CBS keen to take the next step as game grows
Club Focus: CBS Roscommon
Ballina RFC are the latest Connacht club to come to prominence on the national scene, but there are others throughout the province, whose diligent work and effort could have long-lasting effects too.
Roscommon side Creggs helped Denis Buckley through his formative years, and the loosehead prop would go on to become a mainstay for Connacht Rugby, and an inspiration to future generations.
But last year a new batch of youngsters left their own mark, when the Creggs U-13 side were crowned kings of Connacht, and maybe the next provincial star could come from that group.
The vast majority of those players have prospered with CBS Roscommon this year at U-14 level in the Connacht Senior 'A' League. But despite wins over Sligo Grammar and St Muredach's, they failed to progress out of their group after a narrow defeat to Summerhill College.
Aaron Hynes is a PE teacher at CBS Roscommon, and he has been entrusted with guiding this group prior to their involvement in the Connacht junior and senior cups down the line.
"We beat Sligo Grammar comprehensively with a seven-try victory. We beat Muredach's in a tightly contested game. But we lost narrowly to Summerhill then when we were missing a few of our better players. We are very competitive and we were disappointed that we didn't come out of our group," says Hynes.
"We had huge numbers there. We had around 28 registered players for that age-group. We had great interest. A lot of them would have been part of a successful Creggs U-13 team the year before that won Connacht. That definitely helped us and we followed on from there."
Those who don't play for Creggs, play for Longford, but there is a real sense of camaraderie in the school in those young groups and that will only grow as the teams gain in familiarity building into a junior cup side.
CBS Roscommon finished as runners-up for the first time in the Connacht junior cup in 2014. But the following year they made amends for that loss to St Gerald's College. Two tries each from Melvin Conteh and Jason Hoare, along with efforts from Rian Biesty and James Brandon, helped CBS Roscommon to an historic first ever junior crown. And a resounding 36-0 win over Coláiste Iognaid.
"Three seasons ago we won the junior cup for the first time. We beat the Jes and put 30 points on them in the cup final in the Sportsground," says Hynes.
"Unfortunately, we didn't bring that on to senior two years later. The Jes actually won it out and we lost in the semi-finals. We were well beaten by Garbally but we had lost a couple of our best players to Roscrea.
"Our captain Brian Diffley, he went on to win a Leinster senior cup with them."
It's difficult to compete with schools like Cistercian College Roscrea, but CBS Roscommon have operated within their means, and they will continue to be a force in Connacht.
An obvious outlet of inspiration is Kieran Keane's side, and when they perform well it has a knock-on effect in the schools throughout the province, but nothing can compare to the PRO12 win at Murrayfield in May 2016.
Anyone who was 11 or 12 when John Muldoon lifted the province's first piece of silverware in their history will soon be making the breakthrough into schools senior cup teams, and already the Roscommon outfit have experienced an uplift in interest, according to the coach.
"It might be sheer coincidence but two years ago Connacht won the PRO12 and this year it has definitely been the biggest involvement in rugby from an U-14 squad for the five years that I have been there," says Hynes.
"It probably does have an effect. Connacht have been doing a lot of promotional work. Definitely the blitzes Connacht run are a good way for the players to get involved. We picked up six or seven lads this year who never played before, from getting them involved in ten-a-side blitzes.
"We brought the lads up to the Sportsground for a PRO12 game against Ospreys on a Friday evening last year. We didn't get a chance to do it this year with a lot going on, but it will happen again in the future."
And the future is bright, with Hynes confident that CBS Roscommon are moving in the right direction, and maybe towards silverware with this U-14 group.
The hints have been there all season with some very impressive results, and the CBS coach is confident that there will be some real big wins to come for his side in the next 12 or 24 months.
"In terms of numbers it's brilliant. We would definitely be hoping to build a strong junior panel next year," adds Hynes.
"It's brilliant, we have quality players there, and some of the new lads have really taken to the game well. Next year they will be very strong. Those lads that are only new to rugby will have two seasons under their belt next year and we are expecting them to push on."
Creggs continue their great work at grassroots, and as they develop a few new pitches, CBS Roscommon will inevitably profit because they play their home matches there.
Coaching-wise, Creggs also provide Dave Purcell and Aidan Farrell for the CBS Roscommon senior side, but Lorcan Laheen's arrival has been a big bonus this term.
"Lorcan has a strong rugby background, he was a big addition to the staff this year," says Hynes. "He played with Monivea in the Connacht junior league. He represented Connacht in the club inter-pros. He has been a top performer in club rugby. He has been a big addition and a fresh voice. He has had new tactics, and new set-pieces.
"Lorcan got the most out of the senior cup team this year. They stepped up massively. They were competing against a really strong Garbally side this year with three Ireland U-17s."
And Glenamaddy native Hynes, who studied at UL after his stint with Creggs, says the club have been immense. Having such an influential outfit just out the road has huge benefits for the school and they're keen to galvanise that relationship down the line.
"Creggs continue to give us great support too. They have a huge project on at the moment they are developing two 3G astro-turf pitches and a new all-weather pitch. That's nearing completion at the moment.
"I just want to acknowledge Creggs' involvement as support to us. They have been instrumental in terms of keeping rugby going here in the CBS."
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