Sunday 20 October 2019

Bruff RFC: 'I hate the tearing and dragging that goes on nowadays'

Helping new players to embrace the game is Michael Cahill’s aim, writes Daragh Small

Bruff RFC Club President Michael Cahill
Bruff RFC Club President Michael Cahill

Daragh Small

Just like his predecessor, Bruff RFC president Michael Cahill never played rugby before he attended St Munchin's College. And after he learned to love the game in school he turned to Bruff RFC where he discovered the community aspect of the game.

The current president says he has made lifelong friends in the club and is delighted to be able to pass on his passion and enthusiasm for rugby to the next generation.

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Cahill took over from Neilus Noonan as the club verges on their own piece of history with their 50th anniversary. They were set up in 1970 and have become one of the top teams in Munster club rugby.

Bruff will compete in Division 2C of the All-Ireland League again this year after they just missed out on promotion to the fourth-tier last season.

And Cahill has plenty to ponder while he maintains his underage coaching post and a presidential role in an important moment in this Limerick's club history.

"I am definitely proud to be elected president but, as regards administration, this, that and the other thing, I would get more of a kick out of being outside on the field," says Cahill.

A general view of the Kilballyowen Park
A general view of the Kilballyowen Park

"I coach the U-11s now. I am delighted that I am still doing that. If I was just president in an administration capacity I don't think I would be involved. I am not that type of a person.

"I wouldn't be very organised as regards to getting somebody else to do something. You have to be one of those people and be able to pass the buck. I wouldn't be very good at that."

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Cahill grew up in Mountcollins, close to Limerick's borders with Kerry and Cork, in the south-west of the county. Munster's famous win over the All Blacks was still a decade away but the sport found traction in the province as he grew older, and St Munchin's College was set to become a rugby hotbed.

But Cahill had no interest in the sport before he entered the school on the Corbally Road. His eyes finally lit up when he was given his chance.

The entrance to the grounds
The entrance to the grounds

"My next door neighbour was going to Munchin's and their parents asked my parents would I go with him," says Cahill.

"That was back in 1968 and when you come from Mountcollins to Limerick City it is quite daunting. I got involved in the rugby side of it and I loved it straight away. I had actually never played rugby but I really enjoyed it."

Cahill wasn't big in stature but he thrived on the physicality that rugby afforded and he operated in the back-row where his attentions were firmly fixed on the opposition out-half.

He played in two Munster Junior Cup finals, winning one, but he was beaten in both of the Munster Senior Cup deciders he was involved in.

Kevin O'Byrne in action during Munster’s pre-season 40-31 friendly defeat to Connacht. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Kevin O'Byrne in action during Munster’s pre-season 40-31 friendly defeat to Connacht. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Stellar

Nevertheless, the pain of those senior defeats didn't stop Cahill from looking to pursue a career in club rugby after he finished his education.

Bruff RFC had been set up three years prior to Cahill adding his nous. He would have a stellar career with the club and he was thrilled to have made the right choice in the first place.

"When I left Munchin's I went working. There was no such thing as college for me so I didn't go," says Cahill.

"I started playing rugby with Bruff and they were just starting off. A lot of the people that played with Bruff had gone to Munchin's.

"I was hemming and hawing as to whether I would play with Bruff or Bohs and I am delighted with what I decided. I had good friends in Bruff and we settled close by the rugby club in Bruff so everything fitted in well in that respect."

Playing in the back-row brought with it its own level of attrition but Cahill still got the maximum from his playing days. Thankfully, he evaded any serious injuries and he retired on his own terms in 1985.

Having played for so long it was obvious that coaching was a likely avenue down the road, and Cahill didn't waste time helping the future generation learn a few tricks of the trade.

And on one occasion when Cahill had to slot in as a temporary coach he linked up with a future British & Irish Lion. John Hayes went on two tours with the Lions, he won 105 caps for Ireland and made 212 appearances for Munster.

"I took over as coach for a few months when John Hayes was just on the scene. He was playing No 8 and he was some athlete. But I used to tear strips off him. John was a casual kind of a man at that stage. He was easy-going when he was 18 or 19."

But for Cahill everything comes back to the next generation of club players, and he always preferred imparting his wisdom of the fundamentals. He has a clear mindset around how the game should be played and never strays away from those principles when he does get the chance to help out.

"I would never have had a preference for coaching adults. I would prefer to coach kids. The only reason is I love the game of rugby but there is a way to play it and a way not to play it," adds Cahill.

"I hate the tearing and dragging that goes on in rugby nowadays. Fellas taking up the ball and their first instinct is to go to ground. If you have momentum I always feel you can break a gain line. But if everybody is standing and waiting that has ruined the game as a spectacle.

"I still love it but in my coaching I wouldn't dream of encouraging fellas to go to ground just for the sake of holding onto possession.

"It is all about getting support fast enough if you want to keep your feet."

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