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Decorated Meath club on the glory trail again

Club Focus: Asbourne RFC

Stephen Deevy in action during last year’s Towns Cup semi-final, a tournament they won in 2014. Photo: Sportsfile
Stephen Deevy in action during last year’s Towns Cup semi-final, a tournament they won in 2014. Photo: Sportsfile

Brian Lowry

Founded in 1974, the club have had their ups and downs but the reigning All Ireland Junior Cup champions and current leaders in Leinster League Division 1A are carrying on a fine tradition built up over the years.

Their first pitch was supplied by Ned Nulty with the founding members of the club comprising Tom Higgins, Padraig O Broin, Fergus Duignan, Ken McMullan, John Brennan, Peador O'Kelly, Michael Duffy and Jack Conlan.

These men went on to perform a range of roles in the club throughout the years, including future captains and presidents.

Details of an official opening show a match between an Ashbourne selection and an Al Moroney international selection in the mid-1970s with the likes of Moss Keane and Moroney lining out on the day.

The club moved on to another home as they brokered a deal to use St Andrew's Athletic Club.

Paddy Woods, the first jockey to ride Arkle in a competitive race, was heavily involved in the athletic club.

The Ashbourne U15s are hoping to be part of a big future for the Meath club
The Ashbourne U15s are hoping to be part of a big future for the Meath club

With the game growing and high demands being put on pitches, Pat Bobbett, Pat Rooney and Joe Keeling all made pitches available to the club while they also played on a pitch in Milltown.

The contribution of Dr TA Moroney (Al) to the club was significant.

The former Irish international took on the role of coaching the team in 1978 while he also ended up playing. A much-loved GP in the area, he brought great organisation and passion to the team.

Unfortunately, he passed away in 2012 as the only Ashbourne player to be capped by Ireland top date.

In terms of success on the field, the club still remains the only junior side from outside Dublin to win the O'Connell Cup.

Built on a mean defence, they didn't concede a try through the whole campaign while also playing all their matches away from home.

Gavin Kennedy accepts the All Ireland Junior Cup last season
Gavin Kennedy accepts the All Ireland Junior Cup last season

The club was fielding four senior teams on a regular basis from the end of the 1970s and this development brought about the emergence of some outstanding captains and players at thirds and fourths level.

The underage section was set up in 1977, with Pat Bobbett, Tim O'Connor and Fergus Duignan taking a lead role and with things on the up generally, they moved up to being a Junior 1 club in the 1981/82 season.

Provincial rugby came about in 1998 and Declan Barrett led the team up to Division One.

In the first season the club almost reached the Holy Grail by making the Provincial Towns Cup final but Jimmy Dillon's charges were beaten by Navan.

Three years later and that Towns Cup success was brought to fruition when they travelled to Portlaoise for the final and defeated Roscrea.

In 2001 they also had a good run in the U-18 Leinster league as fruits of their labour were becoming evident.

In this period Sean Mahon led the development team in the expansion of the clubhouse and changing rooms, which were completed and opened in 2001.

To celebrate the opening Ashbourne hosted a junior inter-provincial game between Leinster and Ulster.

The club's first All Ireland trophy came in 2004 when the Ashbourne women's team won the All Ireland final, defeating Blackrock 5-3 in Clonmel.

In 2005/06 Ashbourne's second XV won the Provincial Towns Cup Plate, beating Athy in the final.

The U-16s were runners-up in Leinster League Division 1 that season while it also saw the launch of the club's 10-year development plan, with Rod Cosgrave and Bill Duggan playing prominent roles.

In 2007 the club added two all-weather pitches with floodlights.

Since then development has continued. The club has now developed its 15-acre site which includes four floodlit pitches, one is an up-to-date, 4G playing surface while the other three are all-weather too.

These facilities have allowed the club to host a range of inter-provincial and club/school games.

In 2008/09 the club hosted their first women's international when Ireland took on France, and this proved to be the start of a relationship with the Irish women's team.

They went on to claim the Six Nations title in 2011/12 with the home games against England and France taking place in Ashbourne.

In the same year the clubs' youth section really started making its presence felt with a number of teams putting markers down.

The U-17 side won Division 1 of the Leinster League and also the U-17 league in the north-east.

The U-15s were runners-up in the shield while the U-14s were runners-up in the North East League. The U-14 School/Youth side were runner-up in their cup, while the U-13s won their league section.

It was also a great year for Ashbourne referee Helen O'Reilly when she officiated in her first international.

She also featured in the 2014 Women's World Cup in France and has proven to be a trend setter for women's officiating on a world stage.

One of her colleagues, Kevin Beggs, who mentored Helen, is a PRO14 TMO and an AIL referee. Ashbourne are fortunate to have seven referees currently.

The 2013/14 campaign was another milestone season with the club winning promotion to Division 1A and capturing the Towns Cup, while the seconds and thirds also saw cup success.

Last season they won the prestigious All Ireland Junior Cup while this season also has the makings of another chapter in their history.

They are back in the All Ireland Junior cup final with a final date with Kilfeacle and District RFC on Saturday week.

They also currently lead Leinster League Division 1A and still have the Towns Cup campaign to come.

ASHBOURNE RFC

Founded: 1974

Grounds: Milltown House, Archerstown Road, Ashbourne

Youths and minis:U-6 to U-20

Division: Leinster League Division 1A

Captain: Gavin Kennedy

President: Jimmy Dillon

Irish Independent

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