Wednesday 18 July 2018

Saints are spreading gospel for rugby in city

Club Focus: Liberty Saints RFC

Liberty Saints players after a recent game against Clondalkin
Liberty Saints players after a recent game against Clondalkin

Brian Lowry

Located in inner city Dublin, Liberty Saints RFC are a real story.

It's far from being a rugby stronghold, but the Liberties now have a rugby presence.

This year sees the club 12 years in existence. This may not be a big deal to many other bigger or more prominent clubs but to the Liberty Saints, this is a big deal.

Back in 2005, the club was formed by Graham Jones with the help of volunteers from St Catherine's Church, Thomas Street and the assistance of Dublin City Council, in particular their local sports development officer, Sharon Kelly.

Leinster Rugby have also played their part with their continued support, with the likes of David Ross and Ray Ryan sharing the enthusiasm that the volunteers of the club created.

Club secretary Peter Cunningham explains that Graham Jones has been a significant figure in the club as the years have rolled on.

"Graham is a fan of rugby. He played all his life and one day he started throwing the rugby ball around while working with the Solas Project and it grew from there to tip rugby and eventually to proper games of rugby."

Club president is Tom Magee and he has significant links to the area. He got into rugby in his late twenties but went on to line out for Wanderers in the All-Ireland League.

With many kids in the area having troubled backgrounds, the club was formed to help kids get involved in a worthwhile and positive activity while learning the values and lessons of being part of a team.

What began on the bottom rung of the ladder has grown since with a structure and discipline system now firmly in place.

Back in 2013, Tom Magee pioneered the introduction of the club's mission statement that included the code of "Truth, honour, courage".

Respect

There are no adult teams in the club. Under 13 and 15 teams line out for the Saints and there is a sense of mutual respect evident between the coaches and the players.

Huge work is put in by the coaches while the players reciprocate that with effort in abundance, knowing that the club was set up for their benefit.

They train on a piece of land beside the local National School, St James's. There are no fancy facilities, just a patch of well-used grass.

In such a built-up area, they are lucky to even have what they have in terms of grassy areas and they certainly make the most of it.

Some of their players would attend St James National School with residential areas such as the Basin Lane flats and Oliver Bond Street well represented in the club.

Positive impact is a buzz phrase around the club. It is one of their key values - to help their members make a positive impact in their area and on other people while the volunteers of the club strive to be a positive impact on the players themselves.

Having fun, forging friendships and developing skills are all aims while getting players at a young age to give them the opportunity to actually play rugby and take it seriously.

Liberty Saints RFC are committed to providing good fun and playing good rugby in a friendly environment.

Players learn about the camaraderie and philosophy of rugby as they make new friends from a wide range of schools and backgrounds.

While time and resources may be limited, the club strongly believe that players at the club have the potential to go on and forge a career in the game at a higher level.

There is no ceiling put on what they can achieve whether that is playing Senior Rugby in the All-Ireland league some day of going one step further and even donning the blue of Leinster or green of Ireland.

The 2013/2014 season saw the club enter a league competition for the first time in the form of an U-16 team and this has developed since then.

Recently, the ever-evolving club introduced a new after-school rugby club for kids aged seven to 12.

The initiative was initially trialled back in November and December with kids from St James Primary School but have now rolled it out officially and extended it to a wider variety of children.

Training for the after-school club takes place on Thursdays at the back of the school from 2.45pm-4pm.

Training for the older groups is on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6pm-7pm during the rugby season which is drawing to a close soon.

Community rugby officer Ciarán Cullen and Leinster Rugby community officer for Dublin South Central Gareth Murray have also put in a lot of work in the area and helped out the dedicated club volunteers.

In their 12 years in existence, the Saints have provided a lot to the community and helped a lot of kids along the way, as Peter Cunningham explains.

Interest

"We've probably had maybe 200 kids through the programme over that time. Many of them have gone to maintain an interest in the sport.

"A few of them still play rugby actually. It gives people an outlet to meet friends and keep fit really in an area where rugby was never an option until the Saints came around."

Facilities are one of the major issues facing the club, particularly with the new after-school club now in operation.

"St James Primary School have been very good to us to allow us to train behind the school but the area is probably not big enough to teach the players the appreciation of space which is very important in rugby," says Cunningham.

"It's probably about the size of two tennis courts.

"There's nowhere for kids to run around. There's probably around I'd guess around 20,000 kids in the area and no open space to speak of."

The club have also gone on some exciting trips abroad which have also been a great experience for all involved.

After a few years of training and playing a few games, they embarked on a trip to Scotland. Since then, they have travelled to France and competed in a tournament in Portugal.

The club still has a lot of work to do.

They would like to have a permanent home and reach out to even more kids to bring the game of rugby onto their radar.

Slow and steady progress has been made in their 12 years and with a strong vocation from the coaches and administrators, there is no reason why this community club can't progress even further.

Liberty Saints RFC

Founded: 2005

Teams: Under 13 and Under 15

Club president: Tom Magee

Club secretary: Peter Cunningham

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport