Dunmanway RFC: West Cork at heart as club bond remains steadfast
Dunmanway president focused on guiding youth into the game, writes Daragh Small
Robin Atkins was a passionate Dunmanway man, and he provided the local rugby club with their new ground before they could really move into the 21st Century and start to grow.
The late businessman changed the future for a west Cork town, and now Dunmanway RFC are determined to put more young rugby hopefuls on the map.
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Darren Sweetnam is one local who has already made it. The 26-year-old winger has played 81 times for Munster and won three caps for Ireland.
The latest hero has come in the shape of Danny Collins (23). There were 77 minutes gone in the 138th Varsity Match between Cambridge and Oxford at Twickenham on December 12 when he replaced Charlie MacCallum at loosehead prop.
The Cambridge second-row that day was made up of former Springbok Flip van der Merwe and ex-Wallaby James Horwill. Cambridge won the game 15-0, and it was a wonderful advertisement for Dunmanway RFC.
Like all junior clubs, Dunmanway continue to fight for numbers from year-to-year but their president Liam McCarthy knows seeing players reach the top level can help inspire another generation.
"It was mental, a proud moment for Danny Collins and his family," says McCarthy.
"I spoke to his brother and he was delighted. It is fantastic for the club. We are delighted and I couldn't be more happy for him and his family.
"It would be a big feather in a lot of people's caps to see another Dunmanway player go and represent Munster. Not only to the players but to the parents who are committed to helping their children.
"That's ultimately where it lies, the commitment from the parents, in some cases of helping the kids complete a lifelong dream, or in most cases letting them go out there, do their thing, and just enjoy it."
McCarthy is Dunmanway to the core, he grew up there and although there was a brief hiatus to London, he was always destined to return home.
He first picked up a rugby ball when he entered Dunmanway at U-10 level, and he went through the underage ranks before work commitments took centre stage.
"I didn't play any other sports, I did do a bit of athletics on a Friday night but it was all rugby for me," says McCarthy.
"There was a neighbour of mine who was intrigued. He came to me with the suggestion, 'Would you like to go to rugby training?' He only lived a couple of houses up and I said, 'Why not, I will give it a go'."
McCarthy made lifelong friends playing rugby in those early years, but his most vivid memory is of how the club operated back then.
"When I was in U-10 we used to play up at a local race field that had the goalposts there. It was our temporary home and there used to be underage athletics run in the racetrack.
"We used to have to change in the back of our local rugby pub, the Arch Bar. They used to have showers out the back and the car-loads used to travel to the pitch and back for matches then.
"Compared to that, it has changed a lot over the last 30 years."
Atkins gave the club a new lease of life and something to be proud of. They changed base to Milleenanannig, which has two rugby pitches.
Changing-rooms and showers were added, and, bit by bit, Dunmanway grew their own top-of-the-range facilities. It allowed the club to stay in existence through some tough times.
McCarthy travelled to the British capital after he finished school at 17.
His career in hospitality flourished but the long, unsociable hours meant for a completely altered lifestyle. There was no time for rugby.
He eventually returned to Cork and when he went down a different path, this time in construction, the gates of Dunmanway called out again.
A now-beefier 30-year-old swapped from the cold of the wing, to the warm confines of flanker, and rejoined the sport he loves.
"I hooked up with the boys and picked up where I left off," adds McCarthy. "The thing about rugby is the social circle. Whether you step out and step back in, ten times over a ten-year period, it is almost as if you never left."
McCarthy played for a few more years before he finally hung up his boots but that wouldn't be his last involvement with his boyhood club.
He married, and briefly moved to Macroom; however, once again Dunmanway was the next port of call.
"When I moved back here I settled and bought a house," says McCarthy.
"Then I rang Leslie Sweetnam, Darren's dad, in 2017 and said I wanted to be involved with the club in some capacity.
"I helped with training for a year or so. I stepped back again and someone asked me last year would I be interested in being president and I said no problem. It wasn't really out of the blue."
It was a proud moment for McCarthy when he eventually took up the role and he wants to be proactive in his approach during his tenure.
Dunmanway's location means the players can always choose the bigger set-ups in Bandon, Clonakilty or Skibbereen instead. But with a thriving Minis section and a J3 outfit looking to improve, Dunmanway want to grow across the board.
"Our target is to fill the void at U-14, U-16 and U-18," McCarthy says.
"The adults that are involved in the minis are just second to none.
"I am more than confident,
that the way it is set up, it will inspire the players to continue up the ranks."