Glory days remain huge source of inspiration
Club Focus, Co Carlow FC: Once heavyweights of senior rugby, Carlow outfit are working hard to add to their previous successes, writes Brian Lowry
With a strong history from humble beginnings, Co Carlow FC are still going strong.
While they might have suffered a fall from grace since those glory days around the turn of the millennium, they are still striving and providing a large base of players in the Carlow area in men's, women's and underage teams.
The Provincial Towns Cup is a competition to the forefront of their history with 12 wins to their name in 1929, 1931, 1933, 1957, 1961, 1965, 1977, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996 and 1997 when they also won the Leinster League Division 1.
With a strong cup tradition, that win in 1997 came on the back of the club winning the Leinster Junior League Division one and earning them the chance to qualify for the senior ranks. It was to be the start of a magical era for the club.
In the play-offs to become a senior club, they faced the Connemara Blacks, Midleton and Omagh.
They successfully came through and County Carlow became a senior club for the first time in their history and would line up in Division Four of the AIL in the 1997/98 season.
As a result, Leslie Dowley became the first representative of County Carlow Football Club on the Leinster Branch and the club's admission to senior status was proposed by John West (Trinity) and seconded by Rory Barry-Duke (Suttonians).
The good times continued to roll as in their first senior season they claimed the Division Four title and achieved another promotion up to Division Three.
The club were on a crest of a wave and it felt like nothing could stop them.
By the 2001/2002 season, the club had climbed all the way through the senior divisions and were playing Division One in the AIL.
This was a magical experience and achievement as they were the only junior club to ever pull off such a feat, a record they hold to this day.
They played Division One rugby for four great years but some poor seasons followed and by the time 2010 came around, they were back in the Leinster Junior League.
Off the field, County Carlow are also putting a lot of work into Leinster Rugby.
Following Dowley representing the club on the Leinster Branch, Des Kavanagh (2008/2009) and Stuart Bayley (2011/2012) have served as presidents and both continue to be a well-respected figures in Leinster Rugby circles.
The senior side are not the only side to have success on the rugby field. The second XV has won the Provincial Seconds Cup on six occasions while there have been four victories in the Anderson and five in the Dunne Cup with the Leinster League Division 2A seconds trophy also won last year.
With more than 30 trophies won at underage level over the years, success can be found in all pockets of the club.
County Carlow Football Club is a family-orientated club, drawing much of its support and playing strength from the local community.
The level of continuous involvement is exemplified by the Oliver family (all named James) who have provided four generations of players to the club, two captains and three presidents.
Jim Oliver Jnr also captained the Leinster Junior XV when the first Interprovincial against Munster was played in Oak Park in 1967.
As you would expect, the youths and minis are an integral and successful arm of the club.
The last few seasons have been particularly successful as after the club won BDO Junior Club of the Year in 2016, they won the Leinster U-18 Division 1 League, the Leinster U-18 Tom Darcy Cup and the Leinster U-16 Division 1 League the following year.
The minis are the lifeblood of a club and Co Carlow is no different. Saturday mornings in Oak Park are renowned to be a sea of black and amber jerseys with the next generation learning all about the game.
Minis start at U-7 and go right up to U-12 before the youths section kicks in to take players up to U-18 before hopefully going on adult level.
The club have a busy calendar playing and hosting blitzes throughout the south-east which allow the players to test the skills they have learned at training.
This is a great way for your kids to learn a new and exciting sport but also get to meet new friends and socialise. New members are always welcome.
The Carlow Coyotes/ Carlow IT Ladies Rugby Team was founded in 2010.
The team is an alliance between Carlow RFC and Carlow Institute of Technology and has gone from strength to strength since its formation.
The team currently play in Division 1 (AIL Qualifying League) and have an impressive list of achievements to date including Leinster League Division 4 champions 2011/12, Leinster League Division 2 champions 2012/13, Leinster Rugby Women's Club of the Year 2013, promotion to AIL Division 2 in 2013, and AIL Division 2 runners-up in 2015.
Ed Byrne, Bryan Byrne and Thomas Daly are products of the underage system and all three have represented the club with Leinster.
Grounds: Oakpark, Carlow
Colours: Black and Amber
Division: Leinster League Division 2A
Youths and minis: U-7 to U-18.
President: Ian Dwyer
Captain: Larry McGrath
Next week's club focus is on Wanderers FC