Roscommon CRDOs Growing the Game

23 February 2024

Roscommon CRDOs Growing the Game

CRDOs Darin Claasen (Buccaneers RFC) and Micheál Glennon (Creggs RFC) have been hard at work this year with their clubs and schools in their areas developing players from all ages, genders, and backgrounds and growing rugby in Roscommon with the help and support of the Roscommon County Council.

From minis to inclusion rugby to AIL, both Darin and Micheál have made visible footprints in the growth of rugby in Roscommon. CRDOs (Club Rugby Development Officers) are pivotal figures in the game of rugby within Connacht and the amount of work they put in during the season is immense. CRDOs are chosen at the beginning of each rugby season and some remain with their clubs into the Summer to help run events such as tag rugby, inclusion and mixed ability rugby, and summer camps. 

Meet Darin Claasen: "I first came over from South Africa in 2004 and spent 2 seasons playing with Castlebar RFC. While I was with Castlebar, I played for Connacht Juniors. I then spent a season playing with Young Munster in Limerick before moving onto Corrinthians RFC in Galway where I played outside centre, wing and Fullback. I started my coaching journey with Buccaneers as an assistant coach in 2014 and then head coach in 2018. I am currently in my 5th season as head coach with Tullamore."

Meet Micheál Glennon: "I've been CRDO for Creggs RFC since the 2017/18 season. Involved with National Schools, Girls Rugby, Minis Rugby, Secondary Schools, and more. If every club in Connacht could put some money away to fund a CRDO I think that rugby in the province would move forward in leaps and bounds in terms of participation and skill level."

Being a CRDO, there are many facets of the game that you can get involved in. Both Darin and Micheál are heavily involved in developing schools players in their areas. "Mornings are filled with tag sessions with National School kids and then afternoons I do more skills and match prep coaching with secondary schools," says Darin. 

"National Schools and Creggs Mini's (U6 to U12s) goes hand in hand. By coaching in the schools it drives the kids to want to play more rugby. We don't do contact in schools so I use the Aldi play rugby platform. Tags and belt are used to represent a tackle - fun games based around fundamental movement are a must," says Micheál. 

For both, the development of the schools has been instrumental in not only getting more players involved at the schools, but also in the clubs and even on a provincial and national level. 

"I coach secondary school teams in the Convent of Mercy (girls) in Roscommon Town along with Dave Purcell. The Convent have had success at Junior & Senior levels in the Connacht 10 aside leagues. The school had no rugby involvement before myself and Dave came on board and they committed to get rugby going. I'm also involved with the CBS Roscommon (boys) at U14 & Junior levels, with help on the U14 side from teacher Aaron Hynes & teacher Michael Casey on the junior side," says Micheál. "It's essential in my role that a teacher in the school takes charge of the teams day to day schedule in relation to games, training requesting referees, etc. I also coach in St Mary's Ballygar with PE teacher Owen Curran. Owen is the driving force for rugby in the school and in recent years has helped with getting girls rugby up and running. Ballygar now have girls playing at U14s, Junior and Senior."

Darin said about coaching in the schools, "Working with the national school kids is so rewarding, they absolutely love seeing you arrive for the tag sessions, just seeing them have fun, running around with a rugby ball and smiles on their faces is brilliant. Coaching the secondary schools is a little different because you are helping their develop their game, the rewarding part is seeing those learnings transfer into their game."

The work and excitement both Darin and Micheál have put into the schools was evident when Athlone Community College fielded their first ever U14 Girls team and played their first game against Convent of Mercy Roscommon. While the two CRDOs are with different clubs and schools, the work they are doing runs in tandem and they are able to support each other's sides along the way. 

When asked about his standout moment from the year so far, Darin mentioned the Athlone Community College team immediately, "We got girls rugby started in the Athlone Community College this season and they fielded their ever under 14 girls' team. Seeing the girls play their 1st game and doing exceptionally well was a standout memory."

"Just last week, the Connacht U18 girls beat Leinster in Athlone at Dubarry Park (Buccaneers RFC). Creggs RFC had 8 girls on the squad with 5 of our girls on the starting team. Sarah Purcell captioned the team and 3 secondary schools were represented on the day. Convent of mercy (5), St Mary's Ballygar (2) and Roscommon community college (1)," noted Micheál. "Given the fact that none of these schools had rugby before, Creggs & Roscommon County Council decided to help fund the CRDO role, showing the value of the role to the club/community & schools."

With all the work they've done to-date, they're not finished yet. Darin will be coaching the Connacht Juniors this summer along with the Connacht Age Grade squads while Micheál will be busy with tag, inclusion rugby, and summer camps. 

"Its a brilliant bridge to help more kids try out the game of rugby. The introduction of tag in national schools gives them an idea of the fun involved with rugby and encourages them to join their local rugby club. Without the CRDOs going into schools and introducing rugby in a fun, engaging way, I believe rugby clubs would struggle to build on their numbers," says Darin.

We can't wait to see how much more these two CRDOs will achieve.