Cork club to celebrate 30 years of Sevens stars
Club Focus: Kinsale RFC
This year's Kinsale Sevens competition will be a special event as Kinsale RFC celebrate the 30th anniversary of the foundation of the competition that has transformed their club.
Every May the South Cork town is taken over for a weekend of socialising, catching up and some of the finest Sevens rugby in the world. And after three decades the competition continues to go from strength to strength.
Six years before the Sevens competition was brought to the province, Kinsale RFC was born. Over lunch one day several rugby players from the town decided they had had enough of travelling elsewhere to play the game they loved. It was decided that Kinsale needed a club of its own and on April 24, 1982 the club was inaugurated. It was a big moment, according to current treasurer and one of the founders, Ronan Kett.
"Over a cup of tea in 1982 a few of us got talking to each other and with all the players in the area, who were playing with other clubs, we decided to start something ourselves," says Kett.
"Our first season commenced the following September. We had an opening exhibition game in the grounds of Elanco, which is now Eli Lilly.
"That's something we are very proud of. It is an event that has grown organically over the years, but both the club and the Sevens competition were started by players, so it really has its fruits in fellas wearing the jersey week in, week out."
And anyone intent on playing in the 30th year of the Kinsale Sevens had better get themselves organised. Already there has been a huge uptake by teams and it is expected that up on 80 clubs will arrive in the town for the competition on May 8/9. Having a strong reputation as a well-organised event is key, says Kett.
"It has a worldwide reputation. Teams from all over come to take part and we've had some fantastic teams over the years. We all remember 'The South Sea Drifters' who were basically a Fijian international side, and featured not least Waisale Serevi, who was for a period of ten years the top Sevens player internationally. He played here in 2003 and 2004.
"We are still taking bookings at the moment. The Elite Men's competition is almost full, which is brilliant. As well as that we have an Elite Women's competition, while we have other competitions for clubs that are also of a very competitive standard."
Currently catering for boys and girls of all ages as well as a men's junior team, Kinsale RFC is largely funded by the income earned from the Sevens competition. Over the years they have injected their profits straight back into the club and can now boast six playing pitches, one floodlit pitch - which was officially opened by a Munster 'A' B&I Cup match - and an impressive clubhouse. Keeping the teams, referees and sponsors involved has been a straightforward process.
"The Sevens money is very important to us and we have invested it into resources and facilities that the club can provide to its underage and adult members.
"Heineken have been our event sponsor for 30 years, and to my knowledge that is the longest continuous sports event headline sponsorship in Ireland. They clearly have an interest in the sport, but see a value in helping us to grow the event," adds Kett.
While the aim in the near future is to resurrect the women's junior team in the club, according to Ronan, they have been blown away by the impact the Sevens competition has had on the women's game.
"We always say that the beacon for women's Sevens rugby in Ireland is Kinsale. That's where Sevens rugby in Ireland started and it has launched into something special.
"Joy Neville, Fiona Coghlan, Sophie Spence, Laura Guest, Tanya Rosser and Allison Miller have all played Sevens rugby here. And Joy's early refereeing career began on the Sevens park.
"The Munster Association of Referees (MAR) come down every year. About 30 of them are here, it's their annual gathering as well, but the professional job they do is outstanding. Stan Fuller has been associated with the event for many years, and with the referees it is an outstanding success."
And while much of the outside attention will always be on the Sevens game in Kinsale, once the marquees are put in storage for another year, all focus then returns to club activity. For young and old, Kinsale RFC is a forward-thinking club.
"We have a very vibrant underage game, from the minis up to U-18s. That U-18s team is a key one for us. That's where the future base of players makes the step up. We had six of last year's U-18 now playing with the first team. That's an indication that the work is being done," adds Kett.
"Our juniors play in Munster Division 2 and we're about fifth at the moment. We'd like to be doing a bit better, but we're still doing well. Like a lot of sports, there is a challenge to hold on to guys in that transition time after they leave secondary school, but we have a lot to attract young players who want to come back and play social rugby.
"With that in mind, we recently started a Kinsale Wild Geese veterans side and we have a number of fixtures organised for that team, including an end-of-season tour to the South of France in June.
"Those guys might have been playing up to about ten years ago, but they are keen to stay involved. Those grand comebacks have been threatened for many years, but the Wild Geese gives them the chance to meet with mates and enjoy the social aspect of rugby again. That's what rugby is all about.
"We're a community-based club. That is so important to us and what we are about. Come up on a Saturday morning and you'll see hundreds of kids. That's the joy of it: seeing our first team, our vets team or our minis out there wearing the green, white and royal blue."
- For more information on the Kinsale Sevens or to register a team, visit www.kinsale7s.com or www.kinsalerfc.com