Scariff RFC: Nurturing the game in hurling country of east Clare
Daragh Small hears how co-operation with other sports and huge effort help game thrive
On Saturday, November 24, the East Clare Equestrian Centre will host a special white-collar boxing event where the Scariff rugby and GAA worlds are set to collide.
All funds will be split between the two clubs and Scariff RFC will pump more money into their brilliant new 4G structure that aims to revolutionise rugby in the area.
"It's a white-collar night and a fundraiser for our new building," said Scariff RFC president Mike Madden.
"East Clare is sports mad, they love sport. The better you do the better you get supported. They just love their sport here."
Scariff RFC were founded in 1963 but there was a revival in '80s. They didn't purchase their own grounds until 1991, which were officially opened five years later.
They play their games at Craven's Field now and there they have begun construction on a stunning 4G indoor pitch that will help make rugby available to all throughout the year.
"We are building one of the first in Clare, a 4G indoor astro-turf. It's 40 metres x 20 metres," said Madden.
"We have already got a lot of Lotto funding for the first section of it. We are going in for the second section of it now. We will be able to build it starting in March.
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"We only have one field. If we had grounds where we could play on a constant basis we wouldn't have to call off training sessions or anything like that. We would be able to keep what we have.
"The kids are not used to being out anymore in cold, wet and damp. This will be a great facility to have for year-round training. It's perfectly safe. You can play full-contact rugby on it.
"Much the way my father put us in a good spot, this will actually cement that rugby will be in the mainstream in east Clare for the next 50 years."
The late Rob Madden was to the forefront in the resurgence of the club and the former Scariff president helped ensure the team had a ground to play on at Fossabeg.
Now his son, Mike, has taken up the mantle and will lead the charge to help make rugby available to the next generation of youngsters in the area.
"My father actually started the first lotto in Munster. That committee with Tom Broderick and Noel Mc (McNamara) and these lads, they did it every Sunday night for about two years," said Madden.
"They were bringing in a load of money so they made enough to buy a ground in Scariff. Up to that we had only been renting. They brought in enough money to buy the field and the first clubhouse we had.
"They put up the first set of lights we got to play under too. It was the first time in its existence that we began to think Scariff would stay put forever. We had our own ground and facilities.
"He was a bit anti-establishment. The ban was still in place when he was playing. The likes of Jim Turner and these lads were still playing despite the ban.
"One of my memories when I was young was being driven around to Birr and Loughrea and these places. I was brought up on the Webb Cup and it was a natural progression that I would get involved on the committee.
"I got involved in the committee maybe 13 years ago. I was still playing and I ended up covering every position in it. President was the only one left so I said I would give that a go for a while."
Mike Madden started playing rugby around five years before his father passed away, and he always knew that Scariff RFC would always play a big part in his life.
He was determined to follow in his father's footsteps and played with the junior team for nearly 20 years, while he joined up with the committee and the club began to pick up pace at underage level.
"Our senior coach Gearoid Devaney, this is his fourth stint as senior coach. He was a coach when we won our cups. And he is after coming back in again. He is phenomenal at getting lads to play rugby," said Madden.
"East Clare is the heart of GAA country. One of the biggest problems we have is that lads don't play at minis and then they are coming in at 23 and 24 and they are trying to learn what they should have at 10 or 12.
"There is a Munster coach going around to the national schools at the moment, and they want kids to try it up to 12 and then at least they have a basic understanding of how to fall, stand up.
"There is a lot of these injuries and accidents that are down to poor technique. We just feel if we can get them to start early and even if just play the few years... at least they have it in their head for if or when they don't play hurling for Clare.
"Two Sundays ago our lads went off to Bantry on a bus. They had great craic. They got back at 10pm and it was a four-hour drive. But there is a great team bond with those guys going forward."
It's a big undertaking for the man who only lives five minutes from the club's grounds on the Scariff 'Bog' Road.
"My wife says it's like a fifth child," said Madden.
"It takes a lot of time and effort. But at the same time hopefully when we are finished in three or four years' time we will have left something like my father has left.
"We will have left something that people can build on and is going to last. You look around at so many clubs and they have nothing. They could be gone in the morning if the lad decides not to rent the field or if they couldn't get the dressing-room sorted.
"It all takes money. It's all about the committee. We are applying for an IRFU loan. You can get an interest-free loan.
"We had a committee meeting on Wednesday night last week. We stayed on until midnight working on the thing to make sure we got it off and right. That is lads giving up their time to make the effort."