Bandon RFC drafts in senior players to coach underage teams during lockdown

November 5th, 2020 4:45 PM

By Ger McCarthy

Bandon's Gearóid O'Leary in action against Clonakilty in a West Cork derby last season.

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BANDON RFC are utilising their adult players to help coach the West Cork club’s underage academy during the current lockdown.

Life is far from easy for sports clubs struggling to operate amid Covid-19 restrictions. Thankfully, non-contact training is permitted for underage teams under the current government and HSE guidelines. Yet, it is a case of wait and see for senior and junior teams deemed ‘non-elite’.

Six weeks will pass before adult teams are allowed return to full-contact training and, hopefully, competitive action. Bandon RFC are no different to other sports clubs in that regard and have taken positive steps to keep their adult players active whilst simultaneously benefitting their highly regarded underage academy.

‘We got our players together and spoke to them about what we could do during the lockdown,’ Bandon RFC head coach Paul Barr explained.

‘That was effectively Bandon RFC’s last training session because the lockdown began at midnight that evening. We discussed the players’ role in the club over the next six weeks during lockdown. Our underage teams are permitted to train, non-contact only, during that time frame so I came up with a suggestion that the players were very receptive to.

‘Our plan is to put three senior players with each of our underage groups and help train them during the lockdown. Just to be clear, this is not the senior players physically involving themselves in the actual training sessions, but rather helping coach the players and staying involved with their club over a six-week period.

‘This will allow the players to stay connected with the club and all of our underage teams will benefit from their coaching.’

Barr’s idea was warmly received by a group of senior players eager to give back to Bandon RFC and during a period in which they themselves would otherwise have been absent from their Old Chapel ground.

‘Straightaway, every one of the senior players expressed a keen interest to get involved,’ Barr added.

‘This is a positive move for everyone involved in Bandon RFC because we are trying to get all our teams, from our senior team down to U9, to play a certain way and to a certain pattern. Our philosophy is that we want everyone to play with the ball in hand. Look, it’s a very simple model and we’re hoping the senior players guidance will benefit our younger players.

‘That’s the plan for the next six weeks. Keep our senior players coming back into the club and use them as additional underage coaches. Hopefully, the expertise our seniors have picked up over the last couple of years will be of benefit and add to our already superb underage coaching setup.’

Further proof of Bandon RFC’s underage system is improving can be seen in recent graduates Jack Crowley and Ciarán Roberts’ rise through the senior and international ranks.

Roberts, a scrum-half, is now with up-and-coming English Division 2 club Ealing Trailfinders on an academy contract.

Fly-half Jack Crowley needs little introduction having also come through Bandon’s underage ranks before making his mark with Cork Constitution, the Ireland U20s and captaining Munster As.

Back at senior club level, Bandon managed to complete only a handful of games in the County Cup prior to the current lockdown. When the Munster Junior Leagues do kick off, it’s believed a new regionalised format will be adopted so, in Division 1 for example, Bandon, Clonakilty and Skibbereen and all the other Cork Division 1 teams are in together, along with Waterpark.

‘To be honest, I would have a big problem with the current regulations staying in place once we return to playing especially the non-use of showers after games,’ Barr explained.

‘That’s why regionalising the leagues would make sense. For example, imagine a team traveling up the country to play a game in the middle of December and not being able to use a dressing room or showers afterwards?

‘We played a game in Ennis last year in absolutely freezing conditions and the players were still shivering with the cold despite having hot showers afterwards. So, can you imagine getting into your car and driving home after a game sometime in the future and not being able to have a shower? It’s just not tenable for me.

‘Regionalised or non-regionalised, I think visiting teams are going to have to be allowed to use a dressing room and showers after their games. Home teams can jump in their cars and drive home immediately afterwards.’

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