Thursday 13 December 2018

Hard work keeping the game afloat in Leeside sailing hub

Night-time rugby is breathing new life into the Munster club, writes Daragh Small

The J1s after winning the O’Neill Cup earlier this year
The J1s after winning the O’Neill Cup earlier this year

Daragh Small

Crosshaven RFC set up their first ever Hall of Fame this year and Edward Buckley was the first person inducted.

He was president of the club on eight occasions, which included the brilliant All-Ireland Junior Cup success in 2011. Buckley passed away in June but he is fondly remembered as one of the leading lights for a club with a proud tradition.

"That was a source of great sadness to us all. He was a legendary figure. He ran the club most of the time and kept it going through some tough times," says current Club President David Guilfoyle.

Guilfoyle is a past player who captained Crosshaven RFC on four occasions. Munster's Darren O'Shea is also a past member while Lansdowne's out-half Scott Deasy wore the jersey, as did referee Frank Murphy, but so did Tánaiste Simon Coveney.

The deputy leader of Fine Gael, and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade with responsibility for Brexit operated in the engine room.

"He was very effective. He was a great second-row, a very good lineout jumper and very effective in the loose as well. This was going back nearly 15 or 20 years. I didn't actually play with him, he came along after me," says Guilfoyle.

Crosshaven RFC’s first team
Crosshaven RFC’s first team

Guilfoyle grew up in Castlemartyr where he attended the Carmelite College there before he went on to study in UCC.

He played football and hurling before his move to Cork city, where rugby and soccer finally became available to him.

"I would have been 17 then. I only played rugby then because I had never been allowed to play rugby before that," he says. "I went to a school in Castlemartyr and that was all Gaelic football and hurling. I played both. I was an average performer but I enjoyed the game.

"Rugby wasn't that popular at the time either. We used to watch the home internationals every season, but that was it.

The U-13s team in action against Midleton
The U-13s team in action against Midleton

"That was the reason why and it's also the reason why I played soccer also. I started playing that for the first time in UCC also. I enjoyed both games."

Crosshaven RFC was founded in 1972 and they play their games at Myrtleville Cross. But the town itself is known for much more than just rugby.

When you enter the village of Crosshaven the first thing that strikes you is the Royal Cork Yacht Club on your left-hand side. There are boats everywhere.

It is originally a 19th century fishing town, and although Guilfoyle never took to the fishing side of things, his children certainly did.

Fished

"I got married and we had a place to settle into down Myrtleville and we took that up," says Guilfoyle.

"I never fished. I am not even a sailor. But by being down here our kids got to learn how to sail. We have one child now who has embarked on a campaign to be in the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020. It's a team of Ryan Seaton from Belfast, and my son Séafra Guilfoyle.

"Séafra is away training now, full-time preparing for the Olympics. If we didn't live in Crosshaven that would never have happened.

"Our oldest daughter, her friend was sailing and there were classes being given to kids, nine- and ten-year-olds. We started off with our eldest daughter. She took to it big time and then Séafra went further with it.

"He is only 22 now and it's exciting times ahead for him and all of the family."

And it's not only the Guilfoyles who have something to look forward to.

New floodlights could point to a bright future for Crosshaven RFC too.

"The floodlights are an important element that are going up across all of the clubs to transform rugby," says Guilfoyle.

"The boys have to play the matches every Sunday. That means they don't have a Saturday night they can enjoy, or a Sunday night because they are working or studying the next day.

"With floodlights you can invite other clubs to play league and club matches with us at our grounds or their grounds. It has the potential to open up a new era of rugby.

"A Friday night match situation would mean players are freed up to play on a Saturday or Sunday."

When Guilfoyle came to Crosshaven it began a long affinity with the club, which peaked seven years ago when they club managed to scale the dizzying heights of the All-Ireland Junior Cup.

It was a second-row replacement Paul Memery who scored the crucial try to help Crosshaven secure a 17-9 victory over Monivea in April 2011.

"When I got here first the club had acquired its premises and pitch at Myrtleville.

"We were playing minor rugby at the lowest level at the time," adds Guilfoyle.

"There was always great craic. We moved from the minor leagues into a qualifying league and then Division 3 of the Munster Junior League, then Division 2 and Division 1. Then when we were in Division 1 in 2011 we won the All-Ireland Junior Cup. We were the only Munster club to ever win it.

"For a small village to put out a team, take on the country's best and win it, it was an amazing achievement by anyone's standards.

"When they returned from Dublin, the fire brigade led them into the village. There was a huge parade and celebrations for days afterwards.

"There were tears of joy shed that time."

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