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Club Focus: The Rise Of Tralee

10th October 2014 By Munster Rugby

Club Focus: The Rise Of Tralee

One of the oldest clubs in Munster, Junior League Division 1 side Tralee RFC was founded in 1882.

One of the oldest clubs in Munster, Junior League Division 1 side Tralee RFC was founded in 1882.

The club, based in the largest town in Kerry, boasts a thriving underage and Ladies’ section with the women’s team competing in the top tier of Irish club rugby after a phenomenal few years.

Up to 300 children train and play at the club’s O’Dowd Park base every Saturday with teams ranging from U-6s to U-18s.
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Two-time Munster Women’s Player of the Year Siobhán Fleming learned her trade – and still plays – at Tralee.

Former Munster man Danny Barnes, now at Newcastle Falcons, came through the youth system at the club as did Connacht’s Ultan Dillane.

The Under-8s at training in O'Dowd Park (right)

O’Dowd Park recently hosted the women’s Interprovincial decider between Munster and Connacht with an impressive seven Tralee players involved between the two sides.

A number of Tralee players were also involved in the recent underage Interprovincials, James O’Connor and Josh Barnes, brother of Danny, for the U-19s and Jack Quilter for the U-18 Clubs selection.

Ger Breen is the club’s Director of Rugby and has been a member of the club for over 20 years.

“I played at the club since U-6’s all the way up. I’ve retired now due to injury unfortunately and that’s why I stepped into the management breach and I can’t get away from it – I love it,” Breen enthused.

“At underage we are very strong at the moment. It’s testament to the structure that’s been there all along.

“Looking back, my predecessor, Jay Galvin, and Richie White, the former youth director, put a great structure in place and it’s still going strong.

“Since Jeremy Walsh, the Chairman, and myself came on board we made it our priority to make it a family-orientated club and bring more families into the club,” Breen added.

Tralee were the proud recipients of the Munster Junior Club of the Year award in 2010. That season saw the J1 side finish as the runners-up in the Munster Junior League Division 1 and the J2 team reached the final stages of their league and cup. The women's side won the Munster League Division 2 and the All Ireland Bowl titles.

The ladies team was resurrected just ten years ago after originally forming in 1986 and Breen couldn’t speak highly enough of the side.

“I know the bunch of girls and they’re the most committed players I’ve ever seen,” he said.

“I’ve never seen players like them, the commitment that these girls show to training is at a professional level. Their success is down to their hard work. They are a credit to the club.

""“A good few years ago my brother Declan brought girls up from a youth club up to start playing tag. It just blossomed from there with Mike Keane involved as well.

“All of a sudden we have a Ladies senior team and we’re in Division 1. We just planted a seed with the girls and they took to it like a duck to water,” he added.

The senior men’s side have lost both of their opening league clashes and Breen admitted that rugby plays second fiddle to the county’s most popular sport, Gaelic football.

The Tralee Girls in tag action against Listowel

“At senior level, we’re going through a re-building period like most clubs. This year we’ve gotten off to a bit of a slow start because of the Gaelic football and stuff like that.

“In the men’s team, a majority of players would also be involved in GAA. It does affect us in pre-season but the plus side is that they come back fit, they just don’t have much rugby played.

“It’s Kerry, what can you do, rugby is second place behind football around here!”

The club made the decision last year not to seek a major sponsor for their jersey but to promote Donal Walsh’s #Livelife message on the main panel of their shirt.

Tralee RFC took part in the #LiveLife charity walk from the Aviva to Thomond Park last February and plans are afoot for another event next year as Breen explains.

“We’re in the process of organising a walk from Cork to Dublin, hopefully finishing at the Six Nations game between Ireland and England.

“It’s going to be different, some parts of it will be walking but, logistically, it’s too hard for safety reasons.
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“We’ll be stopping at schools along the route and each school will then challenge the group of kids that we have to different activities. Be it a game of rugby, football, basketball, whatever.

Fionnbar Walsh will be giving motivational talks at all of the schools and it’s going to be big.

“Last year we took 30-something kids but next year we’re hoping to have a hundred kids with us and we’re inviting schools from all over Tralee to come on board with us and hopefully it will be a big success.

“It’s a fundraiser for the Live Life foundation and hopefully the club will benefit from it too.

“Any school that’s interested can contact us and we can do our best to get to every school on the route,“ Breen added.

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