It gives me great pleasure as President of the Leinster Branch to extend my very best wishes to everyone involved in Clontarf FC for season 2011/12.
We in Leinster Rugby are well served by your President and representative to the Leinster Branch John Glackin who is one of a host of members from your club, such as IRFU Chairman of the Management Committee Finbarr Crowley and Leinster Branch Junior Secretary Trevor Merrey, who have made a significant impact on the game in our province in recent years. I wish you well in your campaign in Division 1A of the AIL.
If last season is anything to go by then I am confident that we can approach this season with an air of real confidence. It was an enormous boon for the game across Leinster and Ireland when our inspirational leader Leo Cullen lifted the Heineken Cup trophy in the Millennium Stadium back in May and it was another important stride for the Senior team.
I would like to pay tribute to our Coach Joe Schmidt, his backroom staff and especially all the players for their magnificent efforts and I know that everyone connected with the team are focused on building once more this year in both the PRO-12 and Heineken Cup competitions.
As European champions and the number one ranked team in Europe we will approach this campaign in a positive frame of mind, but mindful that we are now the team to beat in what will be a massively challenging campaign given the busy Rugby World Cup period.
One of the key components of last year was the outstanding support of our loyal followers who typify all of the great virtues that are embedded in the province; strength in numbers, pride, honour and absolute loyalty. With record season ticket numbers for our games in the RDS and the Aviva Stadium, let’s hope that our supporters have many wonderful days to savour.
The Leinster Academy continues to produce men of real substance and quality and we have great hopes again for this year’s batch, though each of the players need the encouragement and freedom to make mistakes and, tellingly, learn from them. The improved British & Irish Cup format will no doubt provide these young players with much-needed experience at a high level and hopefully we will see more players merge into the Senior ranks.
It is encouraging to see players enrolled in the Academy hail from across the so-called traditional and non-traditional ranks. It is my firm belief that the Schools, Clubs and Youths systems will continue to play a crucial role for the development of the game and all three areas can further enhance standards across the board.
In this, ‘The Year of the Club’, I believe that the club game will grow as we enter an exciting phase across all of the respective competitions where the regulations are in place to enhance to help maximise enjoyment, skill levels and participation. The Leinster Branch will do everything in our power to help back our Club, indeed all of our sections, and I would urge each club/school to use the resources at your disposal be it through marketing, promotion, ground development or coaching to help your teams grow.
It was heartening to see thousands of young players avail of the discount ticketing for Leinster games in both the league and cup through the ‘One Province’ initiative and we hope for increased numbers across the board once more this year.
The Evening Herald weekly supplement, with a readership of over 300,000, is a valuable tool at the Leinster community’s disposal and I would urge each Public Relations Officer to avail of the opportunity to promote the great work being done in your local community.
I look forward to renewing acquaintances with my friends in Clontarf and I would like to extend my best wishes to your Honorary Secretary Brendan Smith, Coach Andy Wood, Club Captain Barry O’Mahony and indeed all the coaches and players the best of luck for the season ahead.