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Planned return of competitive rugby in August offers hope to local players

May 3rd, 2021 1:45 PM

By Kieran McCarthy

Bandon's Olan Crowley going over the line for his sides second try under the challenge of Clonakilty's Sean Madden and Darragh O'Connor during the 2020 Munster Junior Cup fourth-round derby.

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HAVING read the IRFU’s plan for the return of amateur rugby over the summer months, Bandon RFC’s Paul Barr is optimistic that competitive action is not too far away.

The rugby participation roadmap has outlined that the sport will return with ‘a summer of fun and participation for players of all levels, ages and abilities.’ This will include touch rugby, tag rugby, 7s, 10s and 15s rugby before competitive club action could return from in August, depending on public health measures.

‘It is anticipated that a return to competitive structures will commence in August 2021 for all men’s and women’s adult teams, U20s, school, youth and minis starting at local and provincial level. Details of provincial competitive structures will be distributed through provincial channels when available,’ the IRFU Rugby Committee’s roadmap reads.

‘It is a plan and it’s very positive. It gives us a bit of optimism. I’m more optimistic that we will have a season,’ Bandon RFC head coach Paul Barr says.

‘The local clubs – Bandon, Skibbereen, Clonakilty, Bantry, Dunmanway – allow players to connect, and the sooner we get adults back out playing again, the better.

‘Even tag rugby where there is no contact in the game, let them play together.

‘The longer the break in rugby is allowed to go on, the bigger the job clubs will have to get everyone back so, when it is safe to do so, it will be great to see everyone back together.’

Local adult rugby teams have had a long wait since they last played a competitive game, with West Cork’s Munster Junior League Division 1 trio of Bandon, Skibbereen and Clonakilty last in action in March 2020 – it’s now 15 months and counting without a competitive match.

Bandon RFC has been proactive in staying connected with its members during the latest lockdown and the club organised for a number of high-profile rugby figures to take part in online Zoom sessions. Simon Zebo, Joey Carbery, Regis Sonnes and Shane Daly have all taken part.

‘This was our way to try and keep our adult community connected during all of this because it can be very isolating. There was huge interest in these Zoom chats,’ says Barr.

He hopes to see adults back training in the near future and he was buoyed by the return of underage training this week as various Bandon RFC teams were back out on the pitch.

‘We had our first training session at the club on Monday night and the enthusiasm by everyone just to be back together was great to see. It was people in the community being back together playing a sport that they enjoy,’ he says.

‘Just to be back out on the pitch with a ball is great for the youngsters and it’s a great start. We have to be optimistic about any positive change.’

The return of underage training is a step forward and fun was the name of the game in Bandon this week, as Barr explains.

‘We said to the coaches that the only objective is for the youngsters to come in and enjoy themselves. There is no competitive objective, there is no technical rugby objective, this is about setting up games and letting them play and have fun,’ Barr explains.

‘Kids play for two reasons – they play for fun and they play for friendship. Success comes after those things and it’s measured after those things. The club have been really good on that for the last number of years.

‘It’s just great to be back on the pitch and that’s true for every club in West Cork.’

The hope now is that every target on the planned return of rugby can be met so local rugby players get back out on the pitch playing the game they enjoy.

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