Connemara R.F.C are intent on having another successful season when domestic Rugby resumes in the province.
Last year’s Junior League and Cup(which was shared with Castlebar after the proposed final was postponed due to the pandemic) winners have been putting the necessary plans in place for the return of games.
Planning permission has been applied for an access road to the clubs proposed new training pitches -- due to be constructed on ten acres of land adjacent to their Monastery Field home, after planning permission was granted -- and further renovations have taken place to the existing facilities in the last few months.
The clubhouse, thanks to the volunteering of club members, was painted inside and out and, in order to take traffic off the main pitch due to the large number of underage players, the sand pitch behind the playing surface has been seeded with grass to provide extra training space.
Through the LEADER programme, the club has also recently availed of a grant that allowed them to purchase a defibrillator for their clubhouse.
The Blacks’ vice president, Fiona Shanahan, says that the club is excited for the resumption of games, across all levels, and hailed the work done by club members -- coaches, COVID officers, and volunteers -- to prepare the club not only for the upcoming season but also into the future.
“It looks great,” Shanahan, who will be the club’s first female president in May, said of the new training area and repainted clubhouse.
“We spent the whole summer cleaning up the clubhouse and preparing for the season. All volunteers, players of parents, etc, and it’s great to see.”
Girls Rugby has been thriving in the club in recent times, culminating with Megan Walsh -- a current Galwegians senior player, but who came through the underage system at Connemara -- representing the Ireland U18’s last year.
Connemara have girls underage teams from U12’s up to U18’s and it is Shanahan’s hope that -- when they reach the appropriate age -- the current underage girls players will form an adult team for the Blacks.
“We’d like to think so(that there would be a female adult team), because the numbers that are there are very enthusiastic,” she said.
“The only obvious problem is that if they and when they go to college they are not around as much and it’s just the logistics, but we are hopeful.”
Regarding the second pitch plan and the development of the ten acres of land, Shanahan is optimistic that these new facilities will offer the club the capacity to grow even further and ensure a healthy future.
“The planning permission has gone through for the development of the second pitch and the training pitches. We are just waiting now for planning permission for the new access road. It(the new facilities) will make a huge difference. There will be a development for a second pitch and two training areas and there will also be a full walkway around the perimeter of the pitches and that will be open to the public.”
The senior team is eager for the start of the campaign, with many undertaking individual training regimes, and will look to retain the trophies they won last season. With many players missing to Gaelic football commitments, Connemara won three of their Cawley Cup fixtures before the season was halted by the lockdown. Shanahan says that this is a testament to the depth of the senior squad, especially with younger players moving up from the U18’s ranks.
“There are a lot of young lads coming up from the U18’s. They need experience but they are good players. They are all excited for the season and lots of them are training individually and they are itching to go,” she said.
Shanahan also praised the efforts of some of the senior players in helping training with the underage teams prior to lockdown.
“It’s great to see the seniors coming out and helping with the underage. They are very enthusiastic to help them all. The kids look up to them and it’s great.”