Richmond RFC: Limerick club still retain big ambitions
After recovering from a litany of setbacks, getting back to senior rugby is the primary aim for Richmond, writes Ciarán McGreal
To have your clubhouse burnt down would take its toll on any club but Richmond RFC have overcome adversity to get back on track since that travesty in 2002.
The blaze at the clubhouse coincided with the senior side being relegated from the All-Ireland League. But the club have rebuilt and the current clubhouse was unveiled in 2014.
Like phoenix from the flames the club has recovered, and current senior men's coach Stephen Clancy praised the club's members for their efforts in getting the new clubhouse up and running.
"We've turned it around since then. It was all hands on deck. The members gave a hand and did great work," said Clancy.
The Canal Bank club was founded in 1928 and they did make it back for another spell in the All-Ireland League, but again disaster struck and the senior side suffered relegation to junior rugby.
This year is the club's second season in the Munster Junior League Division 1 and the club have won three of their five league games to date. Clancy's men began their campaign with a 14-9 home win over Clanwilliam before a narrow 6-5 loss away to Bandon the following week.
A 30-9 home loss to table-toppers Clonmel followed but away wins over Old Christians (20-13) and Kilfeacle & District (21-14) put the team in a decent position in the league table.
Their next league outing will take place on November 27 as Richmond face Clonakilty at home. This weekend, the Munster Junior Challenge Cup takes centre stage and Richmond will face Bandon away in the quarter-final this Sunday. The Limerick club defeated Cobh Pirates 24-7 in the previous round back in October to earn their quarter-final spot.
Being based near both the University of Limerick and the Limerick Institute of Technology, the club find it easier to hold on to players than most clubs.
"We have four young lads coming through from the U-18s last year. They've stayed around because they're in college in UL or LIT," remarked Clancy.
Richmond's underage section caters for players from U-6s to U-18s and Irish international Sean Cronin previously played underage rugby with the club.
The hooker went on to play with Shannon before a brief stint with Munster. From there, the Limerick native moved to Connacht and during his spell in the west, he won his first Irish cap against Fiji in 2009.
After fine performances for Connacht and Ireland, Leinster lured Cronin to Dublin in 2011. In his first season with the province, Cronin won a Heineken Cup when Leinster defeated Ulster 42-14 at Twickenham.
Former Munster prop Alan Cotter also began his career with the Canal Bank club. Recently capped Irish international John Ryan played for London Irish on a short-term loan and when he returned to Limerick, Cotter went the other way in September 2012.
The former Richmond man made his debut for London Irish against Bath where he packed down opposite Bath's Welsh international Paul James. The Limerick man made two further appearances for the Exiles and then had a brief loan spell with Bath in November, making two appearances for them before returning to Munster.
He made his Munster debut off the bench in a Pro12 clash with Connacht in December 2013 before going on to play in France for Provence Rugby.
Richmond's ladies' side played their first competitive game in December 2013 when they took on St Senan's. The club also have girls' underage sides and Clancy praised the effort that has gone into ladies' rugby in the club.
And the coach feels Ireland's success in the ladies' game in the last few years has encouraged women to get involved.
"In fairness to the lads looking after the women's teams, they've done a great job. They only took it up two or three seasons ago and they're flying it," he said.
"That was the kick-starter for it. It got things moving. Women's rugby across the board is very popular at the minute."
Richmond's current president, Irene Flanagan, is the first female president in the club's history, while the proud traditions of the women's game in the club have been boosted by current Ireland Women's head coach Tom Tierney, who also played with Richmond in the past.
In his playing career, Tierney played as a scrum-half and won eight caps for Ireland. Tierney played with Munster before a spell with Leicester Tigers.
He was part of Ireland's 1999 Rugby World Cup squad and appeared in each of Ireland's four games. Warren Gatland's side reached the play-off stage before being knocked out by Argentina. Tierney scored a try in Ireland's 44-14 pool stage win over Romania.
As with most clubs in Ireland, Richmond's players overlap with the local GAA club. St Patrick's GAA club is very close to Richmond RFC's ground but Clancy says that, despite having to share players, there is a healthy relationship between the two clubs.
"A few of the lads that play with us would be playing senior football for St Patrick's. They were in the county final and they're doing very well at the minute. There'd be a link between the clubs and fellas would double up.
"They're only a stone's throw away from each other, only walking distance. We try to communicate between the clubs so that everyone is happy. Most of the lads that do both they're good lads and they'd play for both clubs in the same weekend if they could.
"A few guys that I'd have grown up with are on the committee in St Patrick's and vice versa so there's a good link outside the clubs. You'd know each other outside sport as well which makes life easier."
Address: Canal Bank, Rhebogue, Limerick.
President: Irene Flanagan
Captain: Seanie Bennett