Sunday 18 February 2018

Unbeaten men's side lead from the front in Waterford

Club Focus: Dungarvan RFC

Dungarvan’s Patrick Connors in action during last year’s Munster Clubs Under 16 Final
Dungarvan’s Patrick Connors in action during last year’s Munster Clubs Under 16 Final
The Dungarvan U-11s who played at half-time during the Munster v Cardiff Blues game at Irish Independent Park
Dungarvan went unbeaten through the season to claim the Division Three title of the Munster Junior League

It has been a great year for Waterford's Dungarvan RFC with the unbeaten men's side clinching the Division Three title in the Munster Junior League and the club breaking ground on new dressing-rooms in Ballyrandle.

The women's team, combined with Youghal, are now competing in Division Two South of the AIL and the U-16 side were beaten finalists in last year's Munster Clubs final.

Club president Eamonn Spratt is thrilled with how things are going at the club.

"It's been a phenomenally successful year," he says. "It's great to see the success coming in the underage system and the adults. To go undefeated in the league was a fantastic achievement.

"Our numbers are so high at the moment that we're outgrowing our current facilities. They were state-of-the-art when they were built in 1981 but we're building a 3,000 square foot changing room facility, upgrading the club's boundaries and replacing the main pitch fencing."

The club was reformed in 1968 and for the first two years the club consisted of around 18 playing members.

Dungarvan RFC went from being very competitive in the '80s to a decline in the '90s. This rebuild started with the resurrection of the juvenile section 15 years ago.

Now, over 200 young players from all over mid and west Waterford play age grade rugby in the club's thriving mini and youths section.

"You never like to single out guys but the current underage system was spearheaded by Eddie Kiely and Trevor Doherty," says Spratt.

"And they're still very much an integral part of the underage structure. We've had young guys get through to international level at youths and schools and we've got a number of players who have competed at Munster level.

"It's gaining good momentum and the team that performed so well at men's level this year would have a significant input from the younger guys coming through so hopefully we'll be able to develop a conveyor belt in the years to come."

Trevor Doherty now coaches the club's U-18 side along with being the juvenile secretary.

"We have teams at U-13, 14, 15, 16 and 18 level and it's going very well," he says. "Five or six years ago we wouldn't have expected to get many wins whereas nowadays we expect to win nearly every game.

"We first qualified for the Pan Munster competition about five years ago and last year the U-16s were beaten finalists. This year the U-18s have just qualified for the quarter-finals so we're doing well.

"It's nice to see lads that have come up through the system are still playing with the seniors rather than dropping out of the game or going to senior clubs. We seem to be convincing some of the lads to stay with us and that makes a big difference.

"Now we've got lads in the adult team with seven or eight years of experience under their belts and it's very noticeable."

Director of rugby Mossie Keith was delighted to see the men's team enjoy such a successful season, saying: "We were undefeated on our way to winning the league, we drew with Douglas and beat everybody else so that was great for us.

"We went up in second place three years ago but came straight back down to Division Three the following year.

"Over the last five or six years we went from not having won a game all year to winning three, winning five and so on so we've been building but it's a credit to the juvenile system really and the young lads it's bringing through for us."

RE-EMERGING

Ireland Women's captain Niamh Briggs started her playing career with the club in 2007 and, although the women's team haven't been a constant feature at the club, they have come on in leaps and bounds since re-emerging in September 2011.

Keith says: "The ladies are up in AIL Division Two, it's their first year up there and it's tough going for them.

"It wasn't a hugely successful year with match results but the first year in Division Two is all about finding your feet, building a squad and using the time to get settled in at a higher level but they're quite proud to be playing up there."

Spratt also speaks highly of the contribution made by the women's team on and off the field.

"It is great to be competing at that level and it also brings another social dimension to the club. That's very important and to have a couple of girls now on the general committee is fantastic, they give great energy and another focus to the role," he says.

Irish Independent

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