Thursday 25 December 2014

Wolfe's early input proves crucial in Skib's rise to prominence

Published 10/01/2014 | 02:30

Skibbereen's U15 cup winners from 2012
Skibbereen's U15 cup winners from 2012

THOUGH there are records to show rugby was being played in the area in the late 1880s, the modern era for Skibbereen began on June 18, 1951 when a well-attended inaugural meeting took place in the Town Hall to reform the West Cork club.

One of the founding fathers, the club's first honorary secretary and former club captain John Wolfe, played a major part in Skibbereen's development in those early years and was also part of the historic side that claimed the O'Neill Cup in four consecutive seasons from 1953-56.

he also led the side who won the first of Skibbereen's six County Cup titles in 1955.

Wolfe was recently honoured for his achievements when a special presentation was made to him in recognition of his fine work for the club.

"John was the first captain of the reformed club. He and his brother in-law John Hosford rounded up the whole town to get players and organise pitches, jerseys and transport. Quite honestly, there would have been no team without him," says current club president John Field.

From those early days in the '50s, Skibbereen fielded a team at junior level and had a better than average start by winning seven of their 18 matches in their inaugural year.

The first of their 15 O'Neill Cup titles came a year later when they beat Mallow in the final. They also came very close that year in the County Cup, only losing out 6-5 to Mallow in the decider.

Skibbereen had quite a few homes before taking residence at their present location on the 'Link Road' in the late 1980s.

BOASTS

A major clubhouse renovation was completed in 2007, and the club now boasts state of the art facilities both on and off the field.

Leading from the front is head coach Hemi Taukiri, a New Zealand native who last season - his first in charge – brought the club to the All-Ireland Cup semi final, where they narrowly lost out at home to reigning champions Cloher Valley from Northern Ireland.

"We were delighted with our achievement in reaching the semi-finals and are very proud of our entire squad," says Field.

"We beat Ballina and Tralee at home before taking on Clogher Valley in a very close semi-final. There was only one score in it for the 80 minutes and unfortunately they got a try in the final stages which clinched it.

"They had a huge travelling support which added to the great atmosphere and a marvellous occasion for everyone involved with our club. It was the furthest we've ever got in the competition, so our challenge for next year is to find our way to the final."

Currently mid-table in the Munster J1, Division 1 League, club chairman Bertie Hourihane acknowledges that the club will not be in contention for promotion.

"We have ruled out promotion and ruled out a top four qualifier, but if we could stay in the middle of the table for the remainder of the season, we would be more than satisfied," he says.

Club secretary Barry Dempsey stresses: "This season for us is about blooding a new bunch of players under a new head coach.

"We're not fielding a U-20 team this year, but we have five players aged between 18 and 19 playing for our J1 side. It's about getting those guys settled in as we continue to build for the seasons ahead."

At any given underage training session at Skibbereen there can be up to 200 young players being put through their paces by an equally enthusiastic group of coaches and mentors, including head coach Takuri.

"Hemi is involved with all our weekly training sessions from U-7 right up to the U-18 squad and has already made a huge impression on the young players," says Dempsey.

"He has held a coaching clinic which has been very well received. His objective is to coach the coaches and progress the youngsters in terms of basic skills from an early age. I've watched him in action at all levels and he does the same drills at U-7 as he does with the senior team.

"It might be slightly more advanced at adult level, but the same basic principles are there."

Club PRO Alan Dodd adds: "The investment in our youth set-up is now beginning to pay dividends and recent successes at U-13, U-15 and U-17 level is a great source of satisfaction for all the hard work by all our dedicated coaches.

"All the coaches are actively encouraged to build on their coaching qualifications and no stone is left unturned in providing the best tuition available.

"Of course, parental involvement is paramount to the success of our underage section and their help and support throughout the season contributes enormously to the smooth operation that it has become."

As the club looks ahead, Dodd feels silverware is firmly in their sights and is confident the senior side can build on their recent All-Ireland Cup performance.

"We'll be concentrating on the cups now," he says. "We have set our goals in targeting the County Cup and O'Neill Cup.

"Winning a 'major' has always been our objective. We have never won a Munster Junior Cup, so that's our dream. We were beaten in the final by Cork Con two years ago and by the same opposition in the semi-finals last year.

"To add that piece of silverware to our trophy cabinet this year would be very nice."

CLUB HONOURS

Munster Junior League: 2004.

Munster Junior Plate: 1996.

O'Neill Cup: 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1960, 1962, 1971, 1979, 1983, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1993, 2008, 2009.

County Cup: 1955, 1962, 1985, 1995, 2004, 2006.

McCarthy Cup: 1975, 1993, 1994, 2004.

Junior 3 League Pennant: 1992.

Junior 3 Plate: 2006.

Junior 3 Cup: 2004.

South Munster U-18 Cup: 1998.

Tate Cup: 2006.

Mick Barry Cup: 2009.

Club Officers --

President: John Field.

Chairman: Bertie Hourihane.

Hon secretary: B Dempsey.

PRO: Alan Dodd.

Hon treasurer: Eileen McCarthy.

Irish Independent

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