Clontarf Bulls, the newest team at Clontarf Rugby, are nearing the end of a hugely successful first season. This team caters for local boys and girls with intellectual additional needs. Every child involved has shown ability to play rugby regardless of Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome or other reasons that they require a little extra help. Many of their brothers and sisters play rugby, now these boys and girls have their own team!
The team is being led by a group of rugby coaches and volunteers with a particular interest in promoting the abilities of these children. The coaching group draws on active players, ex-players, teachers, SNAs, and academics focussing on people with special needs.
Training kicks off at 11.15am on Sunday mornings on the new all-weather pitch in Clontarf and consists of drills, games and training that are pre-planned and aimed at being easy to follow and enjoyable for players and coaches. Each participant is provided with one-to-one coaching throughout the session.
It is a positive, fun and safe environment, and the following improvements have been noticed in the players as the season has progressed: increased confidence, independence, spatial awareness, ball handling skills, fine and gross motor skills, listening skills, ability to take instruction, fitness, increased play outdoors, friendships between children and also parents, and of course an appreciation of the game of rugby.
Michael Dreelan is a parent to Clontarf Bull Tom aged 11;
‘Sunday morning is the highpoint of our weekend. First thing (and often ridiculously early) Tom bounces in, demanding his Clontarf gear. Then it’s all go until he hits the turf without a backward glance – rugby takes over. Such a pleasure to see him totally focus on playing, giving his all and really developing. Training is the most amazing fun – he crashes into tackle pads – chases his coach to poach the ball and charges for the line – he always looks to me once the ball is grounded – those moments of joy are priceless. My beautiful boy is not always the chattiest with other kids – it’s hard for him – but at the Bulls he is with his ‘rugby friends’. When I see him in the huddle, shouting out that he is a boy ‘from Clontarf FC’, I know we are part of something very special and he has a place to belong.
From the start the welcome and warmth has been amazing. But it’s not just good intentions – the team management understood every facet of Tom’s complex needs so the training brings the best out of him, safely. At the inaugural session he was given his very own ball which he still keeps by his bed! There is more than one coach per kid – beaming athletes who seem to enjoy it as much as the kids. I cannot thank them enough. Everyone knows Tom’s name and on the side-lines we parents natter and build friendships.
Now, with “Clontarf Bulls” hats and team jackets from Nolan’s Supermarket, the Bulls are taking over the week days too! It doesn’t matter whether the weather is fine or foul – the Clontarf jacket is the only one worn to school. When I see it, and Tom’s ever more confident running and playing, I am so thankful we have the Bulls. So many thanks for everything – Clontarf has brought its professional approach and married it with real affection for our special kids – the results are from your hard work, not an accident – but magical.”
Terry Browne, Chairman of Rugby;
Clontarf FC has, at the core of its rugby ethos, the provision of rugby to all in our community regardless of gender or ability. The introduction of the ‘Bulls’ to our player community is the final piece in this jigsaw and compliments perfectly the thriving Youth & Minis, Women’s and Men’s Rugby Sections. In addition the whole ‘Bulls’ experience on a Sunday morning affords so many of our members old and young, male and female, an opportunity to engage so positively and enjoyably with a fantastic bunch of boys and girls.
Clontarf, Leinster and Ireland International Joey Carbery has taken on the role of Ambassador for the Clontarf Bulls. The children were thrilled to recently meet and train with Joey! Nolan’s Supermarket in Clontarf have come on board as sponsors of the side and have provided “Clontarf Bulls” Canterbury jackets to all of the players.
See the Clontarf Bulls and Joey Carbery in action, photography courtesy of Laurent Coudeur: Joey Carbery Meets Clontarf Bulls At Clontarf Rugby