Building for the future on and off the field
Proud Cork outfit have ambitious plans with proposed gym complex just one part of the exciting picture, writes Declan Rooney
As one of the long-time anchor tenants at Irish Independent Park, Sunday's Well are a familiar name for regular Munster match-goers, but aside from their flagship senior team, the work that goes on down through the grades is what earns them their real stripes.
With a buoyant minis scene, competitive youth teams and an inclusive mixed-ability side, Sunday's Well lead the field as a rugby club and are keen to constantly add extensions to that proud tradition.
The next big target for Sunday's Well is the construction of a club gym at Irish Independent Park.
A couple of weeks ago the club revealed their plans for a 2,000 sq ft gym and changing-room complex, which they hope to have ready for the start of the 2018-19 season.
According to Sunday's Well director of rugby Dave Sweeney, they hope to entice new and old club members to create a renewed family atmosphere in the new facility.
"I would say we are a modern club with traditional values. We are steeped in history," said Sweeney.
"We were formed in 1906 by the corner boys in Sunday's Well and we have developed and progressed and found our home at the then Musgrave Park in 1940.
"We share that home now with the Munster Branch and we are very proud to play in the Irish Independent Park that we see today.
"We still want to improve our culture within the club and develop players internally rather than recruiting players for one season.
"One aspect of that is physical conditioning and as a statement of intent for the club, we want to build a gym.
"The rugby committee has put a plan in place. It is in the early stages and we will be putting a proposal to the Munster Branch to erect a permanent structure. We want this to be the flagship and something we can be proud of within the club.
"There is a huge gym culture in young men nowadays. They are all members in private gyms around the city so we want to create a nice club environment and bring them back into our gym. Other clubs have done it and we'd like to provide that culture for them too."
The planning process has already started for the new Sunday's Well gym and the club hope that former and existing members will be able to help out with support, sponsorship or professional services to aid the project.
The track record of making bold plans come to life is already rooted in the club.
Their mixed-ability rugby side, Sunday's Well Rebels, are the newest addition to the rugby family at 'The Well' and since 2014, when the club were approached by Alan Craughwell, a day service manager from Cope Foundation, the 15-a-side game has flourished.
Mixed-ability rugby is played by players with disabilities and players without disabilities on the same team.
It is full-contact rugby played under World Rugby rules with only minor adaptations like uncontested scrums.
From the early days of 13 players, Sunday's Well now have more than 40 active players.
"This is a great example of real inclusion," said team founder Craughwell.
"Lads with disabilities training, playing and of course socialising alongside their team-mates every Friday night and feeling like valued members of this great club."
While the senior team will always be the leading light, Sunday's Well are keen that most of their players are home-grown and learn the ropes on a Saturday morning at Irish Independent Park.
In recent years the club's mini rugby has gone from strength to strength by attracting children from an array of locations in the city and the county.
Today more than 150 children train with the club, and this increase means that some of the teams have moved to the new Cork City Council training facilities in Tramore Valley Park.
From the U-7 'Cubs', to the U-10 'Galácticos' right the way through to the U-12 'Tigers', The Well has seen how the spirit and determination of their players is matched by coaches and staff whose goal it is to train all children to their full potential.
And where possible help them navigate a game that could see them play for their club, province or country.
"It is quite a transient club because we don't have any particular community that we draw players from: it's all about the people and characters that we have in the club," said Sweeney.
"We've have had lots of former Irish internationals come through the club, with Donnacha Ryan being the most recent. He played U-20s with us when Murray Kidd was our coach in the late 1990s.
"We have a very progressive underage set-up. Our U-16s and U-18s are close to the top at the minute and we have put a lot of effort in at U-20s in the last three years. We have a great squad and one level-two and three level-one coaches with them.
"We want to recruit from within. This idea of recruiting a player to play senior for one season just doesn't work. We want to improve our culture within the club and develop players internally. We see it as the way forward."