Wednesday 12 December 2018

Community club keeps flag flying in Royal county

With the seeds sown 40 years ago, Athboy are doing a great service to the game in Meath area, writes Brian Lowry

The Athboy senior side after victory over Ardee last January
The Athboy senior side after victory over Ardee last January
The club’s veterans on their recent trip to France

Brian Lowry

Based in Co Meath, Athboy RFC stands 40 years old this year. It is a major milestone for the club and while they may not be laden with a long history like other clubs in the province, they are proud of the fact that they have stood the test of time.

Founded in 1978, the club has had plenty of tough years in their history but they are still standing and providing a stellar service to their members.

Men like Edmund Carroll and Rafe Warner were both key figures in the formation of the club 40 years ago with Warner serving as president of the club form 1983 to 1986.

In their first year, they fielded one team and were largely confided to friendly matches to give them a chance to find their feet.

The following summer, things got more official and organised as they were affiliated to the Leinster Branch of the IRFU in the summer of 1979.

Like most small junior clubs, it hasn't always been plain sailing. They stand today as a progressive club but they have had their problems.

The 1995/'96 season saw them fail to field a team for the first time in their history and this resulted in senior activity in the club being suspended.

However, a few years later and in the 1999/2000 season, playing numbers at adult level catapulted up and that season saw them re-introduced to adult rugby at J3 level.

That season also saw a move on the women's arm of the club and a team was set up later that season.

In terms of success, the club have had a modest amount. They have won eight trophies in their 40 years with four of those coming in the form of the Magee Cup (North East J3 league) in 1987, 1988, 1990 and 2010. Their first success came way back in 1982 when they won the Provincial J4 Michael Dunne Cup.

They beat Kilkenny in a replay 10-6 and it was a great boost for the club at the time as they were still in their infancy. Led by Jimmy McCann, that win remains a vital piece of their history.

Growing They also reached the final of that same cup back in 2006 but they lost out in the final to a strong Naas RFC outfit.

With growing success in area and provincial rugby, the club sought a move up to Junior 3 after that win. With that request granted, they also started a second team as they now had upwards on 40 players and no shortage of officials.

With the club finding success on the field, the decision was taken to locate to a new home and land was acquired on the edge of town.

The two teams began to play there in 1986 while investment was also made with the installation of floodlights.

The re-introduction of adult rugby in 1999 was a watershed in their history. That summer, a meeting was held with the aim of fielding again at senior level.

They got a positive response and between players who came up through the underage system, former senior players returning and people who had moved into the area, Athboy had made their first steps to getting back on track.

The 2001/'02 season saw the first official season for the seconds team and the women's team and the club have continued to field at adult level since. There was to be immediate success for the women as they shared the All-Ireland Division 3 title with Trinity College while they lost out in the final the following year to fellow Meath side Navan.

Starting at under six, the club fields teams up to U-18 level with plenty of activity in the club on the weekends.

They started out in 1985 with under 10 and under 12 but they have grown dramatically since catering for minis and youths of all ages and abilities.

In 2003, they combined with Ardee to enter an under 18 team and they went on to win the Leinster U-18 Division one title the same season.

To win such a high division final in their infancy proved to be a massive fillip for the club.

Over the years, they have seen many of their players go on and represent Leinster at various levels including U-17, U-18, women's U-19, women's Leinster B and the Senior Leinster Women's team, while former player Richie Feeney made his Ireland U-19 debut against England back in 2004.

The minis and youths section of the club continues to thrive. With numerous coaches working on a weekly basis with their next generation of stars under the direction of director of rugby Fergus O Boyle, the foundations are being put in place to ensure the club thrives in the future.

The youth rugby is merged with North Meath RFC and the season is not over yet for them with some big games looming.

The U-17s and U-14s still have important finals on the horizon at both North East and Leinster level. This is a massive achievement for the players involved and it has the next generation of Athboy seniors competing at a high level from an early age.

This season saw the men's first team finish in mid table in Division 3 of the Leinster league following successful seasons in 2015 and 2016 when they reached a club high of Leinster League 2A.

Athboy RFC are not done yet for this season at senior level with the North East McGee Cup still up for grabs.

While their catchment area is quite large, there is also the lure of bigger clubs in the county such as Boyne, Navan and Ashbourne.

With a strong rugby interest in the area, they attract players from Athboy, Trim and south-west Meath in general and they work hard to keep their numbers up and Rugby alive in the town. New members are very welcome as they continue to look forward.

A real community club, Athboy have served their patch well and the aim is to continue to sow the seeds of rugby for the youth in the area while carrying on that fine tradition that was started 40 years ago.

Athboy RFC

Founded: 1978

Grounds: Townspark, Athboy, Co. Meath

Division: Leinster League Division 3

Youths and Minis: Under 6 to under 18.

Club President: Fergus O Boyle

Club Captain: Bryan Quirke

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