Over the years we've had many close battles with near rivals Kanturk and Mallow and have picked up a number of O'Neill and County Cups along the way," he continues.
"James O'Connor captained the club to win the O'Neill Cup - our first trophy - in 1946 and despite winning a number of County Cups over the years, we had to wait until 1990 before we won another O'Neill Cup. What made that occasion even more special was that James himself was at our second O'Neill success all those years later.
"We didn't have to wait quite as long to get to another final. We made it to the O'Neill final last year but a better Bandon side beat us on the day. However this year we hope to go one better and are in the semi-final against Fermoy or Bantry Bay. The O'Neill Cup was once for all Junior divisions, whereas now it's only for the 2nd and 3rd divisions, but still, to win it would be a massive achievement for the club."
The Charleville club is particularly strong at underage level.
"We have two Junior teams, youths at U-18, U-16, U-14 and Minis and the main focus next year will be to re-establish a Women's team," adds Leahy. "There is a lot of interest already and five women have joined us at committee level this year so we look forward to getting that section of the club back up and running.
"We have a pool of over 40 players who line out for our Junior teams and we have anything from 80 to 100 players training across our underage teams. Not only are our adult teams relatively young but we have a strong underage structure. Our U-16s won the South Munster Cup and were beaten in the League final, while our U-18s also got to the Cup final.
"The likes of John Meade, Georgie Meade, Mickey Moran, Mick O'Toole, TJ Bluette, Donie Forde and John McCormack all do a wonderful job in organising and implementing our underage structure, while Brian Buckley, Conor Crowley, Paudie Coughlan and Frankie Hollie look after our 1st teams."
With Munster Academy player John Madigan and Munster senior player Shane Buckley coming from the Charleville underage structure, Leahy says the club aims to continue producing players of their calibre.
"We are very proud of the two lads. John comes from a fine rugby heritage after his father (also John) played twice against the All Blacks, and John junior came right through our underage structures as far as U-17 and I'm proud that I got to coach him myself. He's a great young man as is Shane who played with us up until U-14. Hopefully we'll have more Munster players to come. At the moment we have some young talent featuring for the Munster U-16s, U-17s and U-18s and we wish them all the best. It's great for them and that reflects well on the club and encourages other youngsters to get involved."
Having last season being promoted from Division 3 to Division 2 in the Junior league, claiming the Martin O'Sullivan Cup and their seconds winning the Tate Cup, Leahy is hopeful the side will continue their recent success as he looks forward to the future.
"In the next five years we hope to continually develop all sections across all levels and restart our Women's team," he adds.
"As is the case with most clubs, finances are never easy and we rely on the help of our dedicated volunteers, supporters and sponsors including Lucey Motors, Geary's Bar and The Second Wind Bar. We'd like to thank all those involved with the club for their dedication and support as we hope to continue to grow the club into the future."