Investment in youth the 'backbone' of meteoric rise up ranks
Thirteen years ago, Cashel finished bottom of Division 3 of the Munster Junior League.
Since then they have enjoyed an incredibly successful period, rising four divisions to join the third highest tier in Irish club rugby, Division 2A of the All-Ireland League.
Cashel were named Munster Junior Club of the Year in 2009 and were crowned Senior Club of the Year in 2012.
The Tipperary town has a rich rugby-playing tradition: the family-oriented Cashel RFC was founded in 1919.
The club boasts top-class playing facilities in Spafield with three full-size pitches, two training areas and six dressing-rooms. A new clubhouse was opened in 2009 and there is also a large function room.
For a town of less than 5,000 people, Cashel has produced an extraordinary number of professional rugby players.
Munster back-row Paddy Butler is the latest product with former Munster man Denis Fogarty now plying his trade in France. Denis Leamy, John Fogarty (brother of Denis) and Brendan O'Connor all hail from the town and began their playing careers at the club.
"There's a lot of potential and a lot of promise in the club," says Butler. "The numbers underage have increased an unbelievable amount in the last number of years.
"You get a big crowd up in Spafield. It's a great place to be around and I'm delighted they're going so well."
Former club president Peter Silke was one of the driving forces behind a recent book published on the history of Cashel RFC and he explains the secret to the club's success.
"Over the '90s and the 2000s, we put a huge emphasis on developing young players and we had a very good success rate in that," says Silke.
"That's the backbone of our club, we have a very good underage structure and a lot of great players came through our underage system."
The focus on developing the youth structure at the club paid huge dividends as the players began to progress into the adult side.
"In 2001/02 we finished bottom of Division 3 of the Munster Junior League and we were very nearly relegated to minor rugby," Silke explains.
"There was a huge effort put in to improve our position in Munster and our first target was to get out of Division 3, and in 2002/03 we won the division. The following year we were runners-up in Division 2 and were promoted. We won Division 1 in 2008 and '09 but both times we failed to gain promotion, and in 2010/11 we won the whole thing and were promoted to the All-Ireland League.
"To put our rise into perspective, in 2003 we were trying to get out of Division 3 of the Munster Junior League. That same season Ballymena won Division 2 of the AIL and last season we went to Ballymena and beat them 8-7!"
"We are very lucky to have an ambitious and hard working committee which provided the facilities to enable the club to progress and develop.
"We also had very good coaches over the years in John Ryan, Ned Tierney, Ray Egan, Kevin O'Dwyer, Ian Dunne and Brian Hickey, our current coach.
"And the club enjoys great support from local people and sponsors."
When most clubs turn senior, the focus is on consolidation, but Cashel are unlike most clubs. Led by captain Brendan O'Connor, they enjoyed a record-breaking season in 2011 as they won every league game, securing back-to-back promotions to reach Division 2A.
They have remained in 2A since and currently lie in seventh place with five wins from eight games this season.
This success has seen the playing numbers grow hugely.
In the men's section, there are 60 adult players spread out over the three squads. There are 80 players in the youth section and 120 mini players.
The club put a lot of work into the mini section with an emphasis on the kids having fun and developing a love and passion for rugby.
Every year the U-12 squad are taken on their first rugby tour with this year's crop making their way to London to play in a rugby blitz that will also feature London Irish.
The club also have a thriving ladies section which includes a senior team, an U-18 side competing in Munster competitions and a tag team for the younger girls. This section is relatively new but numbers are growing yearly.
The club is also boosted by the proximity of Rockwell College.
"A lot of our players go to Rockwell which is a huge help to us," says Silke. "We have a good link with the school and when our own players go there they get coached to a very high level and when they come back to us we benefit from the coaching they get."
The club have enjoyed some truly memorable campaigns in recent years. They won nine trophies in 2009 and in 2011 won the Munster Junior Cup for the first time and then completed a unique treble by winning the Division 1 title and Munster Junior Clubs Challenge Cup.
Kingdom plays host to 'Play Rugby' programmes
The Munster Rugby Development Department have been as busy as ever in recent weeks with a number of activities taking place in Kerry.
Community Rugby Officer Ray Gadsden ran ‘Play Rugby’ programmes for the students of Moyderwell Mercy National School and Spa National School in Tralee.
Alongside this, Ray also co-ordinated a workshop for the Killarney U-14 side and their coach, Dominic Kiely.
The fifth and sixth class students of Moyderwell National School completed a six-week ‘Play Rugby’ programme before Christmas.
Over 100 students participated along with their teachers as they learned the skills of tag rugby.
Following on from the programme, the school will be taking part in local and county tag rugby blitzes with new players looking to join Tralee RFC.
Munster Rugby would like to thank everyone at Moyderwell Mercy for supporting this project.
The ‘Play Rugby’ programme in Spa National School also involved the fifth and sixth class students of the school. Great credit goes to school principal Peter Lenihan for his proactive involvement in developing rugby within the school.
Munster Rugby would like to thank everyone at Spa National School for their help.
The ‘Play Rugby’ programme encourages the effective development of non-contact mini rugby through schools by providing them with the necessary equipment and coach education. School teachers are encouraged to continue with this initiative and assist with the development of rugby at primary school level.
If you would like to know more about the Play Rugby initiative please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The workshop for the Killarney U-14 squad was also co-ordinated by Ray Gadsden with the workshop focusing on ‘players in the space’ in attack. The session included work on realignment, catching, passing and decision-making.
Munster Rugby would like to thank Killarney RFC for facilitating the workshop.
For more information on upcoming coaching courses, please email
Concussion awareness workshops
Clanwilliam FC and Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) will host Concussion Awareness Workshops next week, with places still available.
The workshop in Clanwilliam takes place on Monday at 7.30pm. The workshop in LIT follows on Wednesday, January 14 and takes place in Lecture Hall 4A02 at 7.0pm. The workshops are co-ordinated by the Munster Rugby Development Department, in conjunction with the IRFU.
Well over 300 coaches, parents, players and referees have attended this season's five Concussion Awareness Workshops to date.
They are free of charge with all club and school coaches and officials encouraged to attend.
Dr Garrett Coughlan, the IRFU's Medical Co-ordinator, hosts all of the workshops which include modules relating to Concussion Recognition Management and Return to Play protocols followed by a Question and Answer session.
The content has been designed to educate coaches, parents, players and referees on the dangers of concussion. Please contact email@example.com to register your place at a workshop.
Clonakilty coaches brush up on practical skills
The Munster Rugby Coach Development Department co-ordinated a coaching workshop over the Christmas period in Clonakilty RFC.
Twenty-four of the club’s coaches attended the two-hour workshop which focused on coaches who coach from stage 1 (mini rugby) to stage 4 (adult rugby).
The club have embraced the IRFU rugby faculty and rugby development programme and this workshop was their first collective practical workshop having hosted the coach induction seminar back in the autumn.
Munster Rugby Coach Development Manager, Keith Murphy, and Community Rugby Officer, Finny O’Regan, facilitated the day with the players from the club’s U-16 team participating in the practical elements.
The coaches were split into their respective stages with stage 1 coaches upskilled in catch/pass, decision-making and tackle as well as tasked with the concept of coaching through games.
The stage 2 and 3 coaches were introduced to catch/pass, decision-making and continuity activities as set out in their rugby development programme.
There was a focus on coaching through the game and problem solving correcting individual player techniques.
Munster Rugby would like to thank Clonakilty RFC for hosting the workshop and for their U-16 squad for kindly participating in the activities.
Should your club or school wish to take part in a coaching workshop please email firstname.lastname@example.org.