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Club Focus: Bantry Bay RFC

18th October 2013 By Munster Rugby

Club Focus: Bantry Bay RFC

Bantry Bay RFC is located in the heart of West Cork and is the focal point for rugby from the Sheep’s Head Peninsula to the Beara Peninsula and reaches as far inland as the Gaeltacht area of Ballingeary.

Bantry Bay RFC is located in the heart of West Cork and is the focal point for rugby from the Sheep’s Head Peninsula to the Beara Peninsula and reaches as far inland as the Gaeltacht area of Ballingeary.

This year, the club celebrates the 21st anniversary of its reformation in 1992 (the club was originally founded in 1926) and looking back it is justifiably proud of the developments made on and off the pitch. Bantry Bayhas built to a"" membership of nearly 200 and fields teams at all age groups from under 6 right up to adult level. The philosophy the club has embraced is that participation is key and each player is valued and welcomed as part of the team.

Following the club’s foundation it quickly tasted success winning the County Cup in 1931 for the first time. This was an honour the club achieved three more times in the 1930’s. This golden era ended when, due to petrol shortages, the club ceased to operate in 1941. They did play for one season in 1951 with the final game against Bandon. The club was reformed in 1992 and, building around a core group of dedicated volunteers and experienced players, the team and club developed, achieving success in winning the League Cup in 1994/95 under the captaincy of Pat Walsh.

In the early 2000’s, Bantry Bay saw a steady increase in the number of underage players joining the club. With great foresight, the club appointed a Club Community Rugby Officer (CCRO) in a joint initiative with Munster Rugby to help assist coaches and volunteers. Eugene McCarthy has held that position together with the position of Director of Coaching to this day. In that time he has become the heart-beat of the club, an example to players and fellow coaches alike. He has driven the success of the club in terms of player development and coaching standards with a quiet determination grounded in hard work and selfless dedication.

""In his role as CCRO he travels across the peninsulas & beyond, daily working in schools, in training, in supporting Munster development programmes and travelling to matches. “The challenges in developing the game in an area where the sport is considered as third place are significant” he states. “The main focus is on giving as many people as possible the opportunity to play the sport and develop their skills. The club is always welcoming to and inclusive of players, families and supporters. The game teaches discipline and respect and gives opportunities for travel, fun and friendship.”

A huge focus of the CCRO work is to bring rugby into the schools – both primary and post primary in the area. This has brought huge successes with more schools contacting the club to participate. For example, building on success in the King Cup, Mungret Shield, Aidan Ross Cup and Laya Healthcare Cup in Coláiste Pobal Bheanntraí, there are boys and girls teams playing at each age level.

The combined work in schools and in the club has produced a high standard of youth players and this is reflected in the club’s representation at Munster Youths, RDS and cadet level. Driving long distances, all of the coaching and the hard work by players has brought successes. Tim Cronin and Mike Casey have played in all three games for Munster U18’s club team in their recent interprovincial series and Dylan Murphy won his first cap as tighthead for Munster in the combined development U17 team against Connacht recently. The club acknowledges the contribution of Frank Conroy who leads the strength conditioning training twice weekly. This work plays a huge part in the success of their youth teams but is often not seen on match day.

This success comes despite the significant challenge of not having a club pitch or other facilities. The present committee has prioritised getting a home pitch and is actively fundraising and doing the background work to make sure this happens. In the future, the club would like to build on its community involvement. At this time Bantry Bay RFC is grateful for its partnership with Cork Education and Training Board (formerly the VEC) and Bantry Rowing Club, for the use of training facilities.

Under the new Club Faculty Programme, run by the IRFU, Bantry Bay RFC has prioritised the training and upskilling of"" existing coaches. The club has put together a plan for this season in conjunction with Munster Rugby Community Officer Ray Gadsden. This process will focus the club and the coaching staff on all facets of training techniques across all the age groups. Coaches will be participating in upcoming Mini and Foundation Courses in Cork in November which is another huge stride in terms of rugby development says the Club’s Coaching Co-Ordinator Mike Lithgow “moving forward the Faculty will provide Bantry Bay RFC with a set of best practise standards on coaching and player development that will strengthen the club every year”. A number of members have also been trained as referees, to support the game throughout the region.”

At Junior Level, the club has been hit hard by emigration. This season, Bantry Bay is continuing to field teams at both J1 and J3 level jointly with neighbouring club Dunmanway RFC. “We are delighted that both clubs can work so closely together to maintain their Junior status. This will continue the player pathway for each club into the future” said Ray Hennessy, Club President.

A new initiative this year is the introduction of a Girls Rugby Team. Following a ‘Give it a Try’ session, the club now runs training twice a week for girls aged 12 to 16 and are delighted with the response and with the growth in numbers each week.

The future is bright for rugby across the peninsulas surrounding Bantry Bay RFC. The club is always open to welcome new players, coaches & volunteers. Follow the club on Facebook “Bantry Bay RFC” or follow them on Twitter “@Bantry_Rugby”.

Bantry Bay Club Officers:

President: Ray Hennessy
Chairperson: Joanna McCarthy
Honorary Secretary: Denyse Scully
Director of Rugby: Eugene McCarthy
Coaching Co Ordinator: Mike Lithgow
Mini Contact: Damien Hicks

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