Wednesday 23 May 2018

Stalwarts at heart of push back to the top

Club Focus: Roscrea RFC

Roscrea’s U-10s line out before a blitz earlier this season
Roscrea’s U-10s line out before a blitz earlier this season

Brian Lowry

The upcoming PRO14 semi-final between Leinster and Munster will make for an interesting topic of conversation around the club based on the Offaly and Tipperary border.

Formed in 1950, the club are on the go more than 60 years.

Roscrea’s girls after playing their first blitz last November
Roscrea’s girls after playing their first blitz last November

As well as serving the community of Roscrea and the surrounding areas, the club have made their mark on the playing front, especially during a purple patch in the '70s.

Like most clubs, they began with modest beginnings. Things were done a lot differently in 1950 but in March of that year, Roscrea Rugby Football Club was born.

The man elected as the first president of the club was Mr HM Read and he was ably assisted by vice-presidents Dr J Wallace and WB Woods.

Along with these men, a combination of E Gilmartin and CT Dougan took on the role of honorary secretary while LT Maher had the all-important job of maintaining and looking after the financial aspect of the club in his role as treasurer.

One of the first jobs the club had was to select their club colours but this wasn't straightforward.

After the colours blue and white were chosen, a problem arose with getting them registered.

As legend has it, a club member rambled over to nearby Birr one day to see Galway take on Tipperary in a hurling match and upon his return, he portrayed his fondness for the maroon and white of Galway - leading to the club adopting those colours.

Ready

The summer of 1950 saw them affiliated to the Leinster Branch and the new club were up on their feet and ready to start their voyage.

With the club now sanctioned for on-field activities, they needed a home and after options around the town were investigated, they acquired a site at Mount Heaton courtesy of Tom Lalor.

October 1 will forever sit as a landmark date for the club as it was on this day in 1950 that they played their first match, taking on Birr and defeating them. Seamus Power helped himself to a brace of tries while Tom McCann also got in on the scoring act.

The club eventually went on to purchase their own grounds at Streamstown.

While the town of Roscrea is in Tipperary and Munster, their grounds on the Shinrone Road out of the town is on Offaly soil.

They boast two pitches, a training area and a clubhouse that was originally built in 1978 but refurbished recently in 2015.

They have the capability of holding functions and parties, have full bar facilities and use it as the main base for club meetings and events.

In terms of success on the field, their two Provincial Towns Cup successes in 1975 and 1980 are perhaps their most famous triumphs.

They won both by just a point. In 1975 they defeated the Curragh 8-7 and went on to defeat Portlaoise 11-10 in the 1980 decider.

The club have also claimed the Provincial Towns Plate on three occasions - in 1977, 1985 and most recently in 1998.

A walk through the clubhouse will see a host of pendants acknowledging these wins along with a host of underage success such as the Gale and Culleton cups.

This season proved to be a tough one for the men's side. They finished bottom of Division 2B but with a young team thrust into first-team action, there is hope around the club that they can turn things around when the new season begins this autumn.

Last year, a new venture took off in the club. Girls' rugby was introduced and they played in their first blitz on November 11 when they travelled to Nenagh with U-9, U-10 and U-12 teams.

This was a major moment in their history and in keeping with the national trend, girls' rugby in the club has continued to go from strength to strength.

Just last month, Roscrea hosted an awards ceremony to celebrate a memorable year.

More than 40 players from the girls' U-9s, U-10s and U-12s, and their parents, attended and it was a fitting way to end a season that saw the club host its first girls' blitz and went on to participate in four other blitzes at other clubs.

This summer will also see the introduction of a one-day-a-week training programme for girls that will run for eight weeks before the normal season clicks into gear.

The programme will be for girls aged between six and 14 years old, and it is hoped that it will introduce them to the game in a welcoming and friendly environment.

The boys' underage section is also in a good place. The club frequently supplies players to Midland and Leinster panels while they also team up with Birr to field in some grades.

Last Friday night, the club held a special event to honour two of their most dedicated and respected committee members.

Denis Meagher and Gerard Horan were honoured for their commitment to the club and the work that they have done.

Meagher was on the founding committee and has served the club as treasurer since the mid-'50s to this day, which is an outstanding achievement considering there has been three currency changes and seven decades since.

Horan began playing for the club in the 1950s and also served as secretary for a number of years while taking on many more jobs around the club.

On the night, club president John Kirby described the men as "two of the greatest club members in any club and in any county".

Former Leinster Rugby president Robert McDermott also paid tribute to the men on the night and presented them both with Leinster Rugby ties.

Anthony Nash and Brian Hastings represented Ireland at underage level while Birr native and current Leinster player Peter Dooley lined out with the Roscrea/Birr Rebels in his underage days.

Alan Tynan, who played with Ireland U-20s, is currently on the books with Munster and also started out his rugby career with Roscrea.

The current secretary of the club and former coach is Seamus Dennison who represented Munster and Ireland and is immortalised for that tackle in the famous Munster win over the All Blacks.

With the likes of Seabridge and Carter Engineering providing the bulk of the sponsorship, the club also hold a 'find the joker' weekly fundraising draw to keep things ticking over.

Roscrea RFC

Founded: 1950

Grounds: Streamstown, Roscrea, Co. Offaly.

Division: Leinster League Division 2B

Youths and Minis: U-6 to U-18

President: John Kirby

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport