East Clare is to benefit from a state-of-the-art 4G IRFU standard indoor rugby pitch, the first of its kind in the county, after Scariff Rugby Club got the green light from Clare County Council to develop the playing facility.
The only other pitch of its kind in the locality is the 3G pitch at the University of Limerick North Campus and the club said the development will benefit the entire community, as well as help grow its rugby base.
Vice-president of Scariff Rugby Club Michael Madden outlined the club’s plans for the indoor facility.
“It’ll be community based, so it will be available for everybody because we want to make it so that anyone can have the use of it. It will be the first of its kind in Clare. It’s the biggest shed you can build with internal structures, so it will be 40m by 20m and it will have a viewing stand going along by the pitch. There will be a viewing stand off that too, so you can watch the match on the main field as well. It will have a special shock plate, so as well as being 4G it has that extra layer, which allows you to play full contact sports on it,” he explained.
Michael said one of the disadvantages for the club is that rugby is a winter sport and that weather puts a lot of the underage players off, so once operational, the indoor pitch should help keep their young players engaged in the sport throughout the winter period.
“I think it will be a great addition to the community, especially with the weather the way it’s going now. I don’t know how many training sessions have to be called off because there is no place people can go to play, especially small ones. It will be great to have some place available where you can go inside and there’s no muck, dirt or cold.
“We notice at the start of the year you’ll have huge numbers and then in the winter months, the numbers would drop off and then it would pick up again when the weather would improve. If we had a facility like this, we’d be able to keep the numbers and it will be good to develop rugby in East Clare,” he continued.
He explained that since the club’s underage programme was revived, it caters for U-6s, U-8, U-9s, U-10s and U-12s, who play with Tulla.
“We only started up the underage programme again four or five years ago. A few of us retired from rugby and we started it up again. Every year it has grown, year on year. Our U-16s play with Young Munsters and they are top of their group at the moment. We are very lucky we have six players on the team and another few on the panel.
“We have members from Ennis to Gort to Killaloe. Our big thing is to encourage people to give it a go, try it for a month and see what they think. Our main job is to give children a different experience. Obviously, we are in a big GAA centre but, at the same time, it’s good to give other options and some children will prefer this and they will want to try different things and that’s what we are here for,” he said.
Michael said the sport affords other opportunities to players and before the end of the year, their junior side will be travelling to France to play a Six Nations-type tournament.
“We go every two years, where we play six teams over there. It is all part of the club, so there’s more to playing rugby than just turning up on the day and you are getting something back the whole time.”
Currently, the club is lucky to have a flood-lit main pitch and a back pitch, which is also flood-lit. They have a three-year plan to develop the new facility and hope with fundraising and grant aid, the work can begin next year.
“The days of having a pitch and one light are gone now. If you want to develop your club, you need the infrastructure around you. The idea is to build something that’s not a white elephant, that is needed in the community and around, is available to the community and will help develop the rugby club and put it as a central part of the East Clare community,” he concluded.
The club is now actively fundraising and is appealing to the community to help to get the development over the line.
Scariff Rugby Club trains its underage teams every Friday night and the seniors train every Tuesday at 7.30pm. New players are always welcome.
By Carol Byrne