Rathdrum RFC president says youth system is key to success
RUGBY NEW PRESIDENT TALKS ABOUT HIS ROLE AT THE CLUB
RATHDRUMRUGBY. COM talks to new Rathdrum Rugby Football Club President, John Cashman about his new role at the club, the strides taken by the club over the last few years and his hopes for the current season.
John, May we first congratulate you on your election as Club President for the coming season. You must feel honoured?
It was definitely a great honour to be elected President of Rathdrum RFC for the 2008-09 season and also a very humbling experience when I think of all the past presidents who held this position.
I have essentially grown up in the club, some of my earliest memories are attending matches watching my father, with my mother in the old pitch beside Avondale.
Once I was able to run I started acting as ball boy which was tough work in those days as the pitch was practically at a 45 degree angle and any kicked ball would nearly end up on the Avondale Road.
And we believe you are not the first Cashman to hold the top job in Rathdrum Rugby Football Club?
No, both my parents were founder members of the club and are still heavily involved in it.
My father was club president for a considerable period of the 1980’s and Mum was on the committee up until two years ago.
My mother says that I was the first child born into the club and now as president, the first of the second generation to hold that post.
And how are you settling into the job?
Very well I hope! I am exceptionally fortunate to have a very dedicated and hard working committee who help run the club in a very professional manner.
We are all working towards the same goal and that is to ensure that the club can compete effectively at all levels from under 8s to senior 1sts.
There is no doubt that I have a hard act to follow in Padraig Smith who was President for the last 4 years.
The club has thrived under his stewardship and I hope I can bring some of the same success as he did over the past few years.
Do you think it will be long before the club begins to host the after match reception at its new clubhouse at the Ivy Leaf grounds?
We certainly plan to one day have full post match receptions in the clubhouse.
At the moment it is a question of prioritising our expenditure and building up the more essential facilities in the club. In the space of only a few short years we have gone from a situation where we changed in a container, to a state of the art clubhouse with four changing rooms and two shower blocks.
We now have two fully playable pitches, one all weather and a fully equipped gym for the use of our members on the first floor of the clubhouse.
None of these projects would have been possible without the hard work of a dedicated few members such as Larry Parsons, Tony and Kerrin Buck, Padraig Smith and the other members who clubbed together to help fit out the premises.
At the moment we are in the process of installing floodlighting that one day will enable us to have full nighttime matches.
This present project is the focus of our attention and fundraising at the moment and major fundraising initiatives will continue until it is completed.
Once we have fulfilled our ambition of having the finest rugby facilities in county Wicklow, then we will look at a social area.
This really should be the icing on the cake in terms of the culmination of so much effort over the preceding years.
After the heroics of winning the league last season, the club has been promoted to Leinster League, Division 2 this year. How are things shaping up and do you think we have what takes to last the pace?
We have the same coaching team in place this year as we had last. Jason Emery as head coach has brought many new ideas and beliefs into the club from his playing days at a high level in New Zealand.
He is ably assisted by Morgan Sheridan who is a specialist backs coach, having learnt his trade playing with Terenure at both schools and All Ireland league level. The club has absolute faith in this coaching team and with club captain David Walshe the team will not be found wanting on the rugby pitch. We have started the season well this year, drawing with local rivals Wicklow who are a division ahead of us and beating Kilkenny one of the traditional powerhouses of provincial rugby in Leinster.
Morale and expectations are justifiably high in Rathdrum at present and with essentially the same squad with a few new players we look forward to the Leinster League with confidence.
It has been mentioned that the lack of fixtures and the late cancellation of fixtures was a real problem last season in terms of producing a consistent development side. Do you agree and how do you see the development side fairing this year?
The development team is in many ways as important as the senior first’s squad. It is with this team that we get the opportunity to blood new players, re- introduce guys after injury and also facilitate those who for whatever reasons can’t make as much training as they would like.
it We have the nucleus of a very good team with a fantastic combination of experience and youth.
Players like Willie Byrne, Karl Kennedy, Anto Byrne, Brian Burke and Darragh Flannery have played at all levels from under-10s up to seniors and it’s great to see them still play together for Rathdrum on a Sunday.
There is no separation between players in Rathdrum, if guys perform to their potential they can easily end up playing for the firsts and equally if someone takes things a little too easy they can be replaced.
This keeps everyone on their toes and ensures healthy competition for a starting place on a Sunday.
The Drumettes have really taken the club by storm over the last two seasons and have cemented Rathdrum Rugby Club as the home of women’s rugby in Co. Wicklow. As Club President you must be very proud of their achievements?
The Drumettes have come from nowhere to be the heart and soul of the club in only three years. All credit to their establishment must go to Dave Fox who saw the opportunity a few years ago to start a senior ladies team in Rathdrum.
This idea came about with the help of two local girls, Sarah Jane Belton and Germaine Healy, who as established woman’s international rugby players asked the club if they could train with the men during the summer.
They were accepted with open arms and this set in motion the movement to establish a team for women not only in Rathdrum but all of Co. Wicklow. Rathdrum is the only club in county Wicklow with a senior women’s team and attracts players from all over the county. Sarah Jane and Gerri still pop by whenever they get the chance to help train the girls, which is always a big thrill as both girls have captained their country in international matches.
Not many teams of any sport in Wicklow can claim to have two former Ireland captains as coaches.
The introduction of the Drumettes has led to some of the boys taking more care in their appearance, a nicer smell around the changing rooms and even a few romances have started on the rugby pitch in Rathdrum.
During the recent southeast games, it was noticeable that 90 per cent of the players on display for Rathdrum had come through the club’s youth system. You must be delighted by this?
The success of any club relies heavily of the volunteer coaches and successful nurturing of players from under 8s all the way through to seniors.
There is no reason why a child starting out in rugby at age 6 or 7 can’t finish in adulthood playing for Ireland in Lansdowne Road or Croke Park.
It is testament to the youth structures that were put in place by the likes of Larry Parsons, Dave Fox and Pete Mc Williams that today the majority of our players have played all their life in Rathdrum. As the old TV ad goes, ‘a club is more than just a club; it s a family’. Well this is especially true in Rathdrum where we have a very close knit community and a rugby club that has grown up together.
We are not just fellow club members but friends, and anyone new to the club is welcomed and made feel very special and part of the family. At least ten of our starting 15 in the last few games have played together since under 14s and with more players breaking through, the future is very bright for Rathdrum Rugby Club.
How is the club’s current crop of youngsters getting on and what do you see as being the main challenges facing our youth system over the coming years?
At present we have every level of rugby from under-8s all the way up to 16s. Next year, we will be establishing an under18s.
Realistically this is as far as we can go with the youth structure, as after 18s guys head off to college and filter back in dribs and drabs to our senior structures.
We have some excellent coaches at mini and youth levels, Dave Cross our youth co-ordinator is doing a fantastic job in ensuring both coaches and games are in place for our stars of the future. All minis train on a Saturday morning, 14s and 16s after school during the week.
The club also has a youth development officer, Neil Short who travels around to all the primary schools in the locality taking classes for rugby training.
This is a great way for kids to learn about rugby and gives them the opportunity to be a Brian O’Driscoll or Paul O’Connell for a few hours every week. Every summer we run a rugby summer camp, this year the kids were delighted to be visited by Shane Byrne and Gordon Darcy, a great thrill for some of the Drumettes as well!!!
The biggest challenge facing us for the future is the recruitment of coaches, we are always looking for volunteers to help out at every level in the club. If you are reading this and you want to help out please visit our website and get in touch, your help and support would be greatly appreciated.
Finally, the first wave of third generation players has started in Rathdrum, congratulations to Ronan and Pam, Jason and Ann Marie, and Moggs and Brenda for supplying the club with the nucleus of the Rathdrum 2028 senior team.
Incoming Rathdrum RFC President, John Cashman with his mother Telia and fiance Lara.