Wednesday 11 December 2019

'I am into players playing on the basis of their ability'

Club Focus: Carrick-on-Suir

Carrick-on-Suir’s U-17s
Carrick-on-Suir’s U-17s

Daragh Small

Andy Meaney is a Cork man in exile in Tipperary, working in Waterford and the current president of a rugby club that have players from Tipperary, Kilkenny and Waterford.

It sounds like a complicated relationship but Carrick-on-Suir is an ever-expanding operation and after a year of massive growth on and off the field, 2020 looks set to see even more progress.

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The U-16 girls
The U-16 girls

Meaney took over as a president at the club's AGM last May and he will put his name forward again next time around as he bids to oversee another successful season at the helm.

"I see a very bright future for the club here," says Meaney.

"We have installed a director of rugby and he is the most successful youths coach in Carrick history.

"We only have four titles to our name and they were all acquired in the last three years."

Club president Andy Meaney with son Cian
Club president Andy Meaney with son Cian

Eddie Barry is a Carrick-on-Suir man through and through, and he was at the helm while one of the club's underage teams swept all before them.

Carrick-on-Suir's U-14 outfit won an East Munster title, followed that up with another East Munster crown at U-16 level and they also claimed the Munster Development Plate.

Braedon Wheeler and Ronaldo Kivankufi have both learned their trade in the club and gone on to train with Munster's U-17s and U-16s respectively.

Maggie Boylan was an Irish U-18 international last season, and Marlise Flynn has followed in her footsteps this time around. There are three girls in the Munster U-18 squad and seven in East Munster U-17 development squad. All hail from Carrick-on-Suir.

When Rockwell College ended a 22-year wait for a Munster Schools Junior Cup, they had also two Carrick-on-Suir representatives in their starting 15: Conor Hogan at full-back, and Meaney's son, Cian Meaney.

The 16-year-old hooker is the reason Andy Meaney got into rugby in the first place.

"I am from a GAA family, two brothers and two sisters. My involvement in rugby is only four years old," says Andy.

"As a parent, I always looked after my three kids in whatever sport they wanted to play and my youngest fella just decided he wanted to do rugby.

"I got involved because I wanted to support him. I had no background in rugby so I went away and did my coaching courses and became an officer in the club so I would be actively involved in assisting in rejuvenating Carrick-on-Suir.

"I have done three years as a youth officer, and this year as president. That is my whole rugby career."

Heritage

Meaney may not have a strong rugby heritage but he does have a vast GAA background. His relatives played for Cork, and his mother Anne played camogie for both Limerick and Cork.

Meaney himself played hurling and football, and the Hospital/Herbertstown clubman was corner-forward for Limerick at minor and senior level in football.

"I spent most of my life coaching teams as opposed to playing," says Meaney.

"I was an awkward man to manage. I would have particular notions as to how things should be done. Players should play on the basis of merit rather than the No 7 jersey belongs to the O'Briens for the last 50 years, that sort of thing.

"I am into players playing on the basis of their ability rather than their relationship with the community."

He has three children today, and while Cian went down the rugby route, his older sisters Aoife (24) and Caoimhe (22) are both enthusiastic about their sport as well.

The eldest is teaching PE in Dubai; however, she played football for Limerick and Tipperary. She won an All-Ireland junior club title with Limerick's Murroe Boher in 2014. And she has also played rugby with Shannon.

Caoimhe Meaney is more of an academic but has an All-Ireland U-14 ladies football medal with Tipperary in her back pocket too.

But after years steeped in GAA, Andy Meaney decided to throw his hat in the rugby ring, and that has resulted in his tenure in charge of the club based at Tybroughney.

"I did three years as a youth officer, child welfare officer and team manager for the U-14 and U-16," says Meaney.

"Then I was elected president and I have no idea why they went down the road of a non-traditional member of the club.

"But I am into organising and logistics and getting your preparation done well in advance and there were no volunteers at the time.

"The club is big and busy at underage but we are not as strong as we would like to be at adult. However, we are rebuilding remarkably quickly."

It's all coming together nicely in south Tipperary, but the amazing integration of players from three different counties brings with it its own challenges.

"You have inter-county players from Waterford, Tipperary and Kilkenny coming together to play rugby with Carrick," Meaney adds.

"But the greatest stress on rugby in Carrick, is to be looking at it from the other side and wondering is there any close-season for the GAA anymore.

"The rugby U-18 season started in October and the Kilkenny minor hurling championship hadn't even started at that stage.

"We had seven guys from Piltown and one from Mooncoin waiting for the Kilkenny minor hurling championship to start in October.

"That presents great difficulties for a small rugby club where you can't afford to be losing six or seven players to a GAA championship match.

"One of the greatest things about rugby is the fixture list is always set and adhered to whereas the GAA fixture list is a movable feast."

But Meaney is looking forward rather than wondering about the what ifs, after a year where Carrick-on-Suir played host to South African touring schools and clubs at U-14, U-16 and U-18 level.

"We are definitely making progress as a club," adds Meaney.

"Our first ever youth tour will take place over the Christmas when we take the U-18s to Wales where they will play in the Cardiff Arms Park and they face the Cardiff Blues as one of their two games."

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