Towards a century at the heart of Connacht rugby

Category: Uncategorized (Page 2 of 6)

Centenary Book excerpt 1 – St Paul to the Corinthians

CP Crowley always referred to himself as a dyed-in-the-wool Galwegian, and as the years went by he was asked by Jimmy Lydon of Corinthians to write a few lines about the friendly rivalry which had existed down through the years between Glenina and the “fellas down the road”.

Crowley imagined what Jimmy had in mind was that, having been around the general rugby scene in Galway city for more than 40 years, he would have many stories to tell concerning the two clubs, and of course there were any amount of happenings  – many of them hilarious, on and off the field . However, looking back down the years, what struck Chris was the similarity rather than the differences in the histories of Galwegians and Corinthians.  

Both played on the same Sportsground for years, and their headquarters were hotels. Both clubs realised about the same time that the Sportsground had become untenable for two senior clubs and neither could continue to muddle along without a clubhouse of its own. When they did eventually move out, one chose Glenina, and the other Ard na Cregg.

Chris also remembers one Sunday morning in the Augustinian Church when a new slant on their sameness was emphasised from an entirely unexpected quarter – Father Anderson, who was renowned as a particularly forceful preacher. 

His text on the morning in question was one of those angry letters Saint Paul wrote to the Corinthians – and according to Chris, there was a good scatter of members from both clubs in the congregation.

He remembers the preacher, eyes flashing, voice reverberating throughout the church, threatening Corinthians with all sorts of fire and brimstone unless they quit messing, and of course the Galwegians among the congregation sat back and smiled benignly at each other.  

According to Chris, as Fr Anderson reached his “peroration”, he paused for a long minute, glaring theatrically around the church, his piercing gaze seeming to home in on each individual on the benches. It was obvious he was heading towards his punchline and there was not a pin dropped….

To hear the punchline, make sure to order your advance copy of the book when it is released for sale shortly.

Meet Our Coaches: Shane O’Brien

The AIL Division 2C season is nearly upon us and Galwegians are set to begin their fight for promotion against Tullamore this Friday. Ahead of the new season, we talked to assistant coach Shane O’Brien, who’s looking forward to the challenges that come with a brand-new campaign. 

Joining the coaching staff last summer, Shane has a wealth of experience to offer for this Galwegians side. Originally coming from a GAA background, Shane took up rugby at a young age playing for Crescent College in Limerick, a school with rugby built into its DNA and from there, his rugby career blossomed:

“When I hit sixteen or seventeen, I think I knew I wanted to stay involved in rugby more, and then I came out of school, I started training as a U20 and that’s how it really took off. It really started becoming more and more of a first love for me”, he said.

Shane was part of the set-up for Young Munster RFC when he received the opportunity to join the coaching staff here in Galway. Relishing at the challenge, he accepted the post which has been part of our coaching set-up. 

Throughout his time in Galwegians, he reflects on the trials and tribulations of being a coach and the pressures of the job. A teacher by trade, he faces the obstacles of balancing work and sport and being there for the club:

“At the moment, I’m finding that teaching is my second job and rugby is my first job. All Ireland League coaching isn’t just two hours on a Tuesday and Thursday and a four-hour day on Saturday.”

“It’s a full-time job between your video review on a Monday, phone calls throughout the week, and making sure all your players are enjoying it or if they are having things in life troubling them, you can be a guide and be open enough to talk.”

The responsibilities that are given as a coach compared to a player drastically differ and it is no different in Shane’s role stating that “you take it home a little bit more as a coach”.

“As a player, you can have a bad performance but you can go to training and try to rectify it. Whereas a coach, you always wonder when you’re going into a Saturday, have you prepped everything enough, have you looked at the opposition enough?”. 

“Have you changed the shape of play you wanted to tweak, have you gotten the message across to the players? As a player can go on instinct, as a coach you have to rely on the message you give mid-week, sometimes you can overthink things a little bit”. 

With a new crop of players this season ready to show their hunger and capability out on the pitch, the team is well-prepared for the season’s opening fixture, with the boys training regularly and sticking to a regular gym routine. Shane remarks about the importance of a positive mindset ahead of the first few games of the campaign. 

Stating that winning the first few games would be key and would definitely “shake a few monkeys off our back” after relegation last season and would provide the confidence needed to take the new year into their stride:

“I think that there’s a little bit of added pressure this year because of the division that we are in. But I think we need to welcome it, the squad that is here this year has the ability to get out of this league with no problem.”

It’s been a busy pre-season for Galwegians as they are building up towards the trip away at Spollanstown, but it wasn’t optimal as the team hoped it would be with a turbulent Connacht Senior League campaign in comparison to last year

But Shane is assured that there is a consistent improvement from this senior side as a series of friendlies have seen their side grow in confidence. 

“There have been six matches between the Connacht Senior League and friendlies, and think we have improved every week which is the most important thing, we showed a lot against Cashel, a decent AIL 2A side, so I’m hoping we can bring some confidence into this very tough game Friday night”. 

“The first goal will be to get into the top 4, then become the team to beat afterward. When you win more games, you become more confident so they can never know what could happen then once you are going into the playoffs”.

Tullamore will be fierce competition for this Galwegians side who narrowly missed out on promotion to Division 2B last season. Shane knows they cannot be underestimated and will be the first major test for their own promotion ambitions.

“We have a very tough start, Tullamore lost only one game all season so it will be tough on Friday. Not only them but Clonmel are a very strong side too we play them early on too. The first few games will be the main focus on try and get as many points as possible”. 

“But in terms of confidence, I have definitely seen it grow as the summer has gone. In the last few weeks, we have seen a bit of a mindset change, players have taken real ownership at training in different aspects”. 

Best of luck to Shane and the whole Galwegian squad this weekend ahead of their first game of the season against Tullamore.

Meet Our Squad: Garyn Daniel

Ahead of this upcoming season for Galwegians, the roster has been bolstered with a series of talented individuals ready to give it their all in 2023. 

Our latest recruit comes all the way from Wales with prop Garyn Daniel ready to make an impact here in Galway. With a wealth of experience in the Welsh Premiership, we talked about his career to date and how he’s looking forward to life here in Ireland. 

Garyn’s career began in the small town of Treorchy, located county borough of Rhondda Cynon Taf, around 40km away from the capital of Cardiff. It was here where he began playing sport as a youngster but transitioned from football to playing rugby union, making use of his stature:

“I started playing football as a big center-back when I was eleven and my dad said, ‘You’re too big for football, you should play a bit of rugby’”. 

From there onwards, Garyn began playing for underage level for Treorchy RFC, nicknamed the Zebras, boasting a few players who have gone on to play for their country at international level and even hosted Fiji during a tour of Wales in the 90s. Garyn progressed through the ranks of Treorchy, making it all the way to the senior team and securing a move to Premiership side Pontypridd RFC, making 20 appearances for the side. 

Arriving in Galwegians recently, he’s eager to bring his expertise to the Blues with a great deal of flexibility to his style of play, having the opportunity to play in a variety of positions during his career: 

“While I am a prop, I would like to think I’m fairly mobile. Back when I was about 24, I transitioned from number eight to the front row, because we didn’t have enough front rows on the team”.

Garyn talks about the importance of mentality and having a positive outlook on the game, as he looks to demonstrate his abilities throughout the field on the offensive and maintaining composure in the set pieces:

“Definitely mindset is important, thinking quite positively and making sure we are all heading in the right direction. Hopefully, I can be of help in the set-pieces as a prop, and my carrying and tackling”.  Be sure to keep an eye out for Garyn at the forefront of the scrummage!

When you look at the character of Garyn, he attributes this to his family and labels them as his inspiration growing up. Not only did they introduce him into the world of rugby, but he explained how they were the primary influence on how he was brought up. 

“It might be a bit cliché but it would be my family, I was raised by my parents and my grandparents, who I spent a lot of my time with growing up. They are a big aspect of why I do what I do and if I were ever in a dark place, I would stick with my family”. 

Even though home is far apart, there seems not to be too much of a difference between Wales and Ireland in some aspects, particularly the climate, for better or for worse! But the frenetic lifestyle of Galway has caught Garyn’s attention and the busy nature of the city definitely doesn’t compare to the valleys back home. 

“Everybody seems super super relaxed, they seem to be very laid-back and relaxed. I’ve now found myself caught in what I’ve figured out to be the very famous Galway traffic a couple of times which surprised me a little! But I’m very lucky everything I need is very close together so it’s not the end of the world”. 

But the primary focus for this year and for this campaign is to secure promotion and Garyn is looking to do whatever is possible to bring Galwegians success in the AIL Division 2C league and back to where they belong in the upper echelon of club rugby:

“I always had aspirations to work towards promotion for the club, I’m aware that there has been a few relegations over the last couple of years, but the club sees itself higher than what it is right now. I want to make a big enough impact to make sure we achieve promotion this year, anything else would be a failure in my eyes”. 

With our game of the AIL Division 2C season coming on the 6th of October, we wish Garyn the very best for this year and be sure to make him welcome here in Galway.

Womens AIL Preview

Galwegians’ Blue Belles are almost ready to begin their 23/24 season with a showdown against Ballincollig at home in Crowley Park this Saturday at 17:00. The women are looking to continue their success from last year, progressing to two finals including victory in the AIL Women’s Plate Cup against Blackrock College back in April. 

We reached out to the coaching staff for this season, David Clarke and Nicole Fowley, and talked about the upcoming season and the preparation undertaken ahead of their match on Saturday.  With a mix of fresh faces keen to showcase their abilities and experienced veterans demonstrating the experience they have to offer, they are ready for the challenges that lay ahead this season.

“A new season, a lot of new faces and some old faces hopefully reappearing in the next weeks. The girls have put in a lot of conditioning work over the summer and are ready to hit the ground running this Saturday”.

Preparation for the season ahead is a key priority as the game of rugby continues to evolve year on year focusing on growing stronger as a unit. The coaching staff have used the pre-season to remodel their style of play and put themselves in a prime position to be contenders this year. 

“We have adapted our style of play to meet our strengths. We have a lot of technical areas in our play and so our focus is going to be on consistency and execution”. 

Galwegians have been very fortunate to have many players come up through the ranks who have gone to play in interprovincial rugby for Connacht and represent their country. This leaves another challenge for the team with the dilemma of player selection but David and Nicole understand their responsibilities to make sure they have a wealth of players for selection.

“It is going to be a demanding season for our players with representation going to Ireland camps and Interprovincial. It is our duty as coaches to ensure our systems are aligned across Galwegians women’s rugby so the next player can easily step up when required”.

Silverware won’t be the only ambition in sight for Galwegians’ women this season, with one eye toward the future and ensuring that the players have the groundwork they need to achieve their maximum performance.

“The goal for this season is to focus on long-term recruitment, develop our existing players, and give them the structures they need to play at the highest of levels”. 
Reminder that the first match of the season is at home in Crowley Park on Saturday 16th September so be sure to come down to cheer on our Blue Belles!

Get to know Jack Winters

Where are you from?

Cong Co. Mayo (Born in New York)

When started playing rugby?

Ballinrobe RFC from minis up to captaining the first team.

When first joined Galwegians? 

In 2010, I played U19s for Galwegians (see photo above). I then played Senior in 2017-18 for the season and fully rejoined after being away travelling and after Covid in 2021.

Tell us about your family? 

I’m the eldest of five. My parents and Hazel are in Cong, Leila is in Perth, Neil and Grace are in San Francisco.

What is your career outside rugby? 

I am a Packaging Engineer in Zimmer Biomet, Oranmore.

What positions do you play? 

Loosehead prop. I was a backrow until an injury crisis at the beginning of last season. Anything for the team!

Biggest influence on career? 

My parents and fiancée Niamh have been there for all the highs and lows. 

Toughest opponent ever? 

Paul Hackett in a “non-contact” drill.

Best team-mate ever played with? 

Delighted to have my former Ballinrobe teammate, Rob Holian, join us this season from Sligo RFC.

Hobbies? 

I love to travel, we are hoping to do a safari in Tanzania for our honeymoon next year.

Favourite band/music? 

Christy Moore

What does being club captain mean to you? 

It is an incredible honour to captain such a historic club, filled with fantastic people from our minis, underage, mens and womens sides to all the volunteers and coaches who make it possible. I strongly believe the tide is turning and the good times are coming back to Galwegians!

Hopes or aspirations for the year? 

I’m very excited to see what this group of players can achieve at both Senior and Junior level this season. Our goal is promotion on both fronts!

Youth Academy Awards 2023

A wonderful night of prize giving for our youth Girls and Boys teams last evening.

The awards were presented by our special guest of honour Hugh Gavin who was a member of the Ireland U20 Grand Slam winning team. Hugh started rugby in Galwegians at 5 years of age, and played senior rugby for the club this season in between training and appearing for Connacht Eagles and the Ireland U20’s.

Club President Frank Kinneen presented Hugh with a trophy from the club in honour of his achievement, and Youth rugby director Mickey Sherlock presented a framed photo to Hugh.

Frank and Hugh also presented the awards to all our youth players and to club person of the Year and U14 team manager Eileen Kenny.

Award winners are:

U13 Boys

  • Player of the Year Rory Bourke & Dylan Mc Cullough
  • Club person of Year Wilem Cahill
  • Most Improved Player MJ O’Reilly

U14 Boys

  • Player of the Year Ethan White
  • Club person of Year James Sharkey
  • Most Improved Player Tom Wallace

U14 Girls

  • Player of the Year Meabh Grennan
  • Club person of Year Kianna Mulhall
  • Most Improved Player Katie Lawless

U15 Boys

  • Player of the Year Conor O’Reilly
  • Club person of Year Cillian Hosty
  • Most Improved Player Charlie Garavan

U16 Boys

  • Player of the Year Rob Bradley
  • Club person of Year Rory Wilson
  • Most Improved Player Rory Kelliher

U17 Boys

  • Player of the Year Paul Sharkey
  • Club person of Year Conor Gibbs
  • Most Improved Player Mathew Harty

U18 .5 Boys

  • Player of the Year Harry Lynch
  • Club person of Year Hernando Calleja
  • Most Improved Player Tom Ryan

U18 Girls

  • Player of the Year Megan Connolly
  • Club person of Year Rebecca Hastings
  • Most Improved Player Dominika Matula

LK Shields – Our club sponsor

by Ciarán Ó Flaithearta

Many of us might recognise the LK Shields name from the different places around the club, be it the match day jersey or the sponsor boards around the main pitch. But how many of us really know who LK Shields are and what they stand for?

I sat down with two LK Shields solicitors and former Galwegians players Kris O’Shea and Stephen Browne, to answer these questions.

Kris began playing for Wegians’ at the age of 14 following a move from Loughrea. He went on to play with the club until he was 24, playing for the Mens’ firsts during their time in AIL 1B. A stand-out memory for Kris, as he worked his way through the ranks, was reaching the U16 All Ireland in Naas in 2006.

Stephen, on the other hand, might be a more familiar face having played with the club as recently as the start of the 2021 season, but following a torn calf muscle he was forced to hang up the boots for a while. 

In short LK Shields is a corporate law firm that started in Dublin. They offer a full range of corporate law services, from commercial law to employment, litigation, property and so much more.   

LK Shields opened a Galway office a few years ago, which Kris says has been massively important to their customers in the West, We found Galway people like talking to Galway people, it’s amazing. The Galway office has been open for a few years now and it’s important to us to be putting Galway people on the ground here. I’m from Loughrea born and bred, and it’s pretty much the same as everyone else in the office. They’re from Galway or at least the West, so we’re making a real conscious effort to have a real boots-on-the-ground mentality here”.

With the focus on Galway, the importance of community in the county was clear to see, which is why the next step LK Shields needed to take was simple; to get involved in the local communities, “First of all, I suppose it’s just to get the name out in the area and make it known that we support local companies, local clubs, and local teams. We want to show that we’re not just here to pay lip service we’re here to get fully integrated into and be part of everything.”

When choosing a team to sponsor, Wegians was a perfect fit for LK Shields as the spirit of the club aligned well with that of the LK Shields Galway office, “It is a good match, when it was being discussed inside, having come up through the underage system in Wegians and seeing what that’s like, the kind of camaraderie and all, it is something that appealed to us, and when it was bounced off me, it was something I was eager to keep going. I think there are a lot of similarities, there’s an appreciation here for all of that camaraderie and teamwork. There are huge similarities, both of us being a Western team, a ‘Western Force’ battling it out” says Kris.

In turn, LK Shields’s support has been integral to what goes on in Galwegians since signing the deal three years ago. Club teams need this type of sponsorship to run year in and year out, to pay for things such as insurance, and maintenance to ensure all club members receive the best experience when they come through the gates of Crowley Park, which is why chairman Mike Ryan praises LK Shields so highly for their support, “We’re hugely appreciative of the sponsorship provided by LK Shields, clubs like ours cannot survive without sponsorships such as this. LK Shields is a new and successful firm of solicitors in Galway, and we wish them every success for the future”.

For the two lads, Galwegians has had a lasting effect on their lives after rugby. The friends they have made along with the lessons they’ve learned, and skills they’ve fine-tuned through the sport, all transfer into their work lives. Stephen says that “Coming through Wegians during those important years of your life between 18 and 24, then going through college, it helped that I had made all those friends in the club. But it also helped shape the person you become, from the people you hang out with because there are so many great people in the club. Outside of rugby, I learned an awful lot about myself and all the social skills, it all rubs off on you. I really enjoyed my time playing there I got a lot more from the club than just rugby, and that’s an important takeaway.”

Referee profile: Dermot Blake

Dermot Blake

by Ciarán Ó Flaithearta

Although a life member of the club many of our community might not know Dermot Blake. Dermot has a deep-rooted connection to Galwegians. He is the grandson of founding member and former president Henry St. John Blake, son of past president Bruce Blake and brother to last year’s president Carl. However, with a long line of club presidents in the family, Dermot took a different approach when it came to rugby.

Dermot grew up in Dublin but attended Glenstal Abbey where he later became a housemaster. Although rugby was engraved in the Blake’s DNA, Dermot didn’t play much rugby growing up “I played a bit at under 10s or minis and junior cup was pretty much the extent of my rugby career”. It wasn’t until he became housemaster and rugby coach at Glenstal in 2005 that he found his true rugby calling picking up the whistle and taking charge.

“I took the course because I had to,” says Blake. As the U14s coach, he had to be equipped to take charge of some of the in-house games that took place in Glenstal. Having enjoyed his first year as a referee, Blake soon received a phone call asking if he’d like to join the Munster rugby roster and referee some other games around the province, he happily accepted this challenge.

By 2007 Blake had begun to take charge of some important games around Munster. As the assessments began so did the Branch’s method of testing. They threw Blake in at the deep end, appointing him to games above his current level. Blake took each one in his stride and progressed at a very quick pace taking charge of Junior cup games and the Junior plate final.

Within a year Blake had been nominated by the Munster branch to progress to the IPAS level and started refereeing the AIL. Following a move back to Leinster and Dublin, the 41-year-old started to make a name for himself in the province.

It wasn’t until Blake realised the importance of match preparation, that he began to fully excel on the pitch. Blakes says that there are two different types of preparation one of them is theory and research-based. He does his homework on each team he has been appointed to referee, to ensure he has all the tools and knowledge to referee the game to the best of his ability, “as soon as I get my fixture I start to do my research, looking at the team’s last games and making notes”, after the game phase two commences with self-evaluation, “you have to be your own biggest critique”, says Blake, “I watch back every match I do at least twice, the first time to get a feel for how my game went and to make time stamps and the second time to look at specific points or moments in the game”. 

The other method is on-field preparation. In Malahide where he lives Blake along with about 10 other referees come together each week to train on the pitch. Together the group work on fitness through interval training and sprints which replicate a match tempo. They also work on scenarios to better their positioning and to attempt to replicate a match.

During the 2016 season, Blake took charge of The Leinster schools Senior cup quarter-final, and quarter-final replay between Blackrock and Belvedere college, which he remembers fondly, “I still watch it on Youtube and it is, without a doubt, the greatest game of rugby that I have ever been involved in”. Due to his excellent performance in both games, he earned himself the appointment for the most prestigious game in the Leinster Rugby calendar, the Leinster schools Senior cup final. 

At the end of the 2016 season, Blake was awarded the Alain Rolland award for ARLB Referee of the Year Award, which he says was all down to the change in his attitude toward preparation that aided him to reach his full potential.

Blake has reached the highest level of refereeing possible in Ireland without becoming a professional, he has assistant refereed in URC games, and even in some European games which he has thoroughly enjoyed, but he knows without a doubt that he never wants to take the next step and become a pro.  The loneliness experienced on the road week in and week out is the main reason why he is happy with where he is right now. His only goal now is to continue as national panel referee until the age of 45, “my goal is to get to 45, and every year after that is a bonus”.

Although Blake has been a part of many prestigious games down through the years one, in particular, stood out. Back in 2020, he took charge of the first Bruce St John Blake Memorial cup between Galwegians and NUIG which honours his father. This would be the first and only time that Blake would referee Galwegians. Being a life member of the club, there are rules that prevent him from refereeing Galwegians, but due to circumstances, the two teams came to a mutual agreement and allowed him to referee the game which Blake says was “a real privilege” to be a part of.

Blake believes that the reason he loves refereeing so much is that, “it’s like having a front-row seat to the action” he loves “the sense of satisfaction when I have a good game, just being so close to the action of a high-level game is really enjoyable. I would never have been involved at this level of the game without refereeing”. 

“After my wife and daughter, refereeing is the most important thing in my life”.

Dermot Blake

As a mental health OT he knows the benefits of being active, and for him refereeing is a fantastic way to do so, “it keeps your mind engaged, it’s an interest outside your daily life, and you can only benefit from having extra interests, I say to my wife, after her and my daughter, reffing is actually the most important thing in my life because I love it, I absolutely love it. When I’ve finished refereeing, she already knows that I will be involved in referee administration because I love refereeing and I’ll need that for me and my mental health”.

Blake believes that refereeing is a great way to “give back and to stay involved in the club”. For Blake refereeing was a way to continue his relationship with rugby without playing and that’s why he would encourage more people to get involved in that side of the sport. Blakes’s message to anyone who is starting out as a referee is the most important thing for a young referee to do is “not to be too hard on yourself, allow yourself to make mistakes because you never stopped making them. Learn that early, accept it, and just enjoy it”

Referee profile: Katie Kilbane

by Ciarán Ó Flaithearta

Katie Kilbane

Katie Kilbane is a wealth of experience when it comes to wielding the whistle. Having refereed for 12 years now she has taken charge of games at as high a level as Women’s AIL, J1 and U20s in both Connacht and Munster.

Kilbane first played rugby during her time in university, “I had wanted to play for years but dad wouldn’t let me, he thought it was bad enough that I was breaking myself playing football, so I definitely shouldn’t play rugby.” But by that point, she was an adult and instead of joining the college football team, she signed up for rugby.

While playing with the university she also join Galwegians and played a season in the Women’s AIL, but says she didn’t keep it up due to other commitments “I was rowing, I was playing county football, I was playing rugby with the college and then I took up reffing on top of that so it was just a lot”.  

It was clear that once Kilbane had a taste for the sport she fully immersed herself in it. After playing for about a year she had already signed up for a refereeing course. When asked what the appeal to refereeing was she responded with a laugh “baiting literal baiting”, from a friend and referee Mike Forrestal who ebbed her to “try refereeing a real game”.

Having refereed GAA from under 12s and getting her qualifications as a GAA ref at the age of 16 Kilbane says she was always “weirdly interested”, in refereeing “I spent my Junior Cert results night refereeing a camogie match instead of going out”, so with the interest and experience it was a decision that just made sense to her.

Since becoming a referee the 29 year old has worked her way up through the ranks where she now takes charge of games in J1 U20s and in the Women’s AIL.

Some might imagine that being a female referee in the men’s game would be difficult but Kilbane says otherwise “men can be easier than women, I guess it’s a little different for me as I have played with the women and some of them know me personally where as with the men they don’t care if your male or female, donkey or a dog as long as you’re doing a good job. But it’s a very enjoyable sport and a very welcoming sport that’s a good degree of respect there from men’s and women.”

A highlight in Kilbane’s career came in 2017 while she was refereeing in Munster.  She was chosen to officiate as a touch judge during the first-ever women’s Barbarian series.  “it was probably the closest to a professional environment that I’ve been in”. The Barbarians came out as clear winners over Munster in Thomond Park with a 19-0 victory. 

Kilbane stopped playing the sport a couple of years back through various different injuries and that was when she decided to focus on refereeing which in return gave her the outlet to stay involved in the sport “It was my way of competitively staying within the game not everybody joins refereeing to be competitive about it and to try and get to the top, I do. It gave me a sense of purpose within the game when I couldn’t physically play it anymore.”

Without referees our game wouldn’t be able to function but refereeing isn’t there just to facilitate the player but for people like Katie it’s away to stay involved and competitive and an overall  great sport to be involved in “So if your falling out of the game it’s a great way to stay involved in it at a high level and it’s also just a great way of giving back if you want to volunteer but coaching isn’t for you it’s a great way to get involved and there’s something there for everyone.”

Referee profile: Eoin Staunton

Eoin Staunton

by Ciarán Ó Flaithearta

At the age of just 20 years old Eoin Staunton is the youngest Referee affiliated with Galwegians.

About six months ago Eoin began his journey to become a referee. The decision came following a loss of interest in the playing aspect of the game. Having spent 14 years playing with Galwegians joining at the age of 6, rugby had a strong place in Eoin’s life but he had begun to lose interest following a year with the 20s.  

Rather than hanging up his boots, Eoin took an alternative route to stay involved in the club.

“I nearly prefer it to playing myself. You’re there in the middle of the action without being in the play.”

Eoin Staunton

When a message came out from the committee that the Connacht branch were to be running referee courses Eoin said he’d chance his arm at refereeing. “One of the guys showed me the link to the reffing course and I said sure why not I’ll give it a go. I went and did the course and I learned a lot, and now I really enjoy reffing.”

Following his decision to start refereeing Eoin underwent 2 months of online modules on the laws of the game and on how to identify concussion.

Once these modules were completed Eoin went on to touch judge two games before taking charge of his first U13s game which took him by surprise “It was a high enough pace and the game kind of flowed because both teams had a real willingness to play rugby.”

Fitness is a key part of being a good referee for Eoin. “You have to be able to keep up with the play, because if something happens you have you be there to make the decision”.

When starting up college with ATU, Eoin returned to athletics where he trains as a middle-distance runner. “I do athletics with the college and that kind of training would keep me fairly fit for reffing. Some of the stuff I do in training would be similar to what I would do in match situation”.

As a ref, you get to see the fun side of rugby and the banter between teams. While reffing a recent Wegians vs Jes game Eoin had plenty of moments when he had to “hold back on laughing”, as both sides were very familiar with each other with and some players playing for both sides. Eoin recalls one player asking the other to “ease off a bit” in the scrum.

Since qualifying Eoin has been in action most weekends, sometimes taking charge of 2 games a day which he says can take its physical toll. “You can definitely feel it in the legs”. 

Staunton is very much enjoying his switch to refereeing and even though he is taking it one match at a time, he one day hopes to progress from club level.

“I guess I’m just taking it day by day and listening to those more experienced people and just trying to improve after every performance. Eventually I would like this to be a career”. 

For Eoin it’s a great way to stay involved with the sport without actually playing and that’s why he thinks more people should get into refereeing. “I would definitely recommend that people to get into reffing a lot more. It’s not the easiest job in the world but you definitely get enjoyment out of it”.

And it’s not just about your own enjoyment. Eoin says it’s great for the next generation of rugby players too. “For younger age groups you’re kind of like their coach. You’re coaching them on how to play. Not only do you benefit but you know you’re helping someone else benefit from getting experience and improving them for when they get older”.

If you have an interest in becoming a referee or would like to learn more please contact your local branch officer. https://www.connachtrugby.ie/rugby-in-connacht/become-a-referee/194/

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