‘Green’ shoots galore as resurgent Creggs RFC score

 

They haven’t gone away, you know…

 

There’s something very special happening in the old battleground – the famous Green in Creggs, that is.

Echoes of the past sound out. True, the 1970s and the long haircuts are gone. The 1980s a distant memory too. In those far-off, swashbuckling days, Creggs RFC made its mark, built an unlikely legacy, a legacy that has inspired new generations. In the 1970s, this audacious story began. Creggs RFC was formed on the back of hopeful conversations and quick, excitable planning. A senior team stepped into the unknown, doubtlessly to the considered apathy of the game’s aristocrats in Connacht. Soon enough they knew about these new kids on the block, these underdogs who could bark and bite. The junior rugby landscape in Connacht was about to have a Creggs-coloured makeover.

In the glory days, Creggs achieved some epic victories, many of them against the odds, traditional heavyweights of the sport humbled by a remarkable ‘band of brothers’. Creggs, in the club’s glory era, had great players, but most of all, they had an incomparable never-say-die spirit, a ferocious appetite for battle, an addiction to bruising opposition egos and shredding formbooks. (I might add that the club then launched a ladies’ team and they proceeded to achieve considerable success too).

  Inevitably – with retirements, depopulation and emigration, and the nature of the cycle of life and the cycle of sport – fallow periods came. Long fallow periods. Not now.

Last weekend, it was bitterly cold at The Green, but it was heartwarming to see and feel the momentum driving this club onwards. Just now, all the stars are aligning for Creggs. This is one of the sporting success stories of the era, of the region.

  Consider the facts: as matters stand, Creggs are either leading or second-placed in the league at Senior, U-20, U-18.5, U-17 and U-16 level. They’re also competing well at U-13, U-14 and U-15 level. There are over 100 participants in Mini Rugby each week. The Senior Seconds’ team are also going well. Off the field, the terrific, ambitious development of three new pitches continues, and when completed, it will mean this once-small club has moved on to a new level in terms of facilities and infrastructure.

  The senior team is flying this season; all the teams are flying. On and off the field, serious momentum. But club members aren’t getting carried away. The success is achieved by hard work. The senior team is flying because of skill and dedication, but for teams to prosper on the field, enormous behind-the-scenes effort has to be made. And that’s where Creggs have a winning Coalition of past stalwarts and fresh, new volunteers.

  In Creggs on Saturday, I saw so many of the people who soldiered on and off the field in the past. Familiar faces, eyes trained on the action, on the unfolding story. Their dedication is phenomenal. They were there in the glory days, they were there in the barren years, and they are there now, making it all happen again, writing great new chapters in this story. Creggs RFC has also benefitted greatly from ‘new blood’; more people than ever involved from Roscommon town and from several surrounding villages.

  Watching the seniors in action at the weekend was a little like going back in time, back on a nostalgic trip to similarly cold but satisfying days at The Green. On Saturday, Creggs scored tries through Alan and James Brandon, and held on heroically under sustained pressure from Tuam. Their 10-3 win puts Creggs ten points clear of Tuam at the summit of the Connacht J1 League table.

  Padraic Deane, who recently took over as Club President, has paid tribute to the players (and their parents), coaches, all club members and indeed club sponsors…all of whom have a key role in driving the club forward. Creggs RFC is working closely with local schools too;  indeed the growth of the Mini Rugby scene (and the underage game in general) is a hugely exciting aspect of this story. The senior team coach is Pat Cunningham, and another important recent appointment was that of Micheal Glennon as Youth Development Officer.

 Forty-three years on from its birth, Creggs RFC is enjoying a season of seasons, a dream year. The silverware has still to be won, but this is bigger than that. The trends, to put it mildly, are extremely encouraging. The momentum is self-evident. The club is moving to a new level. The underage structures are there, the facilities are being developed. Happily, the seniors (and other teams) are doing the business on the field.

  It’s like the 1970s, the 1980s and the early 1990s again, without the long hair and the long nights. The close-knit community spirit that created this story lives on, through new generations, but also through the heroes of yesteryear. But this is all on a new level now. This has gone beyond those epic great victories of the past, and the heroic near-misses of some campaigns. It’s gone beyond the story of how a small group of locals created something truly special. With the underage structure, the phenomenal Mini Rugby numbers, the general growth of the game in Ireland, and the ambitious development of facilities in Creggs, this is about building something bigger than before, and about building for the future.

  What’s happening in Creggs is a great sporting and social story…the past inspiring the present, and confidently looking to the future.