Saturday 23 March 2019

Passionate rugby man pushing club to reach potential

club focus

Belvedere College’s Matthew Gregan is tackled by Jack Doyle and Sam Cahill of Newbridge College during their Leinster Schools Senior Cup clash, which Belvedere won 31-7. Photo: Sportsfile
Belvedere College’s Matthew Gregan is tackled by Jack Doyle and Sam Cahill of Newbridge College during their Leinster Schools Senior Cup clash, which Belvedere won 31-7. Photo: Sportsfile

There will always be the next generation.

Different pockets of the province will go through their purple patches and indeed their tough times but the key for clubs is to keep investing in youth and maintain a strong presence in their area.

Gonzaga’s Conor Hennessy escapes the attentions of Terenure College’s Henry Roberts. Photo: Sportsfile
Gonzaga’s Conor Hennessy escapes the attentions of Terenure College’s Henry Roberts. Photo: Sportsfile

That's exactly what North Kildare RFC are doing. The club dates back to 1928. The 1950s and 1970s were extremely successful decades for the club and they are working hard to bring the glory days back.

One key cog in the wheel for achieving this has been their club community rugby officer (CCRO) Robbie Waters.

A staunch rugby man and an active competitor in the game since the age of 8, the Athy native brings huge knowledge and experience into his role.

Promotions

Fergus Ó Hoisin scoring a try for Gonzaga in their 19-11 win. Photo: Sportsfile
Fergus Ó Hoisin scoring a try for Gonzaga in their 19-11 win. Photo: Sportsfile

Capped by Leinster at youths and schools level, Waters also won the All-Ireland Colleges' title with Carlow IT three years in a row while in recent seasons he has been key to Navan claiming back-to-back promotions in the All Ireland League.

While playing the game is a huge part of his life, he also has a huge passion for developing players and having served as Navan CCRO for three years, he is now in his first year in the role with North Kildare RFC.

Along with the bustling club, he also looks after two secondary schools in his catchment area while having a presence in 12 primary schools that feed into the North Kildare club.

"My job is to widen the knowledge and interest in rugby in the area for North Kildare.

North Kildare’s Club and community Rugby officer Robbie Waters
North Kildare’s Club and community Rugby officer Robbie Waters

"It's not necessarily to just get them into the clubs but to make them aware what rugby is and to give them a taste of what it is."

Nestled between the towns of Maynooth and Kilcock, the rugby club is also part of a mini community as it shares residence in a communal North Kildare club with other sports such as hockey, cricket, squash and tennis.

While they have a good presence in the area, there are also a lot of other rugby clubs in the surrounding areas, explains Waters.

"It is not that big (catchment area) as you have Barnhall, Navan, Athboy, and Mullingar all around us. It is not as big as you would imagine."

There is also a big emphasis on youth in the club. From U-7s right up to youths level, the club is full of young and exciting local talent.

Girls' rugby has also taken off in the club with various mini age groups while they have their own U-14 team.

While the future is bright and the fact that 300 kids could be training on a particular night, they still can't afford to take their eye off the ball.

A major blitz was held recently and the numbers that turned out from the local primary schools was extremely encouraging.

"In terms of blitzes, that was one of the biggest blitzes in Leinster this year. In the Fingal area they had one of about 350 but that was taking in a few clubs. But in terms of one-club blitzes, our one was probably one of the biggest this year.

"There is potential there to grow it also as there were a couple of schools who couldn't make it on the day."

Bob Casey and Devin Toner are exponents of the underage system in the club and the hope is strong that it won't be long before the work pays off and the club can claim further internationals in the years to come.

There is a big network of coaches in the club who work hard on the ground and they have the support of the club co-ordinators and Waters.

Spreading

"Within the club they would have a separate youths and minis co-ordinator but my job would be to help the coaches in anything they are stuck on."

One of the club's big goals for 2019 is to establish an all-inclusive rugby team for kids with special needs.

This venture has proved extremely popular and effective in other clubs throughout the province and in Waters, they have a man who has experience of setting up a similar team when based in Navan.

"This year we are hoping to set up an inclusive rugby team for kids with special needs and intellectual disabilities and that will be something I will be heavily involved in.

"I did something similar in Navan when I was up there and now North Kildare are looking to do the same."

At senior level, the club currently ply their trade in Division 1B of the Leinster League.

While the results have been mixed this year, they are only one tier away from being in the top division in Leinster junior rugby.

They were way back in Division 3 a little over 10 years ago so the evidence is there that the club are poised for a bright future within their current structures.

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