As the season entered the home straight we were about to have our biggest moment as a club to date. Firstly our girls were chosen as the Connacht representative to attend the Aviva mini rugby festival in Ashbourne, Co. Meath. In a truly magical day our girls were fantastic in the way they conducted themselves on and off the pitch. Then in early April our secretary got a letter to say we were one of three nominations for Connacht rugby club of the year for the 2011/12 season.
To say we were shocked was an understatement, however although we were nominated we really didn’t think we would win as other nominees Connemara RFC & Loughrea RFC were more established than us and surely in our view in with a better chance of winning.
A wedding on the same night meant I was unable to attend the black tie affair in the Connemara Coast Hotel however when the phone rang at approx 11pm I knew from the crackling voice on the other end we had done it. Connacht rugby club of the year in our third season WOW!
As the season wound down things got even busier for us in the committee room. Recently we acquired 5 acres of land in town and we knew we had to put a plan together to fund the development of the grounds. George Hook agreed to broadcast his Newstalk show the Right Hook live from the McWilliam Park hotel Claremorris. We then held the launch of our pitch development fundraiser that night in the McWilliam. The following day we planned a scrum clinic for local coaches, truly was a rugby first for the West of Ireland.
So the Newstalk crew rolled into Claremorris on the Friday afternoon with George all set to do his thing. Club chairman Fergal Leonard and yours truly even got 10 minutes on air with the gregarious broadcaster to help spread the rugby gospel country wide.
It didn’t stop there however as later that night came the launch of the ‘Buy a Sod’ campaign. The draw was launched by a who’s who of the rugby world including, George Hook , ex Irish international Jim Glennon, current Connacht captain and Mayo man Gavin Duffy, world renowned scrum coach the great Roly Meates and ex Connacht, Munster and Wasps man Peter Bracken. The idea of the night was to boost the profile locally and help generate some sales. As the night went on the four post squares were auctioned off to crowd who had assembled. The auctioneer for the night was Jim Glennon who judging by his performance certainly has a backup career if he ever gives up the day job. It was a fantastic night for all involved with the club.
The club also received a huge surprise on the night when local women Liz Killeen presented the club with an Ireland jersey signed by the grand slam winning squad of 2009 on behalf or her cousin John ‘The Bull’ Hayes who could not attend on the night, but promised to give the Claremorris Colts ‘New Field’ the once over once it was up and running.
The fun didn’t stop there as the Mayo club had an even bigger day planned for Saturday. We organised a Scrum Clinic and invited every club in Connacht to send their youth rugby coaches along to the clinic and hear the rugby bible according to Roly Meates. We also organised a Family Day and invited all locals to come and watch the scrum clinic and enjoy the activities such as bouncy castles, face painting, a BBQ and many others.
There was a fantastic turnout with over 70 coaches from across Connacht learning from Roly Meates, George Hook and Peter Bracken. Roly Meates gave a master class in how to coach the scrum and I can certainly say that every coach learned something new from the great man. There were also an army of parents and helpers on hand to ensure everything ran smoothly on the day and more importantly everybody got fed and watered. This was a truly magical rugby weekend from a fledging club and we now plan to build on this success and know we must continue to grow if Claremorris RFC are to have a home of their own in the very near future.