Tuesday 24 April 2018

'We all work together - community is core for us'

Club focus: Galbally RFC

The Galbally team with the Garryowen Cup
The Galbally team with the Garryowen Cup

Daragh Small

Having to compete with the local GAA and football teams right on their doorstep, and five rugby clubs within a ten-mile radius, Galbally RFC have achieved against the odds in recent years but it remains an ongoing battle in many aspects.

It's a constant fight to both retain numbers, and add to the current player base who have served the club so well over the past decade.

Ian Keatley and Simon Zebo practise their celebration routine. Photo: Sportsfile
Ian Keatley and Simon Zebo practise their celebration routine. Photo: Sportsfile

Success has come on the field at underage level, and club president Michael Sweeney explains that winning the East Munster U-16 Cup was due to the fantastic coaching and volunteers in the area.

"The structure around coaching has improved and we have a very committed core bunch of people at player and officer level, good old-fashioned hard-work has brought us on," says Sweeney.

"Last year was a good year. For the first time ever we got into the All-Ireland qualifiers.

"We beat Gorey away in the first round, and we were unlucky enough to be drawn away again in the second round against Palmerstown. We lost to them.

"We hit a run of injuries just after that and before Christmas. We had a difficult time in the league this season but still finished up in the top half of it."

But despite performing heroics on the field, they have Clanwilliam, Kilfeacle, Mitchelstown, Bruff and Fermoy all nearby and that creates its own problems.


Players can be drawn elsewhere, while further education and work is another issue which prevents the club from achieving at optimum efficiency.

"Rugby is thriving in the area at the moment, but like every club there seems to be a bit of a fall-off in the 18 to 20 age-group," says Sweeney.

"I am involved in Munster Youths as well and this is a problem we are seeing right across the province. But we are working against it.

"It's a case of guys going to Dublin. Lads of that age all go to college now, but there are multiple different facets to it.

"And when it comes to other sports we have a situation where the three Galbally clubs are all located side by side but we work closely together.

At certain times the different clubs will utilise each other's premises and you won't find that in too many places in the country.

"Galbally GAA, Galbally soccer, Galbally rugby are all there. There is a strong crossover right across the board. We have to work together at player, coach level and within the community for different events.

"Community is absolutely core for us."

And it needs to be, in the town on the Limerick and west Tipperary border, at the foot of the Galtee Mountains - Galbally is also part of the Glen of Aherlow.

"The infrastructure is quite good, we have got our own pitch, and our own full-quality match lights, our own club-house," adds Sweeney.

"We have all the facilities and we own them all. It's critical to get that side of it right. That's a long-term project for us.

"We put in top-quality match lights in the height of the recession in 2009. Most people thought we were mad but they will stand to us in the future.

"And in the future we should have even better players too.

"We would are quite well underage right now. We have a much smaller pool of players so we have to work harder.

"But our U-16s finished in the top four in Munster this year and won the East Munster Cup. We measure ourselves to have a highly competitive youth team each year."

And although the catchment pool is small Galbally play so competitively at such a high level because of the standards they set through their community spirit and willingness to succeed.

"The core of Galbally is that it is focused on such a small community and it's very community-based," says Sweeney.

"They have a very strong connectivity between all the people involved with the club because our catchment area is so small.

"There is a real community format between the infrastructure of the club. But it's about hard work and it continues - it doesn't get any easier."

Sweeney is a west Clare native, from Doolin just beside the Cliffs of Moher, but he moved to Galbally in 1983.

He owns an environmental consultancy business now, and is in his second year as president of Galbally, while his son Mark plays for the Galbally first team - a team which has an average age of just 22.

And Sweeney wants to ensure there is prosperous future for the club and these players can find reason to stay put.

From September of this year Galbally will look to extend their resources into the local schools, where a mini coordinator will attempt to recruit youngsters for the fledgling age-groups.

It's another step in the right direction for a club making all the right moves on and off the pitch, with a president who is determined to see his club succeed.

The annual fund-raising barbeque takes place this year on June 17, and after putting in place the foundations for the future, Galbally will continue to find other areas where they can grow.

"Jeremy and Willie Staunton started out their careers playing for Galbally and that proves how far you can go with the help of this club," says Sweeney.

"And it's another great boost that Munster are playing well too. But we have been lucky particularly over the last decade and a half, we have been consistently improving and lifting our performances.

"We would have been in the top half of the J1 league for the last number of years, we finished top four last season. Galbally RFC has a bright future and we have shown what we are capable of if the club continues to grow at all levels."

Galbally Factfile

Address: Mitchelstown Rd, Galbally, Co Limerick

Founded: 1973

Famous player: Jeremy Staunton

Head coach: Shaun Curry

Captain: Brendan Childs

Irish Independent

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