Monday 18 November 2019

'We have a big push on with our clubhouse extension'

Club focus: Tuam RFC

Tuam RFC’s U-10 side before playing in the Sportsground
Tuam RFC’s U-10 side before playing in the Sportsground

Daragh Small

Garraun Park is getting a facelift at the moment and when the new clubhouse extension is finally finished it will be another landmark occasion for Tuam RFC.

One decade on from the installation of floodlights on the bottom pitch, the extra clubhouse space will allow for more dressing rooms with separate showers.

It comes at a time when the minis, youths and women's game have caught up with their senior men's equivalent. Tuam RFC looks to have a very promising future and club president John Ward is excited about what lies ahead.

His eldest daughter Mariah played for the Connacht U-18s three years ago, and his son Carl is currently on the Connacht U-16s side. They are just some of the brilliant prospects who have come through the ranks at Tuam RFC.

"This is my third year as president. It was a two-year term and they kept at me to stay one more year," says Ward.

"We are doing good work at the moment. I have great people with me on the committee and things are looking up. We have a couple of things going on, things we want improved upon.

U-12 boys and girls at a recent blitz
U-12 boys and girls at a recent blitz

"We have a big push on at the moment, with the building of the extension onto the clubhouse. It's for our girls and youths section mainly. The women's side of the game is growing and we have to adapt.

"In our clubhouse we have three dressing rooms and one communal shower. It doesn't suit us to have a boys and girls game on, or youths and adults, at the same time. We have planning permission got. We are currently doing fundraising for the building of a few more dressing rooms with their own showers, separate entrance, the whole lot.

"We have two pitches so this way we will be able to play and there will be no crossover.

"Our youths has grown and girls too. At the moment we have U-12 girls going and U-16. It's going alright and we have the ladies team as well, so it's going in the right direction."

Ward is a Tuam native and he played rugby with his local rugby club since he was six years old. He began with the minis, and at the time numbers were scarce while Tuam lagged behind at the age-group.

But he gradually picked up pace and after a hiatus away from the game Ward returned to play for the club when he was 18.

"The lads were just at me to go back and I just enjoyed rugby, I really like playing," says Ward.

"It was 1990 when I went back, Ireland were doing well in the rugby. But I always followed rugby anyway.

Tuam RFC U-12s boys
Tuam RFC U-12s boys


"It took a good few years to get the club to where it stands today, but it's going well now. Rugby is growing an awful lot in Ireland these days."

With Joe Schmidt's side winning a Grand Slam in 2018 and Connacht on the verge of a massive stadium expansion, rugby has never been bigger in this part of the world.

But Ward is determined that it doesn't lose its soul either. Rugby was always associated with having a brilliant social aspect to it, and he wants that back again.

"I finished playing about ten years ago when I was 36 at the time. I still played an odd game here and there up to two years ago when I was involved with the over-40s there," says Ward.

"We play the Paddy Halion tournament. He is a past player of the club who died suddenly.

"We play a Galway and Mayo tournament every year and that's greatly supported by the lads in Mayo, especially Westport. It's actually on the 20th of this month again, in Westport.

"Things like that, it's meeting up with friends and having a bit of craic and a game. You still need that bond in this game.

"There is a good social side to that, even though that part of it has changed a lot because when we were younger it was probably better.

"We try to play most of our games on Friday evenings or Saturday. When it comes to Sundays, lads are not really mixing after the games. They are going home because on Monday morning they would have work or college."

Tuam is generally known as the home for Galway football, while soccer is also massive in the town, but rugby has started to gain on both of those.

Nevertheless, training times do collide on occasion and rugby can sometimes fall by the wayside if that happens.

"We have a couple of lads playing football but we are lucky because there is not that many. They are all mainly playing rugby on its own which has been great," Ward adds.

"The floodlights have been brilliant for us. We were struggling with minis for a while because soccer is so big around here too.

"You could have 200 kids at soccer on a Saturday morning, where we were struggling. But we saw that happening and we reinvented our games and we went minis games on a Thursday evening under lights on our main pitch and our numbers have doubled.

"A week ago we had our U-12s out, and we brought in the U-12s from Claremorris, Corrib and Dunmore to play in a tournament blitz.

"We played three games, they were 15-minute games each with a five-minute break in between each of them. We start at seven and we're out the door at eight.

"The kids are loving it. It doesn't clash with anything on the Saturday mornings so they don't have choose between sports either.

"If they can make training brilliant, but there is no pressure on them."

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