After a year to cherish, Tipp club is keen to kick on in 2020

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After a year to cherish, Tipp club is keen to kick on in 2020

Club focus: Nenagh Ormond


Nenagh Ormond senior team and supporters after guaranteeing their Division 2A status
Nenagh Ormond senior team and supporters after guaranteeing their Division 2A status

Stuck in the depths of lambing season and sowing corn, farmer Fergal Healy still has time to be president of his beloved local rugby club, Nenagh Ormond.

It’s been a busy year so far for the Healy household, and with son Ben hitting the headlines during the U-20 Six Nations, it has been an outstanding one as well.

The 19-year-old out-half made three appearances during the Irish Grand Slam-winning campaign as Noel McNamara’s youngsters created their own piece of history in that tournament.

Fergal Healy always knew his young son was gifted and had a rugby brain too, but it didn’t take away from the achievement when the Garryowen clubman steered the Ireland U-20s to glory.

“It has been an unbelievable year. It is magical. He is in Boston with Munster ‘A’ at the moment,” says Healy.

“I coached my two sons when they were eight to 12 years old, and when Ben was younger there was a wall out the back of the house and there were blocks on it. I numbered the blocks one to ten.



Nenagh Ormond president Fergal Healy and his son JohnNenagh Ormond president Fergal Healy and his son John

Nenagh Ormond president Fergal Healy and his son John

“As a ten-year-old he would face me, I would tell him hit ten, he would hit ten, hit seven, and he would hit seven. His passing even then was exceptional.

“To show how clued into the game he was, even back then, he turned to me one day and said: ‘Dad why is seven or eight up so high, you never pass a ball that high’.”

Fergal primed Ben for glory but older brother John has taken his own rugby path towards similar goals.

“We have the distinction here in Nenagh where a father and son have been captain and president in the one year. It’s the first time it has ever happened,” says Healy.



President Healy with Mary Spain from sponsors Permanent TSBPresident Healy with Mary Spain from sponsors Permanent TSB

President Healy with Mary Spain from sponsors Permanent TSB

The 22-year-old is the current captain at Nenagh Ormond, and the diminutive hooker has a fearsome reputation throughout the All-Ireland League. He studies Agricultural Science in UCD but returns to New Ormond Park to lead his local team week in, week out.

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“I am often put in a situation where people say Ben is brilliant, but John is brilliant as well. I can’t say enough about John,” says Healy.

“He is playing rugby in Nenagh, and he has given everything to it. He is studying in Dublin, and he has travelled up and down most Tuesday and Thursday nights for the last four years. He is totally committed to the game.

“John punches above his weight in Nenagh. I would think he is perfectly capable of playing in Division 1A but definitely 1B rugby. But he is just so committed to Nenagh. He has been captain for the past two years now.



John Coffey, John Healy and Fergal BrislaneJohn Coffey, John Healy and Fergal Brislane

John Coffey, John Healy and Fergal Brislane

Heart

“His heart is in Nenagh no more than mine was back in my time.”

Fergal Healy played for Nenagh Ormond across three decades, between the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s.

He was a flanker who could operate at blindside or openside of the back-row, and also captained Nenagh Ormond, while he represented UL Bohemians for a season and would become one of the most capped junior players in the province.

Nenagh Ormond were the first Tipperary club to reach the senior grades in 2005. They were founded in 1884 and now play in Division 2A of the All-Ireland League.

They field two adult sides, ten across the underage ranks, as well as a women’s team and various girls’ teams.

But they continue to struggle to keep up with the GAA in the area, with most youngsters opting instead for hurling in the Premier County.

“We are stuck in the middle of this stronghold of Tipperary hurling. We have Éire Óg, Kilruane, Kiladangan, Burgess, all of those hurling clubs around us,” says Healy.

“Probably our biggest problem is that we can identify young players but at 16 or 18 years of age trying to steer them on the rugby line as opposed to the hurling.

“What I have tried to do is, we have very good neighbours out around us. We will bring them in occasionally for a pre-match lunch. Even the functions that we have going on, we always try to let the neighbours know that there will be no noise disturbance or anything like that.

“We have a very, very strong juvenile section which again is drawing on a lot of those parents within the town to try help out in the club as much as they can.”

Nenagh Ormond won the AIL Division 2B title in 2013-’14, the year they retained the Munster Senior Plate for the first time.

And they were subsequently voted Munster Senior Club of the Year but they have looked at ways to constantly evolve and improve in the senior rugby ranks.

At 60, this is Healy’s first year at the helm but having previously been offered the job as president way back in 1992 he hopes to be reinstated this time around with some unfinished business to take care of.

“I declined the offer back then because I wasn’t ready for it. I avoided presidency until last year. I don’t know am I any the wiser now,” he says.

“But there is lots still left to do and I am probably going to go back and do a second term, all going well.

“This time last year we were looking at promotion, we were in the play-offs heading towards 1B in the AIL. This year we have been very, very lucky to actually survive within the league.

“I am trying to put a three-year plan in place. We have a new coach coming in this year, Ivan Muldoon. He was our coach two years ago and took a year out and he is coming back.

“And our plan is built around our U-16 and U-18s coming through too. We have very, very good players coming through and it’s exciting for the future of the club.”

Irish Independent


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