Ring out the Old, Ring in the New.
And so we have bid Farewell to 2016 and a Big Welcome to 2017. The Rugby Season’s mid-term break affords us the opportunity to reflect on performance and Club activities in the year to date. A positive story on all fronts with, paraphrasing the political maximum, “Lots Done, Much More to Do” which hopefully should see us through to the end of a very successful and enjoyable year for all Club members.
We stand at the top of the AIL League by a margin of 4 points over the closest rivals with seven wins from nine matches played. This is a fantastic position to be in and can hopefully be replicated at the end of the Season. It is a credit to Rugby Coaching and Management in the personages of Mike Ruddock and Mark McHugh (Coaching), Colin Goode (Chair of Rugby) and Stephen Rooney (Director of Rugby) and Team Manager Paddy Gore. This is complemented by the on-field leadership of Club Captain, Ian Prendiville. The Match Reports filed by Michael Daly on the Club Website in the Fixtures & Results section make for interesting reading and succinctly recount the story so far. What is abundantly clear is that we are endowed with an excellent squad and management which play as a team – one for all and all for one. It is also hugely satisfying to witness the return of the Gardiner’s, the Butterworth's, the Earle’s and the Moran’s to compliment and assist established players in leading the increasingly significant numbers graduating from the U20’s section.
One of the features of this Season, as anyone who has attended AIL Division 1 matches will attest to is the fact that any team in the League is, on its day, capable of beating any other team in the League. As a consequence the potential of all opponents must not be underestimated and nothing whatsoever taken for granted. The standard of Rugby has in general been very high and a number of Try Bonus Point wins against very capable opposition has demonstrated this fact and contributed to the modest but very welcome points cushion advantage we now hold at the half way stage.
The J1’s are top of the league in joint position with UCD on 34 points a hugely creditable performance. Indeed the team were very close to beating UCD in Belfield only to be denied a convertible try in injury time in that game. A Stand-Out moment from the Season so far is a fine win 21-20 away to Terenure surviving a late Terenure surge and a failed drop goal.
There is tremendous and healthy competition for places in the J1/Senior XV with the graduation of Mark O’Keefe and Dan McEvoy being just two examples of the benefits of the close association between the squads. Full credit also to our coaching and management colleagues at this level in the personages of Will Mathews (also heavily involved in the Youth and Mini initiatives) and to Ciaran Mylod who manages the squad and who, sporadically but invaluably, performs a cameo and effective playing role!!!
The J2’s lie 6th whilst the J3’s lie 4th in their respective Leagues. Whilst the J3’s are in the hunt for a play off place the J2’s have had some bad luck compounded by the losses of the half-back pairing of Kev Quinlan and Ben Geraghty to career opportunities in London. Both are very much missed and we look forward to seeing them back in Lansdowne strip should they venture back this way. Notable J2 performances in the season to date include wins against Barnhall, Mary’s home and away and Seapoint.
The J3’s have already produced silverware in the form of the Copeland Cup for a J3 Blitz at Old Wesley earlier in the Season. They have continued in this vein with a great win against Bective in November but face tough task in a forthcoming return match against that opposition and a challenging examination away to Skerries on January 13.
The Club’s performance in Leagues at these levels is undoubtedly influenced by the fact that they more often than not find themselves pitted against opposition obliged to select from one level higher to field a team. Draws for the O’Connell Cup (J2) and Moran Cup (J3) are imminent and will offer our squads at these levels the opportunity to compete against their natural peers. Again, full credit to all who have and are playing J2/J3 and to the dedication and work of Marc Flood (Controller), Dave Tunney (Manager) and Ian Hopkins and Joe Walsh on the coaching front. The input of Mark McMahon at this level and indeed at U20 is and has been first class and is very much appreciated.
A significant number of his charges in the Youth and Mini Section have come through to junior Rugby this Season and the impact has been hugely significant and positive.
We are enjoying a stellar season so far at this level with 9 wins from 9 games in the JP Fanagan Premier 1 League. The team are top of the League and have amassed 8 bonus points so far. Two outstanding performances come to mind in their campaign to date. The first, at home against Trinity and trailing 12-25 at half time they constructed an outstanding second half performance to come out winners 37-25 scoring 25 unanswered points in the second period. Another such performance was in the Bowl away against UCD in which they trailed by 13 points at one stage late in the first half only to come back and win 23-21 at full time. Exciting stuff!!
As previously referred to, another hugely gratifying aspect of the Season so is the contribution by the U20 Squad to the Senior XV and Junior Rugby in the Club. Amongst those who have contributed at AIL and First XV level for the Club so far are Tadgh McElroy, Paul Boyle, Barry Fitzpatrick, Harry Brennan, Oisin Dowling, Max Deegan and Peter Hastie. What is even more remarkable is Peter Hastie’s case is that he is still in Secondary School and is due to sit his Leaving Certificate in June. Surely one to watch!! The U20’s continue to play that hallmark brand of open rugby which is a pleasure to watch and a great way to spend an hour or two as a spectator on a Sunday afternoon. It is uncertain as to whether the IRFU will organise an All Ireland U20 this Season (no announcement to date) but this squad would be sure to make an impression were it to come to pass. The remainder of the Season holds the prospect currently of a very exciting second phase of League matches augmented by the McCorry Cup which should commence in or about late March. Full credit to the Squad and to the leadership of Captain Brian Larkin and to the guiding hands of Ed Lyons (Director U20 Rugby) Mark McMahon (Manager) and Coaches Declan Fassbender and Ben Armstrong.
Youth and Minis
We are blessed in Lansdowne to be possessed of a hugely vibrant Youth and Minis section which involves 419 players and a team of up to 88 coaches across 12 age and gender categories. The participation of so many parents and dedication of all involved in providing a first class Rugby and team game experience for the children and young adults has few if any parallels. Kieran Walsh who represents this vibrant section on the Club Executive penned a summary of activity to date at the end of November. This update which is well worth a read may be found by following the link http://lansdownerugby.com/news/details/youth_mini_update
This Season our facilities at Youth and Mini level have been augmented by the addition of the G4 Pitch at St. Michael’s College, Ailsbury Road. This Club is extremely appreciative of the School having extended this hospitality to us. It compliments the strong links that have existed and continue to exist between the School and the Club.
The Youth and Mini section has seen the graduation this year to the adult ranks in the Club of some 25 players to augment the Junior and U20 Squads. We are extremely grateful to Mark McMahon and a number of Youth and Mini coaches who contributed to and facilitated this very positive development. Additionally, this year has seen an increased involvement by Senior XV players in assisting Youth and Mini coaches in the training aspects of a large number of age categories. The participation of a large number of volunteers and parents is essential to sustaining our Youth and Mini section. Page 7 of the Club’s Year Book refers to a number of those without whose time input this section just could not function.
A series of Pilates Classes were organised by Joe Moran (Fitness and Wellbeing Committee) which have enjoyed good support. We plan to run a second phase of these classes which participants have enjoyed and found both challenging and beneficial. The classes are mixed, challenging and fun !!
If any are interested in participating contact Joe at email@example.com or Elayne Power at the Club.
The Club Christmas Party was re-introduced to the Social calendar on 3 December. Attended by 150 or so, its re-introduction was more than vindicated and €3K was raised for the Homeless Charity- Fr Peter McVerry Trust. A great evening/night was had by all and it was great to see members and playing members participation with a good sprinkling of coaching and team management colleagues in evidence. Great to see stalwarts in attendance like Pearse Mehigan, Liam Toland, Stephen O’Connor, Enda and Amanda Bohan, Donal McEvoy, Hugh and Ann McGauran, the Gahans and Lynne Thompson to name but a few.
U20 v The Rest & Players Christmas Party
17 December was the date chosen for this annual fun event which was well supported and resulted in the “Rest” prevailing by a very small margin over the U20 selection. The game was presided over by Alan Twomey who marshalled two highly competitive sides intent on displaying their flowing Rugby talents. In that regard the teams were not as mis-matched as the Leinster and Northampton squads which entertained a festive crowd later that evening in the Stadium. We were delighted to welcome a very large number of members and their guests including many Northampton supporters for post-match libations in the Clubhouse following a convincing Leinster win.
Website and Communications
A sub-committee chaired by Michael O’Brien has undertaken a review of the Club’s current website. A revamp of the website with easier navigation, better features, mobile device connectivity and additional content will be the result of the exercise. The website and its contents are increasingly important portals in attracting players/members and communicating with the membership and the public.
We were delighted to host a significant number of our valued Sponsor/Corporate Members and their guests at the three Autumn Internationals. The Club received a large number of very favourable comments from attendees at the match functions and we look forward to receiving/entertaining similar and indeed larger numbers at the French and England internationals in March.
Clubhouse and Facilities
The House Committee under the Chairmanship of Liam Prendiville, - farther of our Captain Ian, is undertaking a review of condition of the Clubhouse infrastructure and associated plant and equipment. The purpose of this review is to inform the Executive and Members of the likely quantum and timing of essential works required to maintain the first class standard in which the Club should be presented for the benefit of members and our very valued guests. If you feel you have relevant expertise or experience and feel you can contribute to this exercise please do not hesitate to contact Liam or any member of the Executive.
After much consideration of a variety of locations and durations and following Player and Management consultation, a decision has been made to opt for a Tour of six days on site in the Biarritz and San Sebastian areas of Southern France and Northern Spain. It is timed for end of May beginning of June 2017. Our Junior VP – Kieran Mulligan – a veteran of Tours in the area has a programme arranged with Rugby contacts in Biarritz. The Tour will involve two Rugby fixtures and stays in both Biarritz and San Sebastian. There are daily flights to Biarritz from Dublin and this should afford those wishing to travel but not for the full duration the option to do so. A programme of non-Rugby activities is also envisaged in the time between games. Captain Ian Prendiville and immediate Past Captain, Scott Deasy, are bringing the proposals to the Player Group and it is hoped that in excess of 50 of their member will travel to play against quality opposition.
Comings and Goings
It is with great regret and sadness that a number of members have deceased in the recent past. Amongst these are two former and much respected Presidents of the Club John Craig and Kevin Kelleher who gave significantly to the Club and to Rugby in their various guises. R.I.P.
Great to see Geoff Dawson back for Christmas from Texas regaling his Club contemporaries in VP Kieran Mulligan’s establishment in Sandymount (the Clubhouse closed for Christmas!!!)
Sad to bid farewell to Henry Counihan who masterminded the operational aspects of running our Bar over the past 14 months since it was taken back in-house. His affability and attention to detail and to his “customers” will be sadly missed. David Mangan his very capable Deputy has agreed to take on the challenge and we wish him well. Member support in that regard would be much appreciated.
Great to see Michael Kearney back and relaxed in the Club with his good lady wife-Eugenie, having completed a hugely successful period as Ireland Manager. The Club is proud to have been associated with Michael in the first class job he accomplished in that important position.
Admin and Operations
The Club continues to be grateful to our Office and Management team led by Michael Diskin and ably assisted by Elayne Power with back up from Mary and Anne in the office. We should not forget the valuable work also being done by Louis Preston on the maintenance front. The efforts and input of all is much appreciated.
Club finances are in good health at the half way stage. Indications are that a positive result more or less in accordance with expectations is anticipated.
Farewell 2016!! Greetings 2017!! – To all a very Happy, Healthy and Successful 2017 – on and off the pitch.