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Club Focus: Listowel RFC

13th February 2015 By Munster Rugby

Club Focus: Listowel RFC

There is a long and proud history of rugby in the north Kerry town of Listowel.

There is a long and proud history of rugby in the north Kerry town of Listowel.

The first rugby club in the town was formed in 1899 and the club’s success has ebbed and flowed since then with sides enjoying success in the two West Munster competitions, winning the McElligott and Galwey Foley Cups on various occasions.

Past players at Listowel RFC include writer John B Keane and GAA and Aussie rules star Tadgh Kennelly. Membership at the club is on the rise with a large group of fully qualified coaches keen to volunteer their time with the club’s young players.

The club are thriving at mini and underage level and now cater for 250 players with the numbers growing every year. The club is fielding mixed mini rugby teams at all age groups from U-6s to U-12s and at youth level they field boys’ teams at U14, 15, 16 and 18s. One of the big success stories is the girls section which began in 2013 with teams at U-13, U-15 and U-18 level. The club were delighted to have one of their U-18 girls, Jamie Mullins, recently included in the Munster U-18 squad.""Listowel U-18 girls before playing their first ever league game earlier this season

Club president Andy Smith explained the secret to the club’s success in the girls’ section: “There’s been a huge explosion in players and the girls absolutely love rugby. We’ve linked in with all the schools in North Kerry with the help of Amanda Greensmith (Munster Women's Community Rugby Officer) and we now actually organise North Kerry Girls Junior and Senior Plate competitions.

"We organise that as an annual event with all the schools in north Kerry. At the moment we’re the only functioning girls’ team in Kerry and we’d have players from Tralee and Castleisland playing with our squads. And once you get the girls section going it does attract a few boys to come in! Our numbers are very good considering we’re in the GAA heartland here in North Kerry,” he added.

The boys’ sides aren’t doing too badly themselves with the U-16 side lifting the West Munster Cup last season. One area that the club are hoping to improve on are the facilities and they are looking to develop their own ground within the town. They currently rent two pitches off Kerry County Council and the Kerry Group but, with the club now catering for 250 players and numbers growing yearly, the development of new grounds would be a great boost as Smith explains: “We’re hoping to have an announcement in the near future regarding permanent grounds. If that comes off we’ll be launching a big fundraising drive to develop the facilities. The idea is that we’d develop community fields and during the summer months they can be used by the local cricket club, athletics club and GAA club to get more use. That’s the next big thing and we’re waiting to hear news within the next month.""Listowel U-14s proudly showing off this season's new kit

“There has been a big buy-in from the local community in North Kerry and West Limerick. Our club membership has soared and sponsorships have increased,” he added.

Like many clubs outside of the bigger cities in Ireland, Listowel have been badly affected by the economic situation and the exodus of players due to a lack of jobs.

This led the club to regretfully withdraw their senior team earlier this season although they are hopeful that the team can be resurrected next season.

Smith says: “We might try next year but we’ve been decimated by players going away. We’re in the same position as many clubs, Castleisland have lost their second team, Tralee are struggling to put the one team out. There’s no employment here. We have a lot of players coming through the underage they’re going to college and they’re still playing rugby but they’re not going to return to Kerry at the moment. We’ve produced an awful lot of players over the last few seasons and very few came through into our senior team.“

Listowel RFC is very much as a community club and the overriding ethos is on having fun. Throughout the season there are many social events organised with quiz nights, barbecues, Christmas parties, beach tag rugby, family fun days, awards nights and regular trips to watch Munster in Thomond Park. The youth section also go on an end-of-season tour with the annual social night one of the highlights of the year.

New members are always welcome and anyone wishing to play can email listowelrugby1899@gmail.com or telephone Andy Smith on 087 9673708.

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