21fam7675Connacht Rugby’s final homegame family fun day roared into action shortly before 3pm Saturday drawing close to a thousand children on the side pitch.

Connacht domestic rugby staff, contracted Academy players and Gort’s Garrett Piggott, refereed, minded, cajoled and co-erced dozens upon dozens of budding Connacht stars to ply their talents before the main game kicked off against the nearly-departed Aironi.

Despite two kiddie castles, face-painting, a rugby-skills assault course, and game of “touch” the greatest stream of kids parked up several metres from Connacht Rugby logistics manager Martin Joyce’s pass-trainer hoop. The contraption, which features a 40cm sock-and-hole system helps hone passing accuracy for the province’s elite players. On Saturday it stood in as a low-maintenance babysitter while kids pre-school to fifth and sixth-class fired ball after ball into its jaws. 21fam7677

Down the road at the Carlton Hotel, Domestic Rugby Manager Lyndon Jones and Branch President John Carr hosted a creche of their own, for husbands. Attended by club and college dignitaries from about the Connacht catchment, enthusiasm there rivalled that at the park.

OLBC’s Debbie Crowley, and Dunmore rugby Godmother Helen Gunning evened up the gender disparity and were on hand as President Carr acknowledged the support of Mazda, ESB and Supermacs with framed and mounted senior team photos.

Connacht’s outgoing chief executive Gerry Kelly regaled all there in his own inimitable fashion; Connacht’s inaugural chief of rugby’s professional era.

21vol7705Ulster-based IRFU committee man Stephen Hilditch MBE resumed where CEO Kelly left off and on behalf of the Branch acknowledged three service records with crystal tankards. 21ger7698

Dr Willie O’Flynn, still active in the Branch as medical team committee chair and chief advisor, devoted much of his rugby career (and professional) to the medical side of amateur and professional sport. UCG by allegiance, Dr O’Flynn is a name highly-respected by his Galway patients, city rugby devotees, the greater Connacht catchment, and IRFU authorities. The doctor held court as Branch president in 1996/97.

Galwegian Johnny Brennan spent much of his playing career floating between Galwegians underage, senior, junior and social squad front-rows before turning his hand to club youth rugby administration. Such was his enthusiasm and efficacy, he was invited to repeat the feat within Branch halls. He served a seven-year apprenticeship as Youths Committee recording secretary before assuming Committee secretary reins. 

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Particularly notable were his contributions come Cup rugby time. Given the prevalence of teams entered in knockout championship and plate competitions, and the fact several clubs enter two teams in some grades the logistics are immense. Compounded by the fact drawn games, be they regular or finals, must be refixed and replayed, Brennan’s January, February and March months are among the most labour-intensive of all Branch volunteers.21vol7708

21fam7681Schools rugby chairman Paul Cafferkey steps down this year after 15 years involved in schools football in Munster and Connacht. The Loughrea principal has ticked as many boxes in schools rugby as possible, coaching and selecting junior squads and First XVs, performing the same at Branch level, sitting as secretary and chairman on the Youths committee, and selecting at IRFU level.

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