Sunday 25 February 2018

Kerry club is rewarded for years of progress

Club Focus: Rugbaí Chorca Dhuibhne

Rugbaí Chorca Dhuibhne senior team training on Dún Chaoin pier
Rugbaí Chorca Dhuibhne senior team training on Dún Chaoin pier

Declan Rooney

Rugbaí Chorca Dhuibhne featured in a promotional video prior to the Rugby World Cup in 2015 and one of their players nailed what the club is all about in that clip: "Like the scenery that you see around us: we're rugged, rough around the edges, but beautiful on the inside."

As Ireland's most westerly rugby club there are plenty of challenges for County Kerry club Rugbaí Chorca Dhuibhne, but they continue to defy the odds to compete in Munster Junior 1C.

There was great excitement last weekend for the first game of the season, probably their most arduous away trip of the campaign, but despite the early departure, late arrival home, and heavy loss to Fethard & District, Rugbaí Chorca Dhuibhne took great enjoyment from their season opener.

"We have a really committed group of seniors at the moment," said club secretary Shane O'Rourke.

"They travelled to play Fethard on Friday evening last. They left Dingle at 2pm and got back at two in the morning. There were 22 players who made the trip and two coaches went with them.

"If we have 22 in Fethard on a Friday evening, with lads having to take off work and everything, it's a good indication that we have good commitment in the squad."

Rugbaí Chorca Dhuibhne’s Daragh Fitzgerald who made Munster’s U-18 club team
Rugbaí Chorca Dhuibhne’s Daragh Fitzgerald who made Munster’s U-18 club team

There were one or two loyal supporters in Fethard last Friday night, but you can guarantee there'll be no room to spare this Sunday at Ballydavid when the new Kerry derby is played for the first time.

Foundation

Since their foundation in 1999, Rugbaí Chorca Dhuibhne have slowly worked their way from the basement of Munster club rugby, but they have always fancied a crack at illustrious neighbours Tralee.

"We have got Tralee here on Sunday, the local derby. I think it is the first time we have ever played each other in the Munster Junior 1 league," said Shane.

The club’s younger members
The club’s younger members

"Tralee have been relegated, so it's a big deal for us to play them. We always had battles with their seconds and thirds teams when we were coming up, but now we have gone up a little bit and they have come down a lot. It will be a good battle I'd say, hopefully it's a good result for us."

Over the years it was always tough to have enough players to compete, but the opening of The Dingle Whiskey Distillery in the area has certainly been a boost to the club. Current sponsors of the senior team, the injection of finances has been a real help, but it is the guarantee of players that is the biggest boon as the draw of the big city is not so strong any more.

"We got extremely lucky a few years ago when Dingle Whiskey Distillery opened up locally. Through that, a guy, Micheál Breathnach, who was working in London, came home and got a job here. He became our senior captain and he's now the head distiller.

"But we have a couple of other lads in the distillery too. I think five of the lads from the senior team work in the whiskey distillery, and as a result Dingle Whiskey Distillery have become our main sponsors."

You cannot talk about sport in Kerry without referencing Gaelic football, but rugby is also able to forge its own path on the peninsula. There is a thriving underage game for those in their early teens and younger, while an amalgamation takes place at U-18 level between Rugbaí Chorca Dhuibhne, Killarney and Killorglan, called South Kerry.

In this year's Munster U-18s team the club was represented by local player Daragh Fitzgerald. Shane was thrilled with his success, which he sees as a huge honour for the club.

"Daragh played tighthead for the Munster U-18s clubs in all three of the inter-pro competition games and scored a try in the win against Ulster in Thomond Park.

"He is the reason that we are all involved in rugby as coaches. He is with us since he was six years old and now 11 years later he is playing for Munster in the inter-pros. That's a real success story from our perspective.

"The commitment that he has shown, the dedication from himself and his family is huge. He travelled to Limerick and Cork from Dingle twice a week for the last six months for training. He spent the summer in UL on a training camp and has been taking extra sessions with the 123 club in Cork, a coaching school for props and hookers. I don't think he has missed one of those sessions.

"It has been a huge commitment by him and his parents to do all that. The award came with his three Munster caps. He's a great role model for the young guys in the club."

Irish Independent

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