Ambitious Gorey club continues rapid rise
Club Focus: Gorey RFC
Located in the sunny south-east in the county of Wexford, and fresh from subsequent promotions to their current standing in Leinster League Division 1A, Gorey RFC are a prime example of a club making strides both on and off the field. A lot has changed since its inception way back in 1945.
Tough times followed and the club disbanded in the mid 1950s, only to be resurrected in the late fifties while falling away once again in the early sixties. Times were tough and it was proving difficult for Gorey to get off the ground.
Clubs like Arklow and Enniscorthy were prominent in the surrounding areas and players took refuge there to ply their trade, but the year of 1968 proved to be a monumental year for the club and one they haven't looked back from. Rugby in Gorey was back and this time it was back for good.
Eric Deacon, who worked in Gorey, was largely credited with the revival. Players started to flow back to the club from their surrounding rivals and now they were on to something. To make the next step, a pitch was needed and the Leinster Branch duly obliged and they purchased their own grounds.
With a solid home and plans put in place to build a clubhouse, their dreams came through and after starting out with a timber building that housed two dressing rooms, Gorey RFC were now one of the first clubs in the south-east to have a proper clubhouse, one they went on to extend in the years following.
A look through their members' list and there is one name that certainly sticks out. One of the finest prop forwards to ever bind in a front-row - Nick Popplewell.
His career is well decorated with Irish and British and Irish Lions caps and not to mention been selected on the World XV a few years back.
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In the present day the club is thriving. With over 500 players and 70 coaches involved, many of them at youths and minis level, the future looks bright for the club who had the likes of Florence Webb, Willie Willoughby and Eric Deacon to name a few putting in the foundations all those years ago. All the hard work put in over the years has also brought some silverware to the club.
A new state-of-the-art high-performance gym was built and opened a few years back while three men that have progressed through their youths system have gone on to have promising careers abroad.
Robin Copeland, formerly of Cardiff Blues and now of Munster, Foster Horan, who previously played with London Irish, and the recently-retired Eoin Sheriff with Saracens and London Irish, are all products of the minis/youths system, while the likes of Mark and Nigel Stephens, Brendan O'Gorman, Gerry Slattery, Roger Boyd and John O'Doherty have all played for Leinster in their time.
2012 saw Gorey produce the captain of the Leinster U-18 team in James Nolan while numerous other club men have lined out for the province. They take great pride in their young players and their progression and with all the facilities in place off the field, the players need only worry about the goings-on inside the white lines.
The 2013/2014 season will be long remembered as the year of the J1 and J2 double with the first team claiming the Division 2A title in fine style going unbeaten throughout the league season and gaining promotion to Division 1B for the first time in their history.
That was followed up by subsequent promotion to Division 1A where they put in a massive shift and came close to doing the unthinkable and winning the Leinster League Division 1A.
In the end, the finished in second place behind an Enniscorthy side who blazed trail to the title. It was a remarkable period for the club as they grew in stature.
This season has seen mixed form so far. They sit in fifth place in Division 1A with three wins, five losses and a draw.
They have done the league double over DLSP who sit in third place, while their other victory came in their last outing against Monkstown.
Currently 19 points behind leaders Malahide, Gorey will need to hit the ground running in January if they are to mount a title challenge but the signs are there that they could push up the table as they are unbeaten in their last three games that also included a draw with Ashbourne.
The Towns Cup will also swing back around in January with a first round tie away to Mullingar on the horizon.
Interestingly, Gorey RFC staged the first interprovincial match between Leinster and Connacht back in November of 1994, while it also holds the unusual honour of having staged the 1998 World Sheep Shearing Championships.
Two contrasting pieces of history but examples of the hard work and drive that exists within the club.
The women's wing of the club is also thriving with teams fielded at underage and adult level in the Leinster leagues.
Caoimhe Molloy recently made the cut for Leinster in their interprovincial series as they go in search of the Interpro title this weekend when they take on Munster. The senior ladies ply their trade in the Leinster Senior League Division2.
The club also has a state-of-the-art clubhouse available to all its members and indeed to hire for special occasions.
Gorey RFC has a strong volunteer force that strives to keep things on track both on and off the field as they continue to make waves.
Founded: 1945 (original founding)
Grounds:: Clonattin Upper, Gorey, Co Wexford.
Colours: Green, white and blue jerseys, black shorts and green white and blue socks.
League Division: Leinster League Division 1A
Youths: U-7s to U-19s
Club president: Frank Deering
Club captain: JP Redmond
Next week's club focus is on Bective Rangers