Kildare club hope to reap benefits of youth policy
Club Focus: Clane RFC
Clane RFC are a young club compared to many others in the province. Founded in 1984, they are still shy of being 40 years old but they are planning on being around for a long time to come.
While they have struggled in recent years at senior level, new director of rugby Stephen Boyling insists the club are looking to the future.
"Rugby is very healthy in the club. Leaving aside the struggles that we, along with other clubs, have at senior level, the minis are going great," he says.
"The pitch is packed, we have upwards of 250 to 270 kids regularly playing rugby in the club week in, week out.
"We have a very successful U-18 women's team who were league champions last year and are going very well again this year and on course for honours again.
"There is a lot of interest in Women's Rugby in Ireland and we are hoping that next year we can pull together an adult women's team.
"There are a lot of the girls' mothers talking about it and we have already addressed that at club level by putting in changing, showering and toilet facilities for the women," Boyling continues.
Once a Division One team for a short stint, they now sit in Division Three of the Leinster league and this season has produced a mixed bag with a final league game to come on Sunday against Athboy.
Up until six years ago, the club fielded two adult teams with their senior and J2s taking to the field.
As the economic crash hit the country, their numbers dwindled and they lost 80 per cent of their senior team to factors such as emigration.
With just the one senior team now, they also field underage teams from under seven up to under 15 level, though not having the numbers yet for under 17 or youths.
The appointment of Boyling is seen within the club as a step in the right direction to keep the club moving forward. The position lay vacant for a few years but the long-term member of the club was only too happy to take it on.
"I have been involved with the club since my son was playing rugby going back 14 or 15 years. I have been on the committee at various different levels but this year I took on the role of director of rugby.
"It was something we had put into our constitution when we modernised it two or three years ago but it was never filled and no one knew what to do with it really. My role this year has been to look at all the structures in the club.
"The number one priority this year was to secure a new senior coach. Ciarán Kelly and myself had been coaching and managing the seniors for two years previous. Patsy O'Gorman from Edenderry has now come on board as our senior coach and he has been a tremendous find.
"He has also been a great help to me in fleshing out the role as director and helping to refine the vision of the club going forward in the next five or 10 years," adds Boyling.
Success at adult level has been thin on the ground. Hosie and Lalor Cups have been captured on numerous occasions but the club are still awaiting their first league triumph.
With plenty of other clubs in the vicinity, Clane RFC can often lose players due to the lure of bigger clubs but, as Boyling explains, it can often be as simple as geography.
"We are surrounded. We have North Kildare, Naas, Newbridge and Barnhall surrounding us. There is a big draw. Some of the kids that go to national school in Clane would go on to secondary school in Newbridge.
"Naturally enough, they would then get involved with Newbridge Rugby.
"We pull in numbers from a lot of towns and villages but Naas would be as close to some of them as Clane would be so it is geographical thing as well."
With two national schools and one secondary school in the town, the club have worked hard at forging a strong relationship with them. Director of youth Rugby in the club John Munro is very active in the schools while they are also taking on a CCRO officer for 2019 to help spread the love of the game into the schools.
The social side of the club is also strong. They are a strong community-based club while they have both hosted touring sides and travelled abroad to play matches in recent years.
This year they hosted an American University team and played them in a challenge match while up until recently they were twinned with a French club with regular matches between the clubs proving a big hit.
In terms of facilities, they are well aware that they need to carry out some upgrading works and they have received an allocation under the Sports Capital Grant scheme. Part of that will go towards upgrading facilities for their membership while also developing their grounds.
With their pitch, drainage and lighting system all in need of some attention, the next few years will hopefully see some big improvements being made.
Ronan Murphy was capped for Ireland at U920 level recently. Along with Murphy, the club have sent a number of players up to the Leinster Academy and some of them have had success at lower levels within Leinster.
"We are always open to new players regardless of ability," adds Boyling. "We have a summertime programme for rugby such as tag rugby, while in July we are kicking off our strength and conditioning programme for everyone from mums and dads to our underage players."
Grounds: Ballinagappa Road, Clane
Division: Leinster League Division 3
Youths and Minis: Under 7 to under 15
Club President: Paul Morrin
Team Sponsor: Croi Laighean Credit Union