Volunteer effort and fresh look hands Cork club a boost
Club focus: Bandon RFC
Bandon RFC have the tradition, the very best volunteers and now the facilities to match as they bid to compete with the gold standard in Munster club rugby.
But their president Dan Murphy has a vision that looks beyond immediate success. Physical results are crucial along the way but he wants to ensure his younger players have an experience that will last them a lifetime there.
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The club was first established in 1882, one of the earliest in the country, and since their move from the Macroom Road they have looked to create a set of facilities that can attract from far and wide.
Old Chapel is Bandon's home since their centenary and the addition of better pitches, floodlighting and the next venture, more dressing-rooms, means they have a very appealing product.
Murphy is in his second and final year as president, and remembers fondly the day when Ricky O'Sullivan invited him to assume the role.
"Sometimes you are the third, fourth or fifth choice but I was the first person he asked and it is a fierce honour to be president of this club," says Murphy. "Similarly, the incoming president Barry Walsh, he jumped at being president because there is a lot of pride in it."
Murphy hails from Cork city where he played hurling and football with Bishopstown growing up. He also played soccer for Wilton. Then he joined the local Highfield RFC along with his school friends and that's where his love of rugby began.
He moved to Bandon when he was 19 and played at centre for the club there too. Murphy finished playing in his early-thirties and he had already served on the committee at that stage.
"The club had just moved from Macroom Road where it was a farmer's pitch that we used to play on," said Murphy. "It was the club's centenary year so we opened our new pitches and we had two pitches at the time and a clubhouse."
Niall O'Driscoll, John 'Doc' O'Driscoll and Joe McLoughlin were some of the leaders in helping the club thrive through their move to a new location.
Bandon's roots were set down halfway between Clonakilty and Cork city where their catchment includes areas ranging from Bandon, Newcestown, Kilbrittain, Inishannon, Ballinadee, Ballinspittle and Ballineen.
It's a big community-run effort, where the members and their families rally around when their local club are in need.
A real example of the togetherness and hard work that goes on beyond the scenes, came to the fore when Bandon RFC went to their people looking for funds to help erect new lighting and improve their facilities in general.
"We did get some lottery funding from the government but the majority would have been done with fundraising and local benefactors and things like that," says Murphy.
"We have a very strong membership and lottery as well. We run a lottery in the club on a weekly basis.
"Last year we had a fundraiser, 'Bandon on Broadway'. It is a fundraiser where you got various groups of people together and they mimed a Broadway Musical. That was a big fundraiser, they made about €30,000. We had a lot of club members involved and parents as well. It was very, very successful."
That fundraising led to two full-size pitches under match-quality lights, along with greater training pitches. Now there are 350 kids playing rugby every Saturday morning while 75 coaches are involved in it too.
It's a massive undertaking, and in the long run they should be in line to join the All-Ireland League. But he wants to see an equal measure of progression off the field before senior rugby comes to Old Chapel.
"We played Ballina in the play-offs the year we won the Junior League, and Ballina have gone on to Division 2B," said Murphy. "Speaking to people in Ballina or Bruff, most teams in the Munster Junior League would compete very well lower divisions of the All-Ireland league. They would be very comfortable at it. It is as you go up through the next levels of it that is where the struggle is.
"When you get involved in the All-Ireland league there is a massive time commitment and financial costs associated with it. If success comes you take it but looking for it would be a different story. If it landed on the door we would embrace it. You have to strive to be the best. But they are very difficult to try and run a club like that on a voluntary basis.
"You put so much effort into it, our committee and the backroom, we are happy to put the amount of effort we do into the underage section because it is all about the youth of today and the kids. It is about trying to make sure they come through our clubs and go out having enjoyed our clubs, be better people, players and adults. That is real success.
"Trophies and medals are success as well, but the real barometer is how successful the enjoyment of the kids coming through your club is."
Murphy is living the dream, being president of such a huge junior club, and he maintains that the volunteers are the heroes at Bandon RFC.
"Every club would tell you they are proud of what they do and who is involved in it, that is unique to every club in soccer, rugby, GAA," he adds.
"But at the moment in Bandon we have a very good structure with good people involved. I am proud to be associated with those people because I see the effort they put in.
"Last Saturday we had nine buses leave the club going to different locations playing different matches from U-7 all the way through to U-16. Our U-18s had played in Crosshaven the previous night. That is some achievement to get them out there, enjoy themselves and get them home safe."
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