Gerry Thornley: Rugby clubs face increasingly uphill battle to survive

In 1986, Galwegians were playing Corinthians at Glenina when the latter’s loose header Brian Murphy went for a tight header in the last 20 minutes or so of the match. It was so unusual for Murphy to do this that, as they prepared for a scrum, Galwegians’ loose header Frank Kinneen asked him what he was doing tight-headed.

“Your tight head is burning my ear,” Murphy explained, referring to Kinneen’s frontline teammate, real estate agent Colm O’Donnellan. “He’s trying to sell me a house!”

Kinneen understood immediately. “Imagine what it’s like in training,” he replied.

Kinneen and Murphy sat next to each other for the pre-match lunch when the teams met last Saturday in their Energia All-Ireland League Division 2B second round match at Glenina in their respective roles as club presidents.

The Galwegians are in their 100th year while the Corinthians are in their 90th. The Galwegians will host a gala dinner in November and a club history is written by Galway-based journalist Linley MacKenzie.

Last season, in the same division, Corinthians overtook their old rivals to finish fourth before losing a promotion semi-final to Greystones, while Galwegians avoided relegation by winning a two-legged play-off against Ballina. The latter are one of five Connacht clubs in the AIL, with Sligo also in 2B and the newly promoted Buccaneers in 1B.

Since the end of last season, in a story no doubt mirroring many clubs across the country, Corinthians director of rugby Michael Harding estimates they have lost around 750 AIL caps since last season in retirement temporary or permanent, and experienced club departures. players, including a tight head prop, three locks, two outhalves, a center, and all of their back threes. The side that beat relegated Rainey Old Boys 34-33 at Corinthian Park a week ago had 12 debutants at AIL level.

On a perfect day for rugby, with referee Jason Cairns letting the game play, there were 13 tries. By half-time, Corinthians were leading 17-14, having scored three tries to two. Mark Earle, the 22-year-old son of Richie, a former League of Ireland centre-half with UCD, is a strong tackle center with a long punt, and he made the break for the first down for the Galwegians by Conor O’Shaughnessy and completed a break and offloaded by outhalf Shane O’Brien for the second.

Whereupon the Galwegians maxed out Galwegians sin lock down Eoin Tarmey to score a further two tries and, their high-paced youthful play and superior fitness showing, pulled clear to win by 58-21 as the Galwegians were downsized to 13 men for the last piece of the game.

Connacht academy manager Eric Elwood was an interested observer. But Galwegians had just one player from the Connacht ranks in sub-academy scrum-half Andrew Sherlock, while Corinthians had three Connacht academy players in center John Devine, his brother-and-a-half scrum Matthew and hooker Eoin de Buitléar. They also had returning Connacht player Oran McNulty on the bench, and a handful of Connacht system players, the latter’s brother Finn, John Forde (brother of Cathal) and Mark Boyle, brother of Paul.

Matthew Devine, a star in winning the Irish Under-20 Grand Slam last season before injuring his knee, was the class act of the game. Quick on the breakdown, with a smooth pass, he scored a long-range try and participated in several more with his lightning quick shots and shots. All good, the 20-year-old is definitely one for the future.

His brother John scored a try and also provided the assist for Devine’s try, as did Oran McNulty for his brother Finn. De Buitléar scored a maul try hat-trick. He and his brother Colm are from a Cheathrú Rua in southern Connemara. They are the grandsons of the late Éamon de Buitléar, an Irish writer, musician and wildlife filmmaker.

The Corinthians thus lead the formative table after two rounds. But whatever they achieve in the AIL, having so many players in the Connacht system and both Dylan Tierney-Martin and Cathal Forde on the Emerging Ireland tour is just as important, if not more so.

38-year-old Galwegians manager Brendan Guilfoyle (assisted by Jarrad Butler) is confident they will improve, pending the availability of Connacht’s Diarmuid Kilgallen, Ireland Under-20 full-back Hugh Gavin and the arrival of Australian outhalf Jordan Thompson, a good friend of Mack Hansen.

With Corinthians becoming less of a city club and operating subsidized buses to and from Carramore and Kinvara for Wednesday night training, times are more uncertain for Galwegians. They have sold Glenina, a move that has caused a split in the club, but have a 10-year lease, although they need to find a new home. But the sale made it possible to erase previous debts due to errors of the past, whose interest was crippling.

Failing a merger, some at both clubs believe that a merged City of Tribes, with the aim of competing more strongly in the AIL while retaining separate clubs as relays, is the best way forward.

But aside from Christmas-voting turkey territory, others see the Athlone/Ballinasloe merger with the Buccaneers as proof that one could be gobbled up by the other.

Another potential avenue for Galwegians could be a partnership or merger with the University of Galway, ala University of Limerick and Bohemians, as well as Maynooth University and Barnhall.

Both clubs, like many across the country, feel detached from their provincial branches. In Connacht, because there are so many more junior clubs, they wield more influence. Reviving a Connacht Under-20 league would be one of the most helpful steps the branch could take for senior clubs.

Corinthians also beat Galwegians on Sunday to qualify for the Leinster-dominated Premier 2 league with the Buccaneers, relegating the latter to the Premier 3.

Galwegians and Corinthians field three adult teams, Under-20 and Under-13 to Under-18 teams, as well as vibrant mini-sections, while Galwegians have a strong women’s section with two teams.

The average cost of a 2B away game is around €4,000 and with skyrocketing costs for heating, lighting, insurance, staff etc., the annual expenditure of running the their clubs are around €250,000, of which IRFU grants cover around 10%.

They survive on their bars, sponsorships, memberships and everything else. They are grateful to get back to “zero” every season. It is an ever more demanding struggle. But like all other clubs, they survive.

[email protected]

#Gerry #Thornley #Rugby #clubs #face #increasingly #uphill #battle #survive

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Adblock Detected

من فضلك لاستخدام خدمات الموقع قم بإيقاف مانع الاعلانات