Sunday 17 February 2019

Good times ahead thanks to superb work on and off field

Club focus: Wexford Wanderers RFC

St Andrew’s players celebrate their Fr Godfrey Cup win over St Ciarán’s Kells. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
St Andrew’s players celebrate their Fr Godfrey Cup win over St Ciarán’s Kells. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Brian Lowry

Heading on for 85 years in existence, Wexford Wanderers are still riding high.

A club on an upward curve, they are making all the right noises on and off the field as they strive to keep things moving forward.

Last season, they hit the big time and claimed the Leinster League Division 2B title in what was a massive landmark for the club.

They moved up the divisions and since then have acquitted themselves extremely well in 2A and sit in third place, only one point behind joint-leaders Clondalkin and Cill Dara.

Success breeds success and that winning feeling in the club is still there as they set their sights on two promotions in two years.

They have put in a lot of hard work and the mini and youths sections of the club have really put their shoulders to the wheel in recent years.

This season has seen Wexford Wanderers continue to produce players for the international scene, players who have come up through their system.

Brian Deeney has represented Ireland at sevens and 15s at U-19 level, while Josh O'Connor represented Leinster and Ireland at U-18.

Sean Kelly also represented Leinster at U-18 and the club are very proud of all three and confident that many more stars will be churned out in the coming years.

All this comes on the back of the likes of Greg McGrath and Jack Stafford who lined out for Ireland in 2017 in the U-20 World Cup.

Without doubt, the most famous son of the Wexford Wanderers' underage system in recent times is Gordon D'Arcy who grew up in Wexford and played his rugby with the club before moving to Clongowes Wood College.

D'Arcy went on to post 260 appearances for Leinster, 82 caps for Ireland and was a member of two Lions touring parties, in 2005 and 2009.

The Ireland and Leinster legend has always been very generous to his former club and also donated his Lions jersey which hangs proudly in the clubhouse.

Going further back in time, another Wexford Wanderers player who went on to represent Leinster and Ireland was the late, great Seamus Kelly, who represented the country on five occasions between 1954 and 1960.

Seamus passed away in 2012 but is remembered fondly by the club and in 2014 Wexford County Council named the roundabout at the entrance to the town in his honour.

Despite the last few seasons showing a change in fortunes on the pitch, the club have found it hard in the past to keep players playing past youths level as many move away to college and the like. They are working hard to keep their numbers and participation up.

History

Every club has a history and Wexford Wanderers are no different.

On a weekend when they kick off their 2018/2019 Towns Cup campaign at home to Roscrea, it is fitting to mention that they won their sole Towns Cup in 1930 before going on to lose four more finals before 1966.

Back in the early days, home games were played at Bettyville.

The club maintained a home there for many years until the club acquired their current grounds and clubhouse at Park Lane in the early 1970s. Bettyville went on to become Wexford Racecourse.

While things are generally on the up, the women's team has found the going tough.

A major disappointment of the season so far has been the withdrawal of the senior women's team from the Leinster League but the team is rebuilding and will now compete in the Development League as they plan for the future.

There is big hope for the future in women's rugby with the U-18 girls team making big strides along with the establishment of an U-14 girls' team who have had a remarkable season so far and have been promoted to the Leinster Premier Division for the remainder of the season.

Another big move to make them kick on to the next level was the appointment of a women's rugby co-ordinator for the first time to oversee the strategic development of the women's game in line with the recently-published IRFU guidelines.

Numbers in both genders at underage level are encouraging and the bodies are there to keep the club moving forward well into the next decade.

Improvements to the grounds and the clubhouse continue to be made. The pitches are in fabulous condition despite all the recent wet weather.

Phase one of the facilities development plan is making good progress and the new gym is on track to be completed early in the new year, followed by phase two which will see the building of two new dressing-rooms and showers, along with new toilet facilities for the bar.

It is a good time to be involved with the club. On the field, there is a buzz in the air while off the field the work is being done to provide the best possible rugby experience for the players, supporters and other club members.

WEXFORD WANDERERS

Founded: 1924

Grounds: Parklane, Wexford

Division: Leinster League Division 2A

Youths and Minis: U-8 to U-18

Captain: Darragh Kehoe

President: Herbie Honohan

Irish Independent

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