Sunday 16 December 2018

Force has always been with thriving Dublin outfit

Club Focus: Garda Westmanstown

The Garda Westmanstown’s U-18 girls’ side
The Garda Westmanstown’s U-18 girls’ side

Brian Lowry

Back in 1965, a group of rugby-enthused gardaí at Pearse Street station made history by forming a rugby club known as Garda RFC.

That same year, the club was affiliated to the Leinster Branch of the IRFC and their journey had begun. Today they stand as a growing club.

With upwards of over 270 minis and youths taking to the pitches, the common practice of a club being the hive of activity on a Saturday or Sunday morning has spilled into midweek such is the demand for pitches and volume of players.

"The youths and Minis are flying it. We have teams from under six to under 17 in both girls and boys," explains committee member Eddie Fallon.

"We want to get into the Lucan and Blanchardstown communities and make this club their local club.

"Nobody there even realises there is a rugby club in Westmanstown."

The club’s triumphant senior team who won this season’s Leinster league Division 3 title
The club’s triumphant senior team who won this season’s Leinster league Division 3 title

Last year, the club took the step to rename. With a stigma attached from some quarters, they were keen to get the word out there that they were not a club exclusive to members of An Garda Síochána and that they want to be a community-based club.

"We want to dispel that myth as quickly as possible. When we won Division 1B, we had two Tongan players playing for us.

"We are a completely inclusive club. Obviously we were founded by members of An Garda Síochána," insists Fallon, who is also an underage coach in the club. Now known as Garda Westmanstown RFC, the club has a large membership at both youth and senior level from the Westmanstown area while also attracting players from areas such as Lucan and Clonsilla and other parts of West Dublin, East Kildare and East Meath.

One of the most rapidly growing areas in the capital, the club serves a massive community and their membership reflects that but the doors remain wide open at the club for new members and players to join.

Footing

Back in 2012, the club set about keeping one eye on the future by forming the youths arm of the club.

Numbers have gradually increased since and the future generations of players look to be well on their way to providing a solid footing for the club.

At the same juncture six years ago, the Westmanstown Wasps were also formed.

Catering for children with special needs, this extremely rewarding venture has seen the club able to spread the rugby word into another facet of the community and bringing such enjoyment and happiness to some of the most important members of their club.

"We were approached by parents of a child with special needs and we were more than happy to facilitate it," explains Eddie Fallon.

"They have gone from strength to strength and are flying it. We were one of the first five or six clubs in the county to start up Special Needs Rugby."

The club's women's section also continues to thrive. Competing in Division 2 of the Leinster League, they also provide rugby for girls at under 14, under 16 and at under 18 level in the hope that they will one day line out for the club at senior level.

This underage system has served the club well in recent seasons with a steady stream of players progressing to adult level.

In all, 10 players have developed and come through the youth system in the club in the past three seasons.

One of their most prized assets is Molly Scuffil McCabe who is on the Ireland Women's sevens squad and the club are extremely proud of this achievement.

On the field, the past six years have proven tough. Having won Division 1B of the Leinster League, they reached the promised land of 1A only to come straight back down and subsequently drop the whole way down to the basement division of the league.

Now in Division 3, this season has sparked a reversal in fortunes as they won the league title with a game to spare.

The 2018/2019 season will see them ply their trade in Division 2B and that will bring on another challenge for the club. Eddie Fallon is part of a hard-working committee and he pointed out that the league win had been a massive boost to the club.

"It is a huge help. We have been in a bit of freefall for the last few years. We won Division 1B in 2011 and we went up to 1A.

"We lost 14 of that senior men's first team due to retirements, transfers and everything else. Basically our second team became our first team overnight.

"We consolidated this season and got in a few players from the Garda College team that got to the Colleges final last year.

"We got in six or eight of those lads who were being sent to Dublin. We won the league and we only lost one game.

"The hope would be to recruit again in the off season and push on again but I don't think we will ever get back up to the 1A or 1B level."

There is also the social end of things. One such example is the Over 35s team.

While competing in the Leinster League may be behind the 'veterans' of the club, that doesn't mean that they have to stop playing rugby.

Although in the twilight of their careers, they are a very competitive side and they also travel to Lyon at the end of the season to compete in a tournament.

Another priority for next season is to re-launch a seconds team and attract more players from the area.

They are around for the long haul and if off-the-field work and effort is anything to go by, they are in for a successful future.

Garda Westmanstown RFC

Founded: 1965

Grounds: Westmanstown Sports Centre, Westmanstown, Dublin 15

Division: Leinster League Division 3 (Champions)

Club Captain: Lorcan Murphy

Club President: John Hester

Who is your sportstar of the year?

Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.

Prizes include, a trip to Old Trafford to watch Man United take on Liverpool in the Premier League, tickets to Ireland's home games in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.

Simply click here to register your vote

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport