Navan RFC: Working hard to build on historic foundations
With a thriving academy and a senior side riding high in the All-Ireland League, Meath men are on the rise, writes Brian Lowry
In a rugby heartland, Navan RFC stands as one of Meath's most recognised and long standing clubs. Steeped in history dating back to their inception back in 1925, the club has grown to a force that now finds itself competing in the All-Ireland League.
From humble beginnings, when they ground-shared the pitch in the Navan Showgrounds with Navan O'Mahony's GAA Club and Navan Cricket Club, to their present-day top-class facilities at Balreask Old in Navan, the club have evolved.
Without doubt, one of their finest hours came back in 2009 when they completed a monumental double.
By claiming their second Leinster League Division 1A title, they went on to compete in the round-robin series with the other provincial champions for the opportunity to make the step up to the All-Ireland League.
After claiming the league title, Navan went on to beat City of Derry, Cashel and Monivea on route to the senior ranks.
Having been defeated in the round-robin series back in 2001(after their first Division 1A success), their 2009 triumph was made all the sweeter.
That season was memorable on many fronts.
The U-16s won four titles: All-Ireland champions, Leinster League winners, North East League winners and McAuley Cup winners.
The U-14s won five titles: the Leinster Schools/Youth League, Leinster Schools/Youth Cup, Leinster League and North East League in what was a massive year for the club.
Today the senior team apply their trade in Division 2C of the All-Ireland League and are on course for promotion, a point clear at the top of the table with eight wins and three losses from their 11 games.
The second team play in the Metro League and will open their Towns Cup campaign in the second round on February 19 against Tullow, having got a bye in the opening round.
Navan have landed 10 Provincial Towns Cups, adding 17 McGowan Cups, with seven of those coming in the 1960s, a decade in which the club hit a purple patch.
The club has also evolved off the pitch and after moving on from the Showgrounds, they borrowed money to purchase a field on the Dublin road and they constructed a clubhouse which was completed in 1964.
As rugby increased in popularity and rugby clubs continued to improve facilities, Navan installed floodlights while tennis courts were also brought on stream.
A huge venture took off in 1999 as plans to construct a new state of the art clubhouse were put in motion.
Fundraising was driven with great passion and determination from the club and the €1m state of the art facility came to fruition.
The new clubhouse was officially opened in April 2000 by the then IRFU president Bill Lavery.
It is built on three levels, comprising 10 dressing-rooms, a weights room, a medical room, shower rooms and toilet facilities in the lower ground floor. On the raised ground floor there is a bar and large function rooms.
The Rugby Bar is ideal to watch all the major sporting events while the Balreask Bar is a larger function room capable of holding 400 people comfortably.
The first-floor level has a new snooker room with two full-size tables and is available for competitions and social snooker.
There are four full-size rugby pitches, complete with floodlighting for evening training and matches.
The first senior trophy won by the club and the springboard for further glories came way back in 1930 when they won the Ryan Cup, beating Balbriggan in the final.
This was a zone cup set up as part of the old Provincial Towns Cup umbrella.
Navan won the first of their ten Provincial Towns Cups back in 1964 and their last in 2008, a year in which they also claimed their first and only All-Ireland Junior Cup, beating Tullamore in the final.
Further to their rise to the senior ranks, the club have also set up an U-20 academy, which is not just about finding the stars of the future, but producing well rounded, local talent coming through the minis and youths section.
The youths and minis section have also produced success in recent years, while the ladies are also playing their part with a vibrant underage set-up along with the senior team.
Only last season, the Navan Ladies won the Leinster Division 4 title, which was great for the promotion of the game.
The club saw U-17 All-Ireland success in 2010/11 along with the Leinster League while also claiming the Culleton cup in early 2014.
The U-15 grade has also brought double glory in 2012 by claiming the Leinster league and cup.
One man of note to come through the youths programme at the club is former Munster full-back Denis Hurley, a 2008 Heineken Cup winner who was capped by Ireland.
The future of the club certainly looks in safe hands with top-class facilities and no shortage of success up through the ranks.
The foundations were laid way back in the days of the Showgrounds while the current crop of officials and players strive to continue to make a proud and passionate club prosper.
Colours: Navy and sky blue Hoops
Grounds: Balreask Old, Navan
Leinster League Divisions: All-Ireland League Division 2C
Youths: U-6 to U-19
Club captain: Bryan McKeever
Club president: Declan McKeever
Next week's club focus is on Naas RFC