Club Focus: Bright times ahead for Roscommon club as big plan unfolds
New 3G pitch raises bar for ambitious outfit on the Galway border, writes Daragh Small
Saracens and Cardiff Blues have two of the most famous 3G pitches in rugby, and as Connacht look to create something similar in the redevelopment of the Sportsground, they may well learn from closer to home.
Creggs RFC have finally seen their forward-thinking plans come to fruition and club president Padraic Deane is thrilled to be able to open the new third-generation pitch at the Green on the Galway and Roscommon border.
It's a stunning renovation of their existing home ground where new acres were bought, lots of hard work and fundraising went in, obstacles were met head-on and negotiated, and the positive results are there for everyone to see.
"We are privileged to be where we are now and we want to share that with as many people as we can," said Deane.
Deane grew up in Bangor Erris, Co Mayo, and after he moved to Dublin he couldn't resist the draw of Roscommon town. His sister Maura lived in Roscommon and after numerous visits over the years he decided to make the move.
It was only when Deane relocated, in his late 20s, that he first picked up a rugby ball. He became good friends with locals Ger Dowd and Sean Brandon and that's where the fascination began with the club that was founded in 1974.
"I had played GAA and soccer. But it was just the craic and friendliness in Creggs when I went out there. It was just a great social scene with the lads. I got into it very fast. It takes over. There is an unbelievable camaraderie in the club," said Deane.
"I played a bit first, mainly at seconds level, there was a very good team when I was there. I was involved in a team that won an Ard na Cregg. Then shortly after I joined the committee.
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"I was in my early 30s and I remember I was treasurer when we went into the All Ireland League, which was a difficult period because there was a lot going on. That was the path I took.
"At that stage I had my trade magazine publishing business and with that I declined the chance to become president a couple of times because I wasn't able to commit to it fully.
"Then about two years ago I was asked by Kieran Dowd, the previous president, would I become his vice-president. My work had eased up a bit but the horizon was daunting because we had just bought the land we had been trying to buy for a long time. I knew it was going to be a busy time for everyone."
Deane has a two-year term as president. He has overseen massive change already but there is still lots to take care of before he steps away.
"We were ecstatic when we finally got the six acres and we would have had the ability to go from one and a half pitches to four. We were delighted with that," said Deane.
"Then we started to lay out the plan and we went for three sand-based grass pitches, in addition to our main pitch.
"When the bad weather came last winter we had a meeting at Christmas and decided that even with our three good-sand based pitches they wouldn't have been playable in the worst of that weather.
"We looked at the possibility of going with one pitch with an artificial surface. We went deeper and deeper into that and decided we needed to go that route.
"The weather was too unpredictable. We changed to two grass pitches and an artificial pitch.
"The subsequent fundraising for that was a daunting task. But, as always, the members of Creggs RFC and the support of the people in our area, really got behind us."
With at least 12 different GAA clubs inside their catchment area, there was plenty of pull and resources available as Deane and his committee colleagues were deep in thought about how they could raise the vital funds.
They got there in the end, and the club that has members stretching from east Galway to the entire county of Roscommon, is dreaming of a very bright future.
"We have to get these two grass pitches to maturity which is next summer, that is just nature taking its course.
"We will have the 3G pitch open in two weeks' time. It will be IRB-approved so we will be able to play our home games on it.
"We have dressing-rooms specifically for the ladies and fellas to develop in the next few months too, so that's on our agenda.
"We are also hoping to have a fully-lit walk all the way around our pitches to give something back to the local community, and to make the place even more a family club where mothers and fathers can walk the younger children when their children are training."
The walking path is one innovative way of giving back to the members of the club, and anyone who helped in funding the expansion at the Green.
Creggs RFC is on the way up in terms of facilities while on the field they play in Junior 1 and J1C. But Deane is aware that the club is about much more than its senior teams.
The new pitches are almost good to go but Deane knows that it's crucial everyone is given equal opportunity to experience the game of rugby on the new fields.
"We have a huge inclusivity project. We are growing girls' rugby. A club that was once a leader in women's rugby, we want to get back up there and have teams at all levels," said Deane.
"Also, to widen the inclusivity banner. We had a great day there for children with special needs recently in the club. It was something, you feel like you need to have more and more of that.
"We want to become even more of a community club."