I am delighted and very proud to have the opportunity to wish Clontarf FC and our President, Pat McHale and Club Captain, Sam Cronin, a very enjoyable and successful season 2014/2015. Pat and Sam each played a major role in the club’s success last season and thoroughly deserve the honour, and indeed responsibility, bestowed on them. Like every club, Tarf want to win every competition that they enter. However even if that proves impossible . it is possible for all members and players to enjoy the season and it is important that they do so. No matter how large a part Tarf and rugby play in our lives, rugby is still only a leisure activity for most of us and not a matter of life or death.
This is an important season for Clontarf as you try to retain the championship , something that no other Leinster team has succeeded in doing. Competition will be fierce as every team will be determined to knock us off our perch at the top of the pinnacle. It will be difficult to emulate last season’s roller coaster finish when within half an hour we went from despair to bated – breath waiting to exhilaration and then followed that up with the extraordinary victory over the Barbarians a few days later. To win the Metro Cup ,the AIL and then defeat the Barbarians all within ten days would seem the pinnacle for any club but I know the ambition in Tarf and that nobody there will be satisfied to rest on their laurels.
Club rugby is the bedrock on which professional rugby is built. Without a strong club based game, we would not have those great occasions in the RDS or the Aviva when we celebrate Leinster’s victories. Without the contribution of the many volunteers involved in our clubs we would not have a strong club based game .The contribution of all volunteer club members involved in the minis, youths, Under 20s, women’s, junior and social rugby and the senior team is critical to the overall development and future success of rugby in Leinster and consequently in Ireland and I applaud everybody who makes that contribution, however insignificant it may seem at the time.
The link between Leinster Rugby and the Leinster clubs exists at many different levels, not least of which is the elite player development program operated by Leinster Rugby. This tries to identify from age fifteen, and then develop, those players from all parts of the province who seem to have the innate ability to become the Leinster professional players of the future. Each summer these players are given special coaching and mentoring in conjunction with their clubs and schools and hopefully these young players will go on to be the Leinster under 18s, 19s and 20s of the next few seasons and then on to professional careers with Leinster. However even if they don’t do so, it is hoped that what they learn will benefit their future club playing careers.
Another crucial link between Leinster Rugby and Leinster clubs exists in the form of the staff at head office at UCD. Philip Lawlor, our Domestic Rugby Manager and Elma Beirne, our Domestic Marketing Executive, are happy to act as a sounding board on a variety of issues that may affect your club should they be required so feel free to contact the team in head office with any query you may have.
The links between your club and Leinster Rugby can be enhanced even further. Leinster Rugby has resources and significant expertise that it wishes to share with any club that requests it. That may involve specialist coaching sessions for scrums, lineouts, kicking or whatever that may be required or it may consist of advice on strength and conditioning or nutrition. As I mentioned already, if you feel that we can help in any way, please ask .
Not all top professional players are identified at under age grades and some good potential players do slip through the net when it is cast at those under age groups. They may be either late developers or may only have taken up the game at a later age. Although it is not it’s most important role, this is one area where the All Ireland League can play a role and there have been examples of players who were only identified as potential professional players through the AIL competitions.
The All Ireland League has been remarkably successful for nearly 25 years and although it’s role in Irish rugby has changed in that time ,the league and the participating clubs have adapted well to the changes. I hope that the further changes to be introduced by the IRFU this season and next do not result in any weakening of a competition that has served Leinster and Leinster clubs well.
Our game would not survive without referees. The Leinster Referees Association need more members as the number of games throughout the Province continues to increase. It is incumbent on all clubs to identify and encourage possible candidates from their members and I urge you to do so.
I want to thank Clontarf FC and all my friends and acquaintances there for nominating me to take up the position as President of Leinster Rugby and to follow in the footsteps of great Tarf men like Collie Smyth and Fraser McMullen, the last two Tarf nominees for the Presidency. I am immensely proud to have represented you in the Leinster Branch for the last few seasons and I hope that I do not let you down in my new role. Although I will not be able to get down to Castle Avenue this season as often as I would like, I do hope that everybody there has as enjoyable a season as last. No matter where I am in Europe this season, my heart will remain in Castle Avenue and I will be looking out anxiously for your results each week.
Finally, in hoping that all Leinster Rugby has another successful season, I want to thank you for your support to date and hope to see you regularly in the RDS, Aviva or wherever Leinster are playing during this season.