Friday 15 December 2017

McGovern leading Old Crescent towards promotion

Club Focus: Old Crescent

Old Crescent captain Cathal O’Reilly rallies his troops Photo: Keith Wiseman
Old Crescent captain Cathal O’Reilly rallies his troops Photo: Keith Wiseman newsdesk

Following their narrow loss to Wanderers last weekend, Old Crescent remain top of Division 2C in the All-Ireland League with their sights set firmly on promotion.

Crescent currently stand three points clear at the top of their division with five games remaining.

Founded in 1947, the Limerick club was granted senior status in June 1952 and in that decade reached a Munster Senior Cup semi-final and final. In the 1980s Old Crescent took up permanent residency at Rosbrien where the club has recently purchased 11 acres of adjoining land, effectively doubling the size of the club grounds.

In 1992, Old Crescent made the breakthrough at national level when the club qualified for Division 2 status of the All-Ireland League and in the season of 1995/'96 captured the AIL Division 2 title, going undefeated in the league campaign.

Old Crescent played two seasons in Division 1 but were relegated to Division 2 in season 1997/'98 at Tom Clifford Park following a defeat to neighbours Young Munster RFC.

The club returned to Division 1 in 1999/2000 but on this occasion only lasted one season in the higher division. Crescent have competed in Division 2 ever since and are now striving to work back up from 2C.

Leading from the front, director of rugby Eugene McGovern at 33 years of age is today one of the club's stalwarts.

Following a highly successful playing career which saw him play All-Ireland League rugby at the highest level and line out for Munster between 2003 and 2009, former prop McGovern returned to Old Crescent RFC to see out his playing career and now focuses all his attention on the club's development.

"I started playing rugby with Old Crescent at U-8s and after I finished my time with Munster I went straight back to the club. I retired from playing two season's ago and became director of rugby and went into coaching. My main duties are overseeing rugby from the minis right up to U-20s and the senior team from a rugby point of view, but also from a social and interactive point of view."

Commenting on Old Crescent's disappointment following relegation from Division 1, McGovern said the club is building back to where it was and is confident the strategic plans currently in place will help them achieve their goals.

"The club probably had been on a downward spiral for one reason or another. It had a lot to do with the dynamics of the club - maybe the club had become a bit short-term, planning things just year by year.

"We were in the bottom division of the All-Ireland League and had hit rock bottom.

"A group of club members got together at the end of the 2013-'14 season to talk about the issues, review what had happened and why we were where we were.

"The main thing was to put a structure in place. Our underage was very competitive but we had no transition. We had no U-20s team and essentially, there was no bridge for the young fellas to get through. There was nothing to entice the young guys to stay with us and that is why the director of rugby role came in."

"As director of rugby you can't always be focused on the senior teams because you lose focus with other teams and all of a sudden you find yourself in a situation where you don't have the players coming through.

"It's very important that you're developing your underage and giving them a pathway which is what we set out to achieve."

Currently head coach at the club's alma mater Crescent College Comprehensive, McGovern said the relationship he has built with the school players has helped feed into Old Crescent's playing numbers and rebuild an U-20s side.

"As part of my role I wanted to go in as U-20s coach, the reason being that I am so big on transition. I had a relationship with the guys that had gone through the schools system so it went from there.

"Last year our U-20s had a very successful season and this year we won the North Munster League which was a great achievement."

As player retention continues to be a challenge for all clubs throughout the country, McGovern said Old Crescent have put plans in place to address this issue.

"It's a massive challenge to hold on to players. However, if we have a competitive underage system along with a senior team which is competing and progressing, you are going to hold onto the players.

"Of course," he continued, "you are going to lose guys to work, injury, career or bigger clubs - there are so many variables against you but it's about looking after your players and taking control of what you can by putting in the right system and structures."

As Old Crescent continues to progress at all levels, the senior side will host Midleton tomorrow in what McGovern said is a huge game for the club as they focus on promotion.

"The guys understand that we're looking for promotion so I would be confident that they'll be up for it.

"At the same time you don't want to be losing the run of yourself and thinking you're going to win a game when you haven't even started it.

"It's just a question of having the players fully prepared with an overall goal and we're taking it one match at a time.

"Our ultimate aim for the club is to get promoted out of Division 2C. Midleton are trying to get promoted as well so Saturday will be a huge game for the club.

"After the Midleton game we've four games left. The final game of the season we're home to Tullamore who are now second so it could potentially come down to the last game of the season which will make for a very exciting league finale.

"Essentially our goal is long term. It's not season to season - we have a three-year plan but to go up a division this year would be a great start."

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