Sunday 26 May 2019

Dedicated coach is making a huge impact in Wexford

A man that has seen it all is now key to his home club’s fortunes, writes Brian Lowry

North Midlands celebrate their U-16 Bank of Ireland Shane Horgan Cup victory. They beat the Midlands 23-8 in their final round match. Photo: Sportsfile
North Midlands celebrate their U-16 Bank of Ireland Shane Horgan Cup victory. They beat the Midlands 23-8 in their final round match. Photo: Sportsfile

Brian Lowry

Enniscorthy are the club on everyone's lips at the moment.

League wins in 2015 and 2019 in Division 1A of the Leinster Junior League have only last weekend been followed by qualification to the senior rugby ranks for the first time since the 1930s.

This didn't happen overnight.

Years of hard work have gone in from a wide variety of people and one of those is their long-standing Club Community Rugby Officer (CCRO) Ross Barbour.

An Enniscorthy native, he is a man well travelled and schooled when it comes to rugby and is in his eighth year in the role for the club.

Primary and secondary schools in the Enniscorthy RFC catchment area are under his remit and the fruits of his labour are being seen across the board in the County Wexford club.

His rugby career has taken him all over the world.

As an impressionable 10-year-old he went down to his local club and the rest, as they say, is history.

But what a fascinating journey it has taken him on.

He attended secondary school in Wesley College in Dublin and played both Junior and Senior Cup.

His progression from there saw him play All Ireland League for both Carlow and Old Wesley, while he was also afforded some excellent opportunities abroad.

The Enniscorthy native has played with Queanbeyan Whites RFC in New South Wales, Australia and Chicago West Side Condors in the US, but he also rose to prominence in rugby league.

He stumbled upon it to maintain fitness for union and he began to line out for Carlow Crusaders in rugby league during the summer and went on to represent Ireland in the 2008 Rugby League World Cup.

In 2010, his home club got him back on home soil.

On a duel status with Old Wesley, he returned to play junior rugby with Enniscorthy and had a very successful stint.

Three Towns Cup medals, one as captain, two All Ireland Junior Cups and a Leinster League Division 1A crown were bestowed upon him during a fruitful period for the club, while he also went on to get capped by the Leinster Juniors for two seasons.

His coaching in the club has been second to none and he has been involved right across the board.

Along with coaching the first team for a season, he has worked with all age grades in the club, while his role with the girls' arm of the club in the past two years has been extremely positive.

The girls' minis section has grown from only eight members to having more than 50 players presently - allowing them to field U-8, U-10 and U-12 girls' teams in the club this season for the first time.

If all that wasn't enough, Barbour is also an assistant coach with the U-18 South East Girls Development Squad along with his work in the schools.

There are 27 schools in the Enniscorthy district and Barbour has actively coached in 23 of them, a massive return for one CCRO.

Progress has also been made on the competitive front as along with fellow Enniscorthy team-mate Tomas Stamp, he led the senior Christian Brothers Secondary School (CBS) to the McMullen Cup for the first time in the school's history in 2015.

Enniscorthy are a club on the up on and off the field. More than 100 years in existence, Enniscorthy RFC stands today as the standard-bearer for rugby in Wexford.

Their central location in the town has helped them have a strong presence in the community and all that is good about the Wexford town.

A new clubhouse was opened in 2005 and Enniscorthy have worked hard on forging links in the community, especially with other sporting codes in the town such as the GAA and hockey clubs.

A family-orientated and all-inclusive set-up, the club pulls in members from Enniscorthy and the surrounding areas while catering for all ages, with their minis section a real success story with the work carried out by Barbour a major factor in the success of the club.

The club have proved that hard work pays off with the J1s finally making the break and going up to the senior ranks. Their year isn't finished yet as they are back in the final of the Towns Cup as they look to make it two in a row when they take on Wicklow in Navan on Sunday, April 28.

The success at adult level gives the whole club a lift.

The feel-good factor filters down the grades and the youths and minis have a superb opportunity to have club heroes to look up too.

Irish Independent

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