Industry pays off for new entrants

 

IF THERE is one thing that they've learnt around Richmond down the years, it's that hard work and patience tend to bring their own rewards in rugby. The lesson was grasped early by those who established the club almost 70 years ago for players from Clare Street, St Lelia Street and St Lelia Place when they won the Munster Junior Cup less than a decade after taking the field for the very first time.

It was evident again on Saturday as the first team produced an industrious performance to beat Creggs 16-8 and it is constantly in the minds of those who find themselves plotting the club's course in its new senior era.

Michael Slattery has been instrumental in smoothing the club's entry into the All Ireland League, an honour earned last year by the team's 100 per cent record in 11 Munster Junior League outings. Appointed the club's first chairman, he has reorganised Richmond's committee structure to help negotiate the added financial demands of life at this level. There has been much change to the way the club is run but, Slattery admits, there were plenty of examples in the city of how things could be done.

"It's one of the advantages of being in Limerick. We have the big clubs to learn from and a lot of what we have done here has involved looking at the likes of Garryowen, Munsters and Shannon and then picking up, on what has worked for them.

Certainly the club has acquired some of the trappings of its more famous neighbours but Slattery feels that, perhaps, to a slightly greater extent than the first division outfits, Richmond remains firmly rooted in the community. "It's a very small catchment area, just two parishes, St Patrick's and St John's, so everybody knows the people connected with the club.

"I think it's also a club that Joe Bloggs out on the street can still walk into. Our underage teams are a vital part of the club. We feel that if we can the make the club sociable then the parents will want to become involved and things will grow.

In fact, player development is one aspect of the game that Richmonds feel they can do slightly better than some of their neighbours. "It's going to be hard to maintain the balance and I think that there's one or two clubs in Limerick who have moved too far away from that side of things. But we get about 100 kids here every Saturday morning and that's always going to be very important to us.

The benefits of the club's past work with youngsters was clearly evident on Saturday as almost all of their winning team had been nurtured through underage level at Canal Bank. Afterwards, manager Kieran Doyle stressed that this will remain a major source of talent.

"We've always produced good players but we lost a lot of them to other clubs, particularly Garryowen. Now that we can offer them senior rugby we're hoping we can hang on to them for longer.

There is certainly an awareness that there will not be resources to buy in talent and, given that most of those involved in running the club were around when their ground was bought and developed in the early 80s, there are few complaints.

Nobody wants the club to have come this far only to saddle itself with debt. And anyway, what money could bring the commitment that comes with having 15 locals pulling on the green each week.

"We probably need to look further afield but everybody here is determined to do their best for Richmond," says Paddy McNamara, now in his 20th season in the first team. "Nearly everyone's got a father or a brother or a son involved with the club and we all want to see it do well."

That building starts on St Stephen's day morning when the whole team will be out sharpening fitness ahead of the return to All Ireland League action against Armagh at the end of January. It will be hard going but with the likes of Paddy Daly there to encourage them, there'll be no complaints. Along with Mol Moloney, Daly led Richmond to a 9-0 victory over UCC in the 1936 Junior cup final. Now a younger generation knows that responsibility for the next era in the club's history rests firmly with them.