The future is bright as the game grows in Killarney
Club is in the middle of a relegation battle but solid foundations are in place for the years to come, writes Declan Rooney
The next few weeks will tell a lot about the short-term future of Killarney RFC, but in the long term they are certainly a club on the up.
Settled in well into their new home at Aghadoe, the club have enjoyed their first season back up in the Munster Junior League Division 2, but with a couple of games to go they are in the throes of a battle to avoid the drop.
Last weekend's 19-0 win over Muskerry gave the club a huge boost - just their second win from 10 games so far - but even if they manage to secure the points they need in the coming weeks they will be paying attention to what happens in the Ulster Bank League too.
Should a Munster club be relegated from Division 2C of the senior club game, that effect will tumble downwards and could mean more relegation woes for other clubs through the divisions.
But all Killarney RFC and those around them can do is worry about their own patch.
On Sunday they travel to Ballincollig - who currently lead them by seven points in the standings and also have two games left - in search of points, while another road trip to title-chasing Crosshaven, who currently lead the division, will conclude their season.
It is all up for grabs after a long season where points have carried huge value, and according to senior team captain Ger Moynihan the Killarney players and management are ready to battle to the end to survive the drop and an immediate return to Division 3.
"It has been great to play at a higher standard again and we are hopeful of remaining in the division. This weekend will tell once the final whistle is blown as to our future," said Ger.
"It's been a tough year. I think results haven't gone our way and we have probably missed out on bonus points very narrowly.
"Most of our problems arise from having insufficient player numbers available at training and subsequent matches, but we manage to fulfil fixtures and have done extremely well against the odds.
"Last week was a must- needed win for us. I think we played quite well and controlled the game for long stretches. We threatened their try line on a number of occasions and possibly deserved a bonus-point win.
"We had a fabulous display from one of the best scrum-halves in junior rugby for the past 10 years, Paul O'Sullivan, who scored a hat-trick of tries.
"We believe we will stay in Division 2, but if a Munster team is regulated from the AIL, it will be much more difficult."
Killarney RFC was first formed in 1928 despite the game being played unofficially in the area for a few decades, but over the years the popularity of the game was increased and waned and peaked again.
In and around the 1940s the game fell away in the region, but after war a hugely successful period for the club ensued with wins in the McGillycuddy Cup, Galwey-Foley Cup and Hayes Cup before the club was again disbanded in the early 1970s.
But since 1983 the club has gone from strength to strength. After 2009's Munster Junior Plate win, the club was promoted to Division 2 for the first time in their history after a play-off victory over Charleville, and despite dropping down to Division 3 once more, they returned to the second tier last season following wins over Douglas, Dungarvan and Killorglin in the play-offs.
"It was a massive year last year with the Martin O'Sullivan Cup, the McElligott Cup (Kerry clubs) and being promoted to Division 2," said Ger.
Much of the recent good feeling around the club has emanated from having their new home in Aghadoe, which boasts a full-size training pitch, a juvenile pitch and a playing pitch, while the 1.8km perimeter 'trim trail' has proven a huge success.
Plans are in place to develop a state-of-the-art clubhouse and according to club PRO Liam Murphy the future looks bright for the club on and off the field.
"Aghadoe is a fine playing facility with two full pitches and a juvenile pitch with further land yet to be developed for training or all weather," said Liam.
"We are currently tendering for remedial works to our existing playing fields to make them suitable and top class for the long-term future. We hope to have this done by September 2018.
"Added to that too, mini rugby is absolutely thriving. We have almost 100 children between the ages of five and 11 training every Saturday morning and we are coming towards the end of our current season at the end of April.
"We have taken part in blitzes right across Kerry as well as hosted many teams for matches. We have brought in many new coaches over the past few seasons who add a renewed enthusiasm to the set up. Last weekend we ran our inaugural minis table quiz at the Killarney Oaks which was a huge success for all involved."
The work being done at underage rugby is certainly bearing fruit with the club claiming double glory in last year's U-14s West Munster Cup and League, while this season their U-14s and U-16s are continuing that form with some promising results on the park.
But it is in the women's game that the biggest strides are being made with their 'Give it a Try' programme attracting huge interest from locals.
"We have been actively promoting girls' rugby in Killarney and last summer we had the women's Rugby World Cup trophy visit local schools, while some of the club members also took in some of the World Cup games.
"We have around 15 girls playing regularly, as well as a dedicated female liaison officer working with minis and our community rugby officers to promote and develop girls' rugby in Killarney.
"We took part in girls-only U-10 blitzes and held the club's first ever girls-only matches last October which was a huge step forward in developing girls' rugby in Killarney.
"And then the 'Give it a Try' programme has been great and last Monday week over 230 local school girls from fourth, fifth and sixth classes took part in a 'Give it a Try' day. It's been a fantastic success."