Tuesday 20 August 2019

Hard work from the ground up is paying off in spades

CCRO Focus

Robbie Henshaw, Rhys Ruddock, Josh Van Der Flier and mascot Leo the Lion along with Kate Gunne (9), Vincent Hoolahan (10), Molly Kearney (8) and Andrew Quinlan (9) launching the Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Summer Camps in St Mary’s National School, Ranelagh. Visit www. leinsterrugby.ie/ camps for more information. Photo: Sportsfile
Robbie Henshaw, Rhys Ruddock, Josh Van Der Flier and mascot Leo the Lion along with Kate Gunne (9), Vincent Hoolahan (10), Molly Kearney (8) and Andrew Quinlan (9) launching the Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Summer Camps in St Mary’s National School, Ranelagh. Visit www. leinsterrugby.ie/ camps for more information. Photo: Sportsfile
Wicklow RFC CCRO Aidan Kearney with students from Brittas Bay NS
Aidan Kearney

Aidan Kearney

His Twitter bio reads: "Win with humility, lose with grace and do both with dignity".

A rugby club community officer (CCRO) with this mantra is always going to be a good influence around the club.

Aidan Kearney has been the CCRO since September 2018. His affiliation with the club goes back a lot further however, as he explains.

"I played in the club from the age of 17 to 34. I stepped away from it then for a few years and I didn't really go back until I was dropping my own son up to the club one evening for training and one of the coaches asked me would I give him a hand and that was the start of it.

"My son was six or seven at the time and is 30 years of age now.

"I have been involved in coaching whether it be youths co-ordinator, the girls and back to youths again for about 20 years."

The role of CCRO in the club is one that he never aspired to have but now he is loving the position as he comes close to end of the first calendar school year in the Garden County.

"I was asked by the club last summer about taking on the role. I didn't know a lot about it but I am delighted I took on the job. I am there since September. I got in and got my feet under the table and have taken it from there.

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"I get great support from the club, the schools and the county council.

"You have to hit the ground running. I didn't have a road map in front of me or I didn't have anyone passing on how they got on so it was just go in, knock at the door and take it from there. It is very rewarding and enjoyable."

Aidan Kearney (below) currently has eight primary schools and three secondary schools under his wing keeping him busy and prominent in the schools sports scene.

His vast experience in coaching kids has helped him adjust to the job and he portrays the openness and welcomeness of his club Wicklow RFC.

"It works both ways. Wicklow Rugby Club as a community club are very much inviting players in but it is also important for the schools.

"It's great to go in and say we are representing Leinster and representing the local club and we would like to come into your school.

"We want children first and foremost to enjoy a sport, running, jumping and finding games that they can be all included in.

"The open-door policy in the club is bring them up and let them try it out. We are just trying to pave the way and give them an introduction to the game."

Wicklow RFC are a club that has their house in order. A hard working CCRO on the ground, excellent facilities and a strong underage and senior scene to deal with the influx of new talent that comes through the gates at Ashtown Lane.

"The numbers are very strong. Right the way through from kinders to youths and also the same with the girls.

"We are trying to broaden out our stroke as well. We have the disability rugby team also, so all of that has been a real plus.

"The community of Wicklow can see that we are the go-to club in terms of looking after the children", explained Kearney says.

One of the things on his agenda for the next school term next September is to put more resources into the three secondary schools under his watch, namely Coláiste Chill Mhantáin, Dominican Convent and East Glendalough.

"Coláiste Chill Mhantáin, where Joe Duffy is the man in the school in terms of rugby, and East Glendalough where Graham Richmond is to the fore, both play in the 3A cup.

"We had an appraisal the other day within the club. The likes of the Coláiste Chill Mhantáin and East Glendalough, we need to build up a relationship with them and get more bodies on board there. Myself on my own and a teacher on his own can only do so much.

"So the plan going forward is to sit down with the club and see would there be any more of the coaches free of an afternoon and even some of the senior players who may be free to give a hand out.

"We hope to develop a trophy and a one-off match between Coláiste Mhantáin and East Glendalough and have it as a Wicklow cup. It could start with their senior teams and then filter down through the years.

"I would also love to get a girls' team out of the Dominican Convent. If we could do that, it would be a real feather in the cap."

Kearney also takes great pride in an initiative that he was a part of in 2000, with the 20th year anniversary being marked this summer.

"In the year 2000, we were looking at the soccer and Gaelic camps which were well off the ground.

"Myself, Mick Higgins and Mark Rangitaawa sat down and designed a rugby camp that has been running since 2000.

"Leinster took a blueprint off that in the years after but we got in there at the initial stage and took on the other sports. That, in my opinion, has been crucial to the club being successful."

The club has been transformed in recent years with all three pitches being upgraded, the development of a new all-weather training area, a major floodlighting project and the addition of new tarmac parking areas.

Wicklow have one of the finest youth and mini rugby set-ups in the province. They pride themselves on being a family club and strive to bring players all the way through from mini rugby through the youth set-up and on to the senior teams where possible.

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