Visionary schools initiative gets rural pioneers booming
After over 40 years of rugby at Monivea RFC we found, as a result of the recession, we didn't have the players coming through, as was the case in many rural clubs all over the country.
To address the situation the club undertook a two year research project to get National Schools involved in rugby.
Originally 10 national schools participated over a 12-week period finishing with a schools blitz in Monivea.
The outcome of this initial success was a decision to bring rugby into the national and secondary schools in our wider catchment area alongside hurling and football.
Our proposal for a three year project was presented to the IRFU and Connacht Branch, requesting their support. They have been fully in support of our plan and our thanks to Scott Walker, the IRFU, Lyndon Jones and Connacht Branch/IRFU for their outstanding co-operation and the financial support afforded us.
The three year project began in September 2014 in the 22 National Schools in the Monivea catchment area and extended to first year students in the three secondary schools in September 2015.
In year one, we coached boys only, 5th and 6th class, and this year coached 5th and 6th class boys and girls.
From September our focus will shift to coaching boys and girls from 1st class up to 4th class only.
As part of this project, Monivea have held a number of successful blitzes, catering for up to 200 children, co-ordinated by Connacht club and community officer Darren Collins.
One blitz can require up to 23 team managers, 10 referees, a health/safety officer, a first aid officer, eight catering volunteers, two car parking stewards, two photographers, eight people to erect and dismantle the marquee and two Connacht Branch representatives.
"The whole initiative has been a massive success," says Collins. "We started with a small number of schools to trial the project and now we are reaching 22 national schools in the area."
By the end of the first year of the project the numbers attending mini rugby at Monivea increased from 85 to 138 and now the club have over 160 boys and 30 girls attending every week.
With success comes challenges and the club now seek to add two additional coaches in year three.
The success of our club is firmly based on the coaches, managers and mentors who invest an enormous amount of time and effort in the club.
Their efforts are already beginning to show rewards at provincial level with Connacht.
Eoghan Maher, who won a Leinster Schools Senior Cup last season with Cistercian College, Roscrea has now been selected for the Connacht Youth Academy. He is following in the footsteps of Caolin Blade, Monivea's first professional with Connacht. Both are an inspiration to our current mini and youth players.
Monivea wish to thank all of the teachers, parents, and voluntary helpers who have supported in developing rugby in local schools. If this project has been successful by 2022/23 a large proportion of the schools will have their own rugby teams and their teachers/parents will have become involved in schools and at club level.
The numbers in mini and particularly in youths playing for Monivea RFC will have increased considerably and the rugby ball will have a permanent home alongside our sliotar and football.