By John O’Sullivan 

 

The recently completed Connacht Rugby and Bank of Ireland For The Love of The Club virtual run/walk raised over €30,000 for Club and Community rugby in Connacht. 

 

Over 2,000 people put on their running shoes in aid of the Connacht club of their choice or —  for the unaffiliated —  club and community rugby in the province generally with all of the money raised going directly to the cause. 

 

The event wasn’t just confined to the four corners of the five western counties, and participants took part in 25 Irish counties and 11 different countries, which shows the breadth of the Connacht Rugby club & community footprint throughout the world.

 

We caught up with some of the international contingent who shared their stories, images of their walking/running route, and how the event helped them stay connected to their clubs and — by extension – their communities in the midst of a global pandemic. 

 

John Gorham represented Connemara RFC from Chicago. The Clifden native said that the For The Love of The Club event enabled him — and his fellow participants, including the 2016 Rose of Tralee — to stay in touch with his home club.

 

“My friends and I really enjoyed our run,” he said. 

 

“We started and finished at “the Kerryman pub” here in Chicago. We ran a 5k course that is used for the running club during the summer.  We kept the runners to a minimum due to restrictions.

 

 “When finishing we settled in for a “couple” of pints to watch Ireland beat England.

 

 “Among our runners was the 2016 Rose of Tralee Maggie McEldowney and a couple of guys from the Chicago Lions Rugby Club.

 

 “I love the fact that events like this help me stay in touch with my club back home. Connemara RFC has always had a place in my heart and with social media, online lotto, and now events like this I can stay in touch and contribute to the club.”

 

John Gorman, centre, and his fellow runners/walkers in Chicago.

 

 

Moving continents, Jonathan Cleary took part in the run/walk in aid of Ballyhaunis RFC in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Cleary was proud to represent the Mayo club, whom he described as a community focal point. 

 

“Ballyhaunis RFC have a long and treasured tradition in the community and are a focal point for many a generation,” he said. 

 

“It’s fantastic to see the progress the Club has made in terms of their underage programmes, facilities, and a wide network that reaches far beyond the town. I would like to wish them every success in the future and look forward to bigger, brighter, and better things once the lockdown has passed.”

 

Jonathan Cleary took part in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

 

Elsewhere, Martin McDonagh ran in aid of Corinthians RFC in Melbourne, Australia.

 

“Connacht Rugby had been a huge part of my life from a very young age being involved with Corinthians and having had the opportunity to work and be involved in Connacht over the years so I found it important to show my support from Melbourne, Australia for a great cause,” he said.

 

Martin McDonagh’s running route through Melbourne

 

By John O’Sullivan 

 

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.”

Almost 20 of the pro players made the picturesque trip up the N59 this morning to visit the totalhealth Pharmacy Connacht Rugby Summer Camp at Connemara RFC in Clifden, Co. Galway.
 
The club, which is home to full-back Tiernan O’Halloran, have enjoyed a brilliant few years on the pitch – culminating in their Connacht Junior League and Cup double success in the 2018/19 season.
 
This week over 70 kids are enjoying the camp at the Clifden venue, and were lucky enough to play some games with the players who were making their latest squad visit to a Connacht club.
 
Check out some of the best pics from a great day.

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