Community spirit the key to forward strides
Rugby has been played in the village of Douglas on the south side of Cork City for over 100 years. The earliest evidence the club has is a photograph of a Douglas team playing in 1903 and drawn mainly from the workforce of the thriving local woollen mills.
This is reflected in the club crest of a ram and local landmark, the Douglas Fingerpost.
Douglas RFC was founded in 1979 by the late Joe O'Reilly -- a local man with a keen interest in sport -- and Seamus Corkery, who had played with Cork Constitution. Seamus is an uncle of former Irish International flanker David Corkery, who played his first adult rugby match with Douglas.
In the late '70s and early '80s, the club played their games at St Mary's School, Rochestown, before moving to Scart, Douglas.
Over 15 years ago the club moved to their present grounds at Moneygourney, which boasts two pitches, a meeting room, changing rooms, an indoor gym, referee and medical rooms and kitchen facilities.
Douglas has a long association with St Columba's Hall, known far and wide as the 'Tinny Shed'. Located in the heart of Douglas village, the hall caters for away teams after home matches as well as many of the club's numerous social events.
Former player and Douglas honorary secretary for the past eight years Colman McCarthy says the club has made huge strides in its development and acknowledges the hard work and dedication put in by club members and committee volunteers.
"We've put a lot of effort into the development of the pitch and club facilities over the years. The support we have at Douglas is phenomenal -- we are seeing more people coming along to fundraising events and as a result we have become a very social club," says McCarthy.
According to McCarthy the mini-rugby section of the club has flourished in recent years and numbers have increased consistently year on year.
This is primarily thanks to the success of the mini-rugby section in taking advantage of the great community spirit in the Douglas area, as well as the keen interest and commitment of parents, committee and coaches to developing that section of the club.
"We have recruited many parents that wouldn't necessarily have a rugby background. They have become involved with coaching in our mini section, which is great to see," he adds.
"On a Saturday morning our grounds at Moneygourney are a very noisy and fun place with over 100 players, both boys and girls, trying to emulate their Munster heroes.
"We also have an U-14s team, who are of a very high standard, and we hope to field that team all the way through to adult level.
"This particular side have great coaches who will go up with them through the age grades and we would like to think those players will represent our club at senior level in years to come.
"Douglas RFC also encourages girls to participate at the club, but we don't, at present, have the numbers to field teams. We certainly are proactive in terms of recruiting girls to play for the club and, hopefully, we will be competing in the not too distant future."
The club has also had its share of rugby success in Munster. The first XV has won the Kelly Cup three times, two McCarthy Cups and the Munster Junior 2 Cup.
In the 1996/97 season Douglas made history by becoming the only Division 3 side to win the Munster Junior Plate, in the process beating Mallow, Dolphin, Ballincollig, Nenagh and Thurles.
They won this trophy for the second time in 2002 while playing in Division 2 of the Munster Junior League. In the 1997/98 and 2004/05 seasons Douglas' first XV lifted the Munster Junior League Division 3 title.
The second XV has also enjoyed success. In November 2000 they won the O'Sullivan Cup for the third year in succession and over the years have had great wins in both the cup and league. The seconds won the Dave Dineen (J2) Plate in 2000 and 2005 and earned promotion to J2 grade from J3 in 2001.
The club has undertaken tours to play teams in Wales and Belgium over the years and has also hosted teams from England and France.
Speaking about this season's objectives, McCarthy says the club, who are currently ranked in Division 3 of the Munster Junior League, will contest for promotion under the guidance of head coach Stewart Philpott, but acknowledges the competition is of a very high standard.
"It's a tough division. For the past three to four seasons we have just been off promotion finishing third and fourth. This year we've won three and lost three games and are now halfway through the season. We lost 28-18 away to Abbeyfeale last weekend which was very disappointing as we are well aware how crucial it is to win against the big teams if we are to achieve our goal."
In terms of challenges for the club, McCarthy admits increasing adult player numbers is difficult due to competition from neighbouring clubs as well as other sports.
"Due to shortage of numbers we're not fielding a seconds team this year. We have a good squad and are focusing on the J1 team, but that's not to say we wouldn't put a team into a J3 or J4 Cup when it comes around.
"Obviously, you put your best 15 on the field, but we are very conscious that players who do not get a run with the first team need to be accommodated.
"We actively encourage those players to compete in friendlies and cup games to get them out there playing rugby.
"We've lost good players to senior clubs in the past, but those players tend to come back again. In my opinion, this is because of the good set-up and community spirit we have at our club.
"We take our rugby very seriously, but, at the end of the day, Douglas is known as a club where people enjoy the social side of rugby also, which is very important," he stresses.
"We have had good numbers of players that have joined our club this year who have recently relocated to Cork for study or work and we would welcome any new members who wish to join Douglas RFC at any time with open arms."
Douglas RFC Officers
President: Dara Philpott
Honourary Secretary: Colman McCarthy
Fixtures Secretary: John Quilter
Club Captain: Niall O'Connell
Youth Officer: Kieran McDermott