'Tadhg is a man of the people down here'
Progression of 'stellar' Furlong is a credit to New Ross RFC as work continues to churn out more future stars, writes Brian Lowry
New Ross RFC, as it is known now, was founded in 1970 but there was rugby activity in the town before that. After a couple of early attempts, New Ross RFC was founded in 1936 by the late Paddy Fleming who rounded up players, helped coach them, arranged fixtures and transport, obtained pitches and looked after the numerous duties involved in running a club.
It was a new venture and one that took time to bed in but, unfortunately, it didn't last long. Only a handful of the original playing members had even seen a rugby match let alone played in one so it took patience and hard work before the fruits of their labour began to show.
In 1939, the club received a boost when a battalion of the Irish Army was stationed in New Ross and supplied many fine players to the club. However, with the end of World War Two and the withdrawal of the Army from New Ross, the club suffered.
Their second coming came in September of 1970 as rugby was re-introduced to the town and to a different generation. Training took place in the car park of the Five Counties Hotel and the first match was played in Wally Gannon's Hillfield.
The club acquired its current grounds before the end of that season and the club pavilion was erected in 1974 by voluntary efforts from the members. The grounds have been substantially modernised in the years since then and currently boasts two of the best pitches to be found anywhere in Leinster.
The majority of club training now takes place in the training facilities at Good Counsel College with whom the club have a strong relationship.
surrounding The club has grown since their rise in the 1970s and they currently field two adult teams with the first team occupying their trade in Division 2A of the Leinster League.
At the start of this season, a decision was taken not to field an adult women's team due to lack of numbers which is a blow to the club and the surrounding area considering they were an AIL outfit a couple of years previously.
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In terms of youths and minis, the club has a strong and efficient set-up with teams starting from U-8 and running up to U-18 while they still have an U-16 girls team.
In terms of success, the club have won their share of leagues and cups over the years but a Provincial Towns Plate triumph is their stand-out success from way back in 2002 when they beat Portlaoise in the final.
Last season, the Wexford men were promoted from Division 2B of the Leinster League in what was a huge achievement for a young side as it helps to increase their standard and attract new players.
For many people, the first person that comes to mind when talking about New Ross RFC is, of course, Tadhg Furlong. The man who came through the underage structure in the club has gone on to become one of the best props in the northern hemisphere, typified by his inclusion and performances for Ireland and the Lions.
The club have had their fair share of players going on play underage for province and country, but Furlong is the big one. A proud club man, he is one of the most important commodities in Leinster and Irish Rugby circles and all at the club are delighted and proud of all he has achieved, according to club PRO Maurice Quirke.
"Tadhg is our stellar achievement. He is a fantastic young man and a great representative of his town, club, area and family. He is a very grounded individual and cares greatly for the club even though he has reached the heights that he has.
"He has never forgotten, or will I would say, where he came from and he comes back at every opportunity to give a hand out with coaching kids and minis and even drops in unannounced to watch the firsts and seconds play if he was around.
"He is very much a man of the people down here. It gives the underage a huge boost. To have someone like him come out of a small junior club at the bottom end of Leinster, a long way from the big smoke, it does show that it is possible with hard work and skill that you can make it. He is a great example. There are no airs or graces from Tadhg."
Another facet of the club is the Dunbrody Warriors. Formed a couple of years back, it has brought people with special needs in contact with Rugby and the project continues to go from strength to strength, according to Maurice Quirke.
"They were formed two years ago and it has gone extremely well. They have had a fantastic time and Tadhg Furlong is their patron. He has always made time for them and even when they played in the Aviva last season at half-time of the Northampton. Tadhg made special efforts for them after that game.
"It had been a great community initiative and it is great for everyone. It shows the ability that these people have and not looking at the disability."
The club have also been developing a series of guest speaker evenings. Two years ago, well-known referee Nigel Owens was the man of the moment while earlier this year they had an evening of conversation with Tony Ward and Joe Schmidt. Plans are in the pipeline for similar events in 2018 and 2019.
Overall, there is a strong link with the club and the community with fundraising and community events been undertaken with other clubs in the area. All of this activity is supported by an enthusiastic group of voluntary coaches and parents and overseen by the Club Management Committee.
New Ross RFC
Grounds: Allianz Park, Southknock, New Ross, Co Wexford.
Division: Leinster League Division 2A
Youths and Minis: U-8 to U-18
Club captain: David Crowdle
Club president: Michael Bailey
Next week's Club Focus is on Midland Warriors RFC