Wednesday 22 November 2017

Ambitious club aims to be the best it can

Well-travelled Glennon hoping to see jump in number of youngsters taking up the game in the county, writes Daragh Small

Micheál Glennon
Micheál Glennon
The Creggs U-17s team

Daragh Small

With Connacht looking to continually expand their product on a province-wide basis, the work on the ground has become the most important part, and Micheál Glennon is the man behind the scenes at Creggs RFC.

The Green is getting a new look and the playing staff are constantly being upgraded as more youngsters take up rugby in the province.

Central to that cause is the 40-year-old Connacht community regional officer (CCRO) from Athleague who has just returned from the USA to help the next generation reach their potential.

Over the years Creggs have been the leading light in Roscommon rugby circles and have continually fielded strong underage and junior teams and provided talented rugby players to the provincial set-up.

But the hope is that they can maximise their return and coax some more of the county's youngsters into rugby.

"Since I have been involved in Creggs they have always been great at facilitating young players," said Glennon. 

"The minis have always had a huge turnout. The one thing they want to do better is get more girls involved - there is a big push in that this year. My directive is just to try and pump up the numbers for Creggs, for the girls and boys' game.

"One of the hardest things in my job is trying to go into a GAA or soccer-dominated school and convincing people of the benefits of rugby.

"Even if they never joined a club you could say rugby is a winter sport and it will develop their skills and keep them fit for the winter.

"If people say to me that I am trying to poach players that's not my objective at all. I want to up the profile of rugby and add another string to the bow for these youngsters."

There was no rugby in his local national school at the time so Glennon had to wait until a history teacher, Mick Flanagan, paved the way for his involvement in the sport after he brought rugby into Ballygar secondary school.

"I'm from Athleague, about ten minutes from Creggs. I went to national school in Roscommon and secondary in Galway in Ballygar.

"When I went to national school there was no rugby, all we had was hurling.

"It wasn't until secondary school when I had a history teacher who was a ref for the Connacht Branch of the IRFU, and he got rugby going in the school," said Glennon.

He excelled at underage level and was one of the star players for Creggs before he joined up with the Connacht U-20s. But Glennon ended up going to San Francisco and there he fell on tough times.

"I went to San Francisco. I played with the Old Blues. They were ex-Berkeley players. There was a lot of former US Eagle involvement. They weren't as working class, the Golden Gate Rugby Club were more working class," said Glennon. 

"But I just knew a fella playing with the Old Blues so I joined there. They were all great fellas and we had some great times. But they have since disbanded and now the Golden Gate Rugby Club are the powerhouse. 

"I finished when I was with Berkeley. I ran into the drinking and the drugs side of it and I have since sobered up."

Drinking

Glennon stopped drinking when he was 32 but it was a tough period in his life leading up to that and he wants to insure he can inspire others not to take the alcoholic route.

"You always hear the story about the fella who has lots of potential but gets lost in drink, I was one of those stories," said Glennon. 

"I finished playing rugby in my mid-20s. I left a good few years on the table. Eventually when I was 32 I got sick of it. I quit drinking and had a family. My two kids never saw me drink. 

"It's helped me grow as a person and I would never be where I am today other than living a sober lifestyle. Even my own nephews were wondering why I quit drinking. But I was just an average alcoholic that had to do something about it.

"I had no interest in playing sports and I was too busy drinking. I lost all focus of where I was going with my life. I dropped everything: hurling, soccer, football and rugby went out the door. I realised I couldn't keep going that way. I am sober now for about eight and a half years. 

"Younger guys and girls who have a problem need to realise that there is a place to go to get sorted. There is more to life than partying every weekend. It's just about being a bit more self-aware or self-conscious."

Glennon returned home to Ireland. He lives with his wife Deirdre and two children Lola (7) and Keeva (4) and after being installed as a CCRO he wants to show everyone how it never gets to a point of no return.

"I am working with the Connacht Branch and Roscommon County Council. When this job came up I was interested in doing it and within two days of coming home I had my interview," said Glennon."I had been a tile-setter, I had my own business over there. I wanted to do something different. I wanted to get back into rugby through coaching. And it made it easier considering I was a former player.

"I look after the minis at the moment. I have just done my stage-one course and I am studying how to coach coaches in Ennis now. I have lots to learn in that department.

"But it's great in Creggs. I am trying to attract people to the club. There's about a 30-mile radius to Roscommon town of players that are within the club's region.

"They are trying to develop three new fields and everything so it's becoming a massive operation. 

Flourished

"It was Creggs lads that went into CBS Roscommon and brought rugby into there. Those areas, Glenamaddy, Strokestown, Castlerea, they are all Gaelic football areas. But when rugby got in there it flourished.

"I remember it was great craic growing up and being a part of the club, and playing with all of your buddies and lads you went to school with. 

"Because they are such a small area there is always a sense that Creggs are the underdogs and there is a great tradition and community spirit there.

"They have been around since 1974 and they are only getting stronger."

Irish Independent

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