Clonmel RFC blow as Irish team axe trip

The insurers will tot up the cost of the damage inflicted by yesterday’s storm but there will be no pay-out to ease the heartbreak the weather has wreaked on Clonmel RFC.

For the past three months officials at the Tipperary club have been plotting and planning for the arrival of Joe Schmidt and core members of the national rugby side. The highlight of the two-day mini-camp was to be today’s open training session with approximately 2,500 kids from local schools and rugby clubs expected to attend. All was going swimmingly until about 11am yesterday.

“The team were due to have a closed session on Wednesday but after seeing the weather forecast and the amount of rain that had fallen they decided against that,” Clonmel manager Joe Winston explained.

“Taking everything into account in terms of pitch conditions and the Health and Safety of those attending the open day on Thursday, the call was made to cancel the thing entirely.

“Naturally we are hugely disappointed but agree completely that the safety of everyone involved is the most important factor.”

Winston’s sister Pauline and Noel Cunningham who had the onerous task of organising the open day then had the unpleasant job of contacting all the schools and clubs and breaking the bad news throughout yesterday afternoon. Their disappointment was shared by all. It brought a crashing end to what had been a fairytale few weeks for the club.

Joe Winston said: “We were approached about four months ago when the IRFU came down to the see our facilities and what we could offer A few weeks after that they contacted up to say they would be coming. Let’s say things have been pretty hectic since…”

Not that the wider population would have known. Information about the visit was very much on a need to know basis and the first that many in the town knew about the visit was via Schmidt’s post match press conference following Saturday’s victory over Wales.

“It exploded after that,” Winston admitted. “It had been hectic for the likes of Pauline and Noel dealing with all the requests from schools and teams for the open day. They’ve been locked up in the office every day since the weekend. We had to limit numbers and operate a wristband system, so you can imagine the logistics and difficulties which goes with that. And now all of it has had to be cancelled and undone.”

Though weather has ruined their best laid plans, Winston admits the visit of the national side is a welcome recognition of the hard work which has transformed the club in the last four decades. Formed in 1892, rugby in Clonmel put down serious roots in 1972 with the purchase of their first ground.

Over the next 40 odd years, hard work, fundraising and shrewd property deals has seen the site expand and grow to now accommodate three pitches, a clubhouse and a stand. “This is a proud week for many people — John Connolly our President, Kevin Cooney, our chairman, Kevin Cronin, our groundsman, former club secretary Tom Fennessy, JJ Killian, Alan and Timmy Nornile and I could go on and on… “We have a membership of about 400 between adults and kids.

We field underage teams from the bottom up and then we have a first and second’s team, a women’s team ad even a golden oldies selection.

Former Irish International Denis Leamy is our head coach.” But Winston is keen to stress this visit isn’t just about Clonmel. “Rugby is massive in Tipperary and has been for years and years. It isn’t some sort of recent thing in tandem with Munster’s successes. Clanwilliam, Thurles, Carrick on Suir, Nenagh, Kilfeacle and Cashel are all hotbeds of the game. “Rugby has been a big these parts of years.

It is not a recent thing. Indeed there is an old story around these parts that the first game of rugby was played in a little place called Ballypatrick. “Legend has it that William Webb Ellis [the man credited with inventing the modern game] would come here as a child to visit relations. And every summer he would play the game with farm hands and workers.”

Thankfully the weather gods were in a much kinder mood back then.


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