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Underage success still forms bedrock of Cork outfit

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Clonakilty celebrate winning Division 3 of the AIL in 2006

Clonakilty celebrate winning Division 3 of the AIL in 2006

SPORTSFILE

Clonakilty RFC

Clonakilty RFC

Clonakilty RFC first team

Clonakilty RFC first team

Clonakilty RFC second team

Clonakilty RFC second team

Clonakilty RFC firsts in action

Clonakilty RFC firsts in action

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Clonakilty celebrate winning Division 3 of the AIL in 2006

Munster Junior League Division 1 side Clonakilty RFC was formed in 1977 and the club and its members have been through many highs and lows in its 38-year history.

Rugby was first played in the West Cork town in 1890 when a Clonakilty side competed in the Munster Senior Cup, but the club disbanded in the 1900s before reforming again in the 1930s.

The club broke up again before the Second World War and was not heard of again until a fateful evening in the Kilty Stone Tavern. A meeting was arranged by current president Denis Noonan, Ray O'Neill and Michael O'Neill, with 50 people attending, and the decision was made to reform the club.

Clon played their first match against Bandon with borrowed jerseys in Jennings Field in Desert; they also played Dolphin and Sunday's Well that season and tied in these games with a social evening - which they came famous for in later years.

In 1978 they won the West Cork Cup and in 1982, the club moved to junior status and relocated to its present home in Shannonvale.

In 1987 they purchased the house next to the ground and turned it into a clubhouse. The playing grounds consist of three pitches, two of which are floodlit.

The club's golden era began in the 1999/2000 season as they reached the top of Munster Junior rugby and entered the round-robin play-offs against Connemara, Navan and Lisburn. They won all three games and Clonakilty were playing senior rugby the following season.

PROGRRESSION

Their progression continued up through the senior ranks and in 2006, the club won Division 3 of the All-Ireland League in Lansdowne Road in one of the most memorable days in the club's history.

They finished third the following season in Division 2 and over the next few years a number of trophies were won, bringing large crowds on regular occasions.

Their success at men's level was mirrored at the now disbanded ladies team that produced three Irish internationals - Laura Guest, Eimear O'Sullivan and Maeve Quirke.

These great times were to come to an end in 2013, however, as the club was relegated back down to junior status for the first time in 13 years . The club had struggled all season as a result of many players moving abroad to find employment due to the recession.

Clonakility are presently fielding two adult sides, but a number of the young players are making their mark in the first team and life is looking good again for the club.

Former coach Malachy Boohig feels the underage section is the bedrock of Clonakilty RFC.

"The one thing that has really kept the club going for the last 20 years has been the success at underage," says Boohig. "We've won an U-18 All-Ireland title and an U-16 All-Ireland title and we've been beaten in two U-16 All-Ireland finals.

"We've got six Munster titles at U-16 and U-18 level and we've umpteen titles at all age-groups in the South Munster section.

"The single biggest problem we have every year is that while we rely hugely on our underage, the vast majority of young fellas finishing secondary school will go to third-level education.

"It's fine if they go to Cork but as soon as they go to university outside of Cork they're lost to us so that's a huge drain on the numbers graduating from our U-18s up to adult level."

The club continues to produce excellent players with a number gaining representative honours with Munster over the years.

"We've had 10 players play with the Munster U-18s over the past 12-14 years," explains Boohig. "Three players from last year's U-18 team played with Munster.

"But Philip Poilet is now playing senior with UL Bohs and Joe White is with the UCC U-20s. Both of those guys are not available to us which is a huge disaster for us as a club."

Between 30 and 35 coaches train young players from U-8s up to U-18s every Saturday morning and, while the club lose a lot of promising young players, they are still fielding a side that compete in the top tier of the Munster Junior League.

Irish Independent