The post-match Saturday night ‘bust out’ is just about the last bit of evidence that Irish club rugby still has an amateur status.
Ron Boucher, the 29-year-old solicitor who leads Lansdowne into battle in tomorrow’s Ulster Bank League final against Clontarf at the Aviva Stadium (1pm) is glad there is still room for the occasional “bust out” in a sport that is to all intents and purposes, professional.
Boucher and his mates, bar the likely late night after their weekly game, spend the rest of the week in professional mode. The rugby season is tough for them and for Boucher it means a pre-6am start a few days a week to go to the gym and then a full day shift at the office. Not to mention two nights training with his club and often the necessity to sometimes head back to the office to finish off some work.
Tough stuff, so what keeps him going in the dark winter months? “You do question yourself at that time of the year, you get up and it’s dark, go to the gym, go to work and go training after and then you might have to go back to work.
“But I suppose it’s really about enjoying the game, it doubles up as a sport you play for exercise and to stay healthy but it offers a social outlet as well. You get to make friends through the club that you wouldn’t have made otherwise. I’ve really good friends in rugby that I have had from all the way up. I suppose it’s a cliché but I’m loving playing the game and it is something you can only do for a certain amount of time, so now you try to get as much out of it as you can.
“It is important to have that element of the social; at the very top level, guys can’t do that, because rugby is their job but the guys playing purely on an amateur level need to enjoy themselves; you sometimes go out with the guys and it’s with the guys who have gone out and bashed into 15 other lads for 80 minutes and it is good fun and enjoyable, it’s traditionally a part of the amateur game.
“It still is, although maybe not as much as it was. In saying that, there is a really big, almost professional, ethos in the club. It’s not as if you’re out every weekend, but it is nice to have a balance where guys can go and enjoy themselves.”
Tomorrow sees Lansdowne, the most consistent side this season and the 2013 champions, take on the current title holders, and Boucher looks forward to the battle.
He sees it as an opportunity to bring some silverware back into the club but also figures it can showcase the amateur game.
“I think there is a place for the club game and if people could see that, it would be fantastic. It’s also an opportunity to showcase some of the younger guys. Seán Cronin started his career playing with Shannon, won an AIL and played really well in the final. He got a lot of recognition from that. There’s maybe three or four guys in our team who might do that and kick on from there.”
The sides have met twice this season and it’s 2-0 to Lansdowne, but neither was a cup final. The stakes were much lower and Boucher recognises that.
“We had a very close game in the stadium at the start of the year, we played really well over there (Castle Avenue) and beat them well in probably our best performance of the year. While we hope to take elements of that and there were certain things we will try to replicate, but remember this is a game in isolation and the dynamics are different.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved