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07 Dec 2021

North Midlands Area Branch, looking after local rugby

Tremendous work being carried out across the region

North Midlands Area Branch, looking after local rugby

Ollie Delaney, Newbridge RFC, and Chair North Midlands Branch, Leinster RFC

The North Midlands Area Leinster Branch IRFU is responsible for the administration of Rugby in Kildare, Laois and West Wicklow. It's member clubs include Naas, the Area’s only All-Ireland League club, along with Athy, Cill Dara, Clane, Clondalkin, Newbridge, North Kildare, Portarlington and Portlaoise Rugby Clubs who all compete in the Leinster Leagues. Blessing-
ton, joined the North Midlands at youth level in the 2018-2019 season.
The Area sends representatives to the Leinster Junior Committee, which is one of the oldest Committees in Leinster Rugby, Leinster Rugby Womens Committee, Leinster Rugby Youths and Mini Committees as the Senior Executive Committee of the Leinster Branch.
The Area Byelaws include provision for the rotation of the Chair on a two season cycle. The Chair, confirmed at the Annual General Meeting, represents the Area at the Leinster Executive Committee, while the Vice Chair represents the Area at the Leinster Junior Committee.
The current Chair is Ollie Delaney (Newbridge RFC), with Barry Lyons (North Kildare) serving as Vice Chair.
This rotation encourages all Clubs to have an active engagement in both Area and Leinster activities, bringing that experience back to the Clubs. The Byelaws also include provisions for inclusivity and guidance on respect for officials, supporters and players at all levels of the game.
The Secretary, Treasurer and Public Relations Officer are elected annually. Each Club is entitled to two representatives who attend the monthly Management Meetings of the Area.
The key role of the North Midlands Committee is to promote and manage rugby within the Area including the organisation of the Hosie, Lalor, Spiers and Scully Cups. Age grade rugby is managed by the Youths Committee.
North Midlands Clubs can be seen across the Leinster Leagues enjoying numerous successes over the years.
Both Naas and Cill Dara have won the Leinster League Division 1A in recent years. This allowed Naas RFC to be promoted to the AIL League.
Cill Dara lost out on the most narrow of margins in 2007 in the AIL round robin. In addition to participation in the men's game, the North Midlands has a very high engagement in both the Women's and Girls Leinster Leagues. There are currently five Women's sides, while six clubs participate in the girls leagues.
In recent years, two alumni, Philip Lawlor and Colin Mc Entee, have progressed through the rugby ranks to hold significant positions in Leinster Rugby and IRFU.

NAAS RFC
Naas RFC, re-founded in 1922, is arguably the largest of the Area Clubs. Naas has contributed many players who have gone on the attain full International honours.
Among the alumni who have achieved at the highest level are Mark Deering (1928), the Byrne brothers (1950/60s), Philip Lawlor, Geordan Murphy and Jamie Heaslip and more recently James Treacy, Tadgh Beirne and Adam Byrne. The Club has also had representation at Ireland Under 20s (5), Irish Youths (11), Irish Schools (8), Irish Women's and Men's 7's (6) Irish Clubs 15s (5) and Leinster Youths and Girls U18s.
Naas RFC success has been the result of slow and steady investment of time and effort in their youth structures. The Club has over 90 certified coaches currently. This dedication is reflected in the current playing environment where the vast majority of the club’s All Ireland Division 1B team are home grown.
Naas stalwart, Joe Kavanagh was the first recipient of the Sean O’Brien Junior Rugby Award, in recognition of his contribution to Junior Rugby in Leinster, in particular the Naas Under 20s.
The current President of the Leinster Branch is Naas' own John Walsh, who has contributed at all levels of rugby, both as player and as an administrator at the Club.
John has given over 20 years of service to the Area and Leinster Branch, as well as serving on several IRFU Committees. As the former Provincial Town's Cup Director, John is credited with starting the journey in raising the profile of the prestigious Cup. He was the second member of Naas RFC to serve in this prestigious position. PJ Power, then a representative of Junior Rugby, served in the 1938-39 season
As a Community Club, Naas RFC has had close engagement with local Primary and Secondary Schools bringing rugby to the boys and girls through the CCRO Programme.
This engagement has seen huge successes for Naas CBS who have won the Duff and Fr Godfrey Cups (Junior Cups) and the Mc Mullen and Vinnie Murray Cups (Senior Cups) for Section A Schools.
Naas has participated in the Town Twinning exchange with St. David's in Pembroke Shire for over 20 years.
Naas at U13s travel to Wales at Easter annually and host their Welsh guests at Halloween.
Another major event is the Annual Joe Moran U11 Festival. This event attracts teams from all four provinces with over 400 participants in recent seasons.


ATHY RFC
The oldest club in the Area is Athy RFC, formed in 1888, with a proud history in Provincial Towns Cup, winning on six occasions. Athy is justly proud of its record in developing its under-age players.
Among its notable alumni is the Anderson family. They are among the founding members of the Club. Since the mid 1060's Frank, Leslie and Roger Anderson have not only worked strenuously at all levels in the Club but have also served as President of the Club.
The Anderson Family connection with the Club and with Leinster was con-
firmed with the presentation of the Anderson Cup, for competition among Junior 3 Clubs across the province, in 1970.
Among its more recent alumni who are now playing at the highest provincial level, are Martin Maloney with Leinster Academy and Jeremy Loughman and Joey Carberry in Munster. All three cut their teeth in the Athy RFC and North Mid-
lands Area team, part of the Shane Horgan Leinster U16 Inter-Area Competitions.
In recent seasons Athy has hosted an annual U12 festival where visiting teams enjoy at week-end camp-out at the club with nearly continuous rugby, a barbeque and more rugby before returning home. This enables the host club and the North Midlands participants to compete with the teams from around the country. In line with IRFU policy there are no winners or losers, just the great experience of participation.
Athy RFC's, John Treacy sits on the Leinster Youths Committee (Former Chair), and Mark Bergin on Leinster Women’s Committee. Another member of the Anderson family, Roger, became the second winner of the Sean O’Brien Award in 2019.


NEWBRIDGE RFC
Newbridge RFC was formed with the merger of two long established clubs, Curragh RFC and Old Kilcullen. The Club has a proud history with the defence forces where many of their senior players and committee members have been based at the Curragh Camp.
Newbridge RFC like the other clubs in the Area works closely with the non-
traditional secondary schools in the locality.
This work has been reflected in the successes of Patrician Secondary School, Newbridge who have won both the Junior and Senior Development Schools in recent seasons.
Among the Newbridge Alumni are Ciaran Fitzgerald, former Ireland and Lions Captain. One of their past Presidents, John Dardis, is the only referee who has officiated at three Provincial Towns Cup Finals.
The current Chairman at Newbridge, Mick Mc Coy, who has for many seasons represented the North Midlands Area at the Leinster Youths Committee, currently serves as Honorary Secretary of that Committee and as a member of the Leinster Senior Executive Committee.
The current North Midlands Chair, Oliver Delaney, is President of the Newbridge Club and serves as the Area representative on the Leinster Senior Executive.

CLANE RFC
Formed in 1984, Clane RFC is the newest club in the Area. The Club has a very active and progressive Youths Section.
The development of underage players has been one of the key roles of the Club. Marcus Hannon, who represented the North Midlands in the Shane Horgan Trophy Inter-Area Competition, played in recent Leinster A v Connacht A and Munster A games, as well as the inaugural IRFU 7s Academy Series in November.
The Club also has an active girls programme seeing seven of their players represent Leinster at U18 Girls or U18s 7s.

CLONDALKIN RFC
Clondalkin RFC, who were part of the Metro Area, applied to join the North Midlands in 2006/07. Since then the Club has enjoyed a significant growth in adult teams as well as in their youth and mini programmes.
The Club currently field 1st and 2nds in Leinster League 1B with two more sides in Metro Leagues. Clondalkin Women - the Clonettes - while new to the game, have been runners-up in the Paul Flood Plate and League Semi- Finalists in 2018-19 season.
While the Club itself is relatively new - founded in 1973, they have had a number of players achieve Leinster honours, Chris Jebb and John Sexton both played for Leinster Youths. John, who won an Oxford Blue against Cambridge, went on to win full international honours winning 4 caps in 1988.
Most recently, James Lowe, has joined the Club. The Leinster and Ireland winger is a regular visitor to Clondalkin on Sunday mornings for Mini training.

CILL DARA RFC
Moving south to Kildare, we find Cill Dara Rugby Club. Founded in 1976, the Club has developed excellent facilities at Silken Thomas Park.
Among its alumni is recently retired Leinster and Ireland player, Fergus McFadden.
Fergus has won 34 Irish Caps and played 184 times for Leinster. Cill Dara also feature in the administration of rugby across the Province. Enda Finn, current Secretary of the North Midlands, is the head coach of Leinster Juniors, a side which has won back-to-back interprovincial series.
Another Cill Dara man, Dermot O'Mahony, having refereed for many seasons, is now Competition Administrator at Leinster Rugby, coordinating and overseeing Leinster Junior Leagues and Cups as well as Development Schools competitions.
One of the greatest honours bestowed on any Club member is the “Mr Boots” Award. This IRFU Award is presented in recognition of the contribution a Club Member makes at all levels of Rugby. Joe Flannagan, received the Award in 2016 before an audience of over 300 from the rugby community.

PORTLAOISE RFC
County Laois provides two clubs to the North Midlands Area. Portlaoise, founded in 1966, and Portarlington founded in 1974. Portlaoise has a consistent record of participation in Division 1 and 1B of the Leinster League.
The Club has won the Provincial Towns Cup on two occasions as part of their 16 trophy haul over the years. Their Youths structure has seen a strong representation in both the Youths and Girls U18 Leinster sides.
Club alumni Gerry Culliton (19), Brian Rigney (8), Allison Millar (47) and Emma Hooban (7) have gone on to win international honours.
Harry Nicolls, who has represented the Area on the Leinster Youths Committee for over 15 years, is also a member of the Branch Disciplinary Committee, as well as being the Youths Representative on the Schools Committee.


PORTARLINGTON RFC
Not to be outdone, Portarlington having been very strong during the 2000s, winning the Hosie Cup in 2012, have revitalized and are now expanding in the local community.
John Dunne, who represents the Area at the Association of Referees Leinster Branch, has provided many years of service to the Club. Developing the Womens/ Girls game has been a significant success for Portarlington in recent seasons.
Working from a small base they amalgamated with Cill Dara to field the Port/Dara Women's and Girls sides.
NORTH KILDARE RFC'
Moving North again, we reach our final Club, North Kildare which is located on the borders of Kildare, Dublin and Meath.
One of the Areas original Clubs, North Kildare was founded in 1928. In 1992, Tom Darcy a stalward of North Kildare and the North Midlands served at President of Leinster Rugby in 1992/93 season as a member of Terenure RFC. The Club won the Provincial Towns Cup on two occasions along, with eight other Provincial Trophies. North Kildare has had a good record in the Area Competitions winning the Hosie Cup (6) Lalor Cup( 4) Spiers Cup (1) and Scully Cup (3). Because of its location, North Kildare frequently lost key players to the Metropolitan Clubs.
Among its alumni are Bob Casey (7), Devon Toner (70) and most recently Will Connors (2) have gone on to win full international honours.


Area Club and Community Rugby Officers (CCRO's)
Work on the development of rugby in the Area is supported by Leinster Rugby through the Rugby Development Programme. At youths level John Bagnall is the Coach and Player Development Officer (CDPO). Jennie Bagnall has a similar role in developing the Girls game.
The CPDO is supported by the Community Rugby Officers (Joe Carberry, Rob Mullan and Glen Predy) and the eight Club and Com-
munity Rugby Officers (CCRO). The CCROs have had a significant role in the development of coaching and training in the schools and clubs.
Over the last five years, the CCRO programme has resulted in Clubs accessing a significant number of new primary and second level schools bringing rugby to schools where the sport had no history. The introduction of the Harry Nicholls Trophy last season saw first years (U14s) from 14 schools in the Kildare/Laois play in a number of festivals hosted by Clubs in the Area.
In addition St Laurence's National School in Sallins, has played and defeated, home and away, many of the Dublin Primary Schools where rugby forms a traditional part of the sports programme.
More recently, the CCRO programme in conjunction with Kildare Sports Partnership has brought rugby to new communities through the "Rugby on the Green Initiative" in communities around the County.


INCLUSIVE RUGBY
A new initiative throughout the Area has been the development of "Inclusive Rugby" aimed at players of mixed ability. This development requires specific training for coaches and significant high volunteer commitment. Currently Inclusive Rugby is available in four Clubs with plans for expansion in four more, once normal playing conditions return.


YOUTHS COMMITTEE
NMLBIRFU Youth Committee meet monthly with the aim of administering age-grade rugby throughout the Area. The Area Competitions provide rugby across all age-groups from U13 to U18.5.
The Girls U14, U16 and U18 sides have early season blitz events. These competitions, which are run from Mid September, provide an ideal preparation for the Leinster Leagues.
The Area Committee endeavour to host the Area Finals in clusters in order to attract bigger crowds, with the U18.5s final being a precursor to the Hosie Cup Final, the premier Area Competition at Junior 1 level.
The Mini Plan for the Area is set out in August each year and then advised to clubs. The games are scheduled on a home and away basis over the season and enables Clubs to plan their wider programme throughout the other weekends.
With the growth of the girls game these exchanges now include girls U10s and U12s.

REFEREES
Rugby cannot happen without Referees. There are currently 44 ARLB referees attached to NMLBIRFU Clubs. While there is always scope for additional referees, there is a culture in the Area which nurtures and encourages former and often current players to take up the whistle.
Des Flanagan(Portlaoise), Brendan Lynch(Naas) and Conor Byrne(Newbridge) have served as President of the ARLB and will be joined by Gordon Condell, see Clondalkin above, in the near future.
The North Midland ARLB representative, John Dunne, ensures that the area continues to develop and produce quality referees.


VOLUNTEERS
The administration of the game in the Area cannot happen without volunteers. This means Clubs have to provide valued resources to the Area and in turn to Leinster Branch to administer the game locally and provincially.
The North Midlands recognize this is an important pathway and would thank our Clubs and volunteers for their continued support.
In addition to those referred to earlier, there are also nominees to Domestic PR, Mini and Girls working groups, all of whom play important roles at all levels of the game
At Club level the involvement of Committees, Coaches and Team Managers, play a critical role in the running of the Clubs. Whether it is on the pitch or behind the scenes their role are vital in financing the Clubs, preparing clubhouses and pitches, managing parking, coaching the adults, youths, minis and inclusive teams.
Without your help our wonderful game cannot happen.

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