Wednesday 11 December 2019

Enthusiastic coach building love of the game in Balbriggan

From Honduras to north county Dublin, energetic Robles is keen to make a big impression in new surroundings, writes Brian Lowry

One of Ariel Robles’ schoolsides Ardgillan CC after a recent game
One of Ariel Robles’ schoolsides Ardgillan CC after a recent game

Brian Lowry

Some have a more interesting life journey than others but when it comes to Balbriggan RFC's Club Community Rugby Officer (CCRO), there aren't many who have as interesting story to tell.

Ariel Robles was born in Honduras and lived there until he was 12. Things changed and a year later he was upping sticks and moving to Ireland, and he hasn't looked back since.

Rugby wasn't on his radar in Honduras. It was baseball that satisfied his sporting needs back then.

As an 11-year-old, he represented Honduras at U-13 International Schools level but his move to Ireland pretty much ended his affiliation with baseball.

He spent his teenage years in school at King's Hospital and after stint on the hockey fields he eventually found his true calling with the oval ball.

"When I moved to Ireland I went to King's Hospital School at age 12 where I started playing rugby for the first time. I played on the firsts all through school.

A pacy back, he spent much of his early days as a full-back and was attracting attention from clubs as he looked to progress on his career after school.

Dublin University was his first stop and he made quite the impact there over five seasons with plenty of experience gained in Ireland and abroad.

"After school I was recruited by coach Tony Smeeth and played for Trinity's DUFC for five seasons, on the wing, centre and full-back. I was top try scorer for the firsts in 2012/13 and we won promotion from Division 2A to 1B in the AIL.

"In 2011, I spent three months in New Zealand in the Crusaders' high performance unit - an intensely valuable experience in my development.

"On return to Europe, I immediately played all matches in Trinity's victory in an international club sevens tournament in Copenhagen. We also won back-to-back Irish Club Sevens Championships 2011/12.

"From this, we played in the Paris Sevens as an invitation side."

He moved on from Dublin University in 2014 and almost landed an All Ireland League medal before injury halted his rugby journey for a year.

"In 2014 I moved on from Trinity to play for Clontarf for four seasons. I had many fantastic matches and played in an AIL final.

"Unfortunately, a hip injury caused me to miss a full season while I worked continuously on my rehab programme," explained the Irish citizen.

Earlier this year, he went on to pastures new again. The 28-year-old has packed a lot of rugby into his life so far and now applies his trade with Old Belvedere.

"In June this year, I moved to Old Belvedere. I am highly motivated in my new club and really enjoying the enthusiasm and professionalism of the management and fellow players.

"I am focused on delivering my very best performances with a great squad of players."

Rugby has consumed the majority of his adult life and not just on the playing front. He knew when the time for college came about, that it had to be something rugby related.

"I graduated from Carlow IT in sports and exercise in rugby where I studied all aspects of rugby, while I also coached for a couple of years in King's Hospital before moving on to now working for Leinster."

Based out of Balbriggan RFC, his job is to grow the game and level of participation in the club in north county Dublin.

Now in his second year in the job, he has a presence in 12 primary schools and four secondary schools.

The primary schools are St Molaga's NS, Balscadden, St George's, St Teresa's, Balbriggan Educate Together, Bracken Educate Together, Hedgestown NS, Naul NS, St Patrick NS Stamullen, Scoil Chormaic CNS, Balrothery NS and Bellewstown NS.

Great work is also being done in the secondary schools - Ardgillan CC, Balbriggan CC, Loreto Balbriggan and Coláiste Ghlór na Mara.

Thriving

The club is thriving and the work being done on the ground by Robles has resulted in a bustling minis section.

Kids are getting feel for the game in the school and are in turn joining the club to develop.

This season Balbriggan are fielding a record five youths teams in Leinster competitions at U-13, U-14, U-15, U-16 and U-18.

Each team has a playing squad of between 20 and 28 players while they are hoping to build on an amazing season just gone by.

Last season all of the club's youths teams reached Leinster and/or North East Leinster finals with five trophies won.

Girls' rugby has also taken off in the club and after a successful 'give it a go' initiative during the summer, the club are now fielding an U-12 girls' team.

Balbriggan are an all-inclusive club and in April 2018 they set up an additional needs team called the 'Stingers'.

This has been a tremendous success and the team are an integral part of the club already.

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