Dubliner Crowley aiming to revive South Kerry club
Kenmare RFC has been playing an instrumental role in the development of rugby for boys and girls in the South Kerry region since its foundation in 2009,.
Originally from Dublin, former De La Salle Palmerston prop Conn Crowley recently relocated to Kerry and has been involved with Kenmare RFC for just over three years. In his role as the Club Director of Rugby, he has focused on the recruitment and coaching of young players with long-term plans for club development.
"There was originally a club at Kenmare which disbanded in 1938 and was reformed in 2009 as an adult club.
"Unfortunately, they only played for one season before emigration hit and the club struggled to field a team.
"Shortly after, about three years ago, a group of us got together and we decided to make a go of it. We basically canvassed for players at the schools in the area and it took off from there."
With over 90 children playing with the club, rugby in Kenmare has been a huge success and has recently expanded from mini rugby to fielding an U-13 side.
"We have six teams going from U-6 age grade through to U-13s. The overall plan is to bring our teams all the way up the youth age grades and eventually compete for silverware in the Munster Youth competitions.
"With the help of Munster Community Rugby Officer Ray Gadsden, we've started a rugby programme in the local secondary school, Pobalscoil Inbhear Sceine, for first and second year students which has been really successful.
"Ray has also gone in to the local national school to start the kids playing tag rugby. I coach those players once they reach secondary school so there is an ongoing progression of rugby with the ultimate aim feeding the players back into the club."
As the youth section continues to grow at Kenmare RFC, Crowley says there is a significant increase in girls' numbers with overall plans in place to further develop girls' rugby.
"We have a number of girls playing with our minis but unfortunately we don't have enough players to field a girls' side at youth age grade which is an overall aim for us. We've have been very active in recruiting for girls and hopefully we'll eventually be in a position to form a team."
With a core of about five club members actively involved in rugby development, Crowley acknowledged the efforts of Youth Officer Mike Myles and also paid a particular tribute to AIL referee Chris Harrington. "I have to acknowledge our U-12 and U-13 coach Mike Myles who does phenomenal work with our young players and gives all his spare time to the club.
"He basically lives for coaching and is truly dedicated to the development of rugby in Kenmare.
"We are also very proud of our club member Chris Harrington who is an All-Ireland League referee. Chris played on our adult team in 2009 and took up refereeing shortly after.
"He went from refereeing at minor, to junior to senior rugby in a very short space of time and is a great advert for our club."
Operating from the local school, Kenmare RFC is one of the few Munster clubs that does not have its own facilities but Crowley said it is a long-term objective for the club to one day own their own ground.
"We are very limited in that we don't have a clubhouse and play in the secondary school field. That said, it is a fine pitch and we also have the use of the school's dressing rooms for which we are very grateful.
"Ultimately, we would hope to have our own place but it's a matter of finance," adds Crowley. "At the moment we don't have the funds to purchase a piece of land to call our own but in the long term we would hope to do that."
With long-term plans to grow rugby at Kenmare RFC, Crowley said they will concentrate on developing their youth sections with an overall goal to compete at adult level.
"Our objective is to broaden our base of players. This season we're going to have our own U-13s competing at 15-a-side rugby for the first time which is a great accomplishment our small club. Our ambition is to bring this side through the age grades and when we get to U-14 and U-16 level we hope to compete in the West Munster Youths Leagues and take it from there.
"If we're lucky enough to retain the players at U-18 level we will go into the broader Munster League system with our ultimate aim to hold on to those players and form an adult club."
"There are many adults within the locality that would like to play the game but we don't have sufficient numbers to field a team. Hopefully in five or six years' time with our current underage players coming through we will be in a position to do that. At the end of the day what we want is to have a fully-fledged rugby club in the town, and if we continue to work hard and progress our young players we will achieve our goals."