Saturday 24 March 2018

Hybrid club tapping into a rich rugby tradition

Club Focus: Boyne RFC

Boyne RFC captain George Cooney along with his team-mate Hugh Carolan making a tackle against Kanturk earlier this season
Boyne RFC captain George Cooney along with his team-mate Hugh Carolan making a tackle against Kanturk earlier this season

Brian Lowry

Twenty years ago, a combined force was formed to take on the challenge of bringing rugby to the next level in Drogheda.

Boyne RFC saw the coming together of Delvin RFC and Drogheda RFC, both of whom had been extremely successful at underage level.

Up until 1997, the Louth town had two rugby clubs: Delvin on the town's south side at Bryanstown, with Drogheda RFC situated on the north side at Shamrock Lodge on the Ballymakenny Road.


Delvin was originally based at Mosney on the site of the Butlins Holiday Camp before moving north to the outskirts of Drogheda.

Both Delvin and Drogheda were regular guests in the winner's circle when it came to youth rugby from the late 80s, in what was a golden era of youth rugby in the town.

Boyne’s U-15 team have shown great promise and dedication to the cause
Boyne’s U-15 team have shown great promise and dedication to the cause

Both clubs had proud pasts but the need and desire for one club in the town of Drogheda began to strengthen in the mid-90s, at the dawn of the professional era.

For all their underage success as separate entities, numbers were slipping at adult level and something needed to be done to make the town a force.

In April 1997, plans came afoot to thrash out a proposed joint venture. Delegates from both clubs met to discuss the move.

Several previous attempts had ended in failure, but this time there was to be no stumbling block and the outcome ended in both clubs holding special meetings to effectively disband and form a new club, which would later be named Boyne RFC.

Since the club's inception, Drogheda and the surrounding areas have benefited from the level of rugby that has been brought to the table.

The Provincial Towns Cup is one of the most prestigious cup competitions in junior rugby and Boyne had the distinction of winning it back to back in 2009 and 2010 - they beat Tullamore in both finals, in Ashbourne and Naas respectively.

Years of close shaves in the Leinster Junior League Division 1A were put to one side in the 2010/11 season as Boyne clinched the title before going on to the senior ranks the following season.

They played their first game in the senior ranks away to Sligo and came out winners 21-20 to get the perfect start to the season.

They now ply their trade in All-Ireland Senior League Division 2C after a few years of consolidation.

The club's senior side had a golden era under New Zealand coach Craig McGrath, now assistant coach with Super Rugby side Melbourne Rebels.


For the past three seasons the senior side have had mixed fortunes in Division 2C, fighting a survival battle to stay in senior AIL rugby.

This season has been no different and they once again have a mammoth task to avoid relegation to Leinster Junior rugby.

As with every club, their adult teams are just one facet of their identity.

Boyne put massive work and pride into their underage teams. From U-7s right up to youth level, the club is brimming with players, many dreaming of one day going on to represent their club and province at senior level.

Their great tradition in mini and youth rugby is still as strong as ever, with over 350 young children assemble at the Drogheda Grammar School every Saturday morning for mini rugby training.

This is a huge number and requires a high level of commitment from coaches and parents.

Mini blitzes are regularly held throughout the North East Region for these young aspiring players.

Moving into the youth section, the club field teams from U-13s all the way up to U-18s and in some age categories they field A and B teams because of the numbers involved.

All of their teams feature in the Leinster Youths Premier Leagues and fare very well at this level.

The club is also in a ladies' rugby development programme and have combined with Ardee RFC to field underage girls teams over the past few years.

They now field at U-18s level under the name Ardboyne and the club hope to once again field a ladies' senior team in the next few seasons.

The club previously had tremendous success with their ladies' team during the early 2000s and competed at senior level, making history when they were the first ladies' team to fly to Cork to fulfil a fixture.

They contested an All-Ireland Cup final during this successful period and were a formidable side in the Ireland Division 1.

Shane Horgan, Niall Ronan and Mark McHugh have all gone on to represent Ireland having come through the system in Boyne, while Ireland women's Grand Slam winner Grace Davitt began her rugby career with the club.

Davitt's first cap came when she was still playing with Boyne.

Down through the years, the club have had countless players capped at youth, U-19s and U-20s from provincial through to the Irish sides.

Horgan in particular is a player who really sprung to prominence and was a Leinster and Ireland stalwart during his outstanding career.

The winger boasts 170 caps for Leinster, finishing up with just shy of 300 points for the province.

Boyne this year, celebrate their 20th season.

But rugby has been played in Drogheda since 1887. So rugby is very much part of the fabric of the area.

Boyne factfile

Founded: 1997

Grounds: Ballymakenny Road, Drogheda

Club colours: Green and yellow jerseys, black shorts and green and yellow socks

Division: All-Ireland League Division 2C

Youths: U-7 to U-19

Club president: Derek Farrell

Club captain: George Cooney

Next week's club focus is on Malahide RFC

Irish Independent

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