Club in Focus: Portlaoise RFC
February 28, 2023 6:00 pm Des Berry
Founded in 1966, Portlaoise Rugby Club has been at the forefront of rugby in the province for seven decades.
Currently competing in Leinster Division 2A, the club also boasts a proud Provincial Towns Cup record, with a pair of wins in 1981 and 2003 from seven final appearances, losing out in 1980, 1984, 1988, 2001 and 2004.
There are plans afoot to mark to celebrate those two pivotal victories in 2023.
Years ago, the club’s present home in Togher, which comprises 19.5 acres, was bought for £9,500 (€12,000).
The grounds have been regularly upgraded over the years; there are four playing pitches, a training pitch and most recently the addition of a walkway on the perimeter and a state-of-the-art gym.
Last season, the Portlaoise senior men held their own in Leinster League Division 2A and the women gained promotion to Division 2A.
However, like many other clubs, it has seen difficult challenges emerge over the last number of years. Recognising these challenges, and that the club is in a state of transition at the moment, the Executive took a step back and looked at the overall structures in the club. This was with a view to putting in place a comprehensive rugby plan to promote the development of rugby for all from minis through youths to the senior sides.
The club has engaged with the players, coaches and wider membership to develop a plan that also involves RDO, Bryan Croke.
This plan is designed to make progress in coach and player development as well as school and community work.
The coach development programme involves hosting a total of 10 workshops with a wide variety of topics being covered such as passing, tackling, strength and conditioning, breakdown, set piece and an introduction to online coaching courses. On average, there have been 20 coaches attending each session.
On player development, there are sessions held once monthly and during mid-term breaks throughout the season, catering to both boys and girls.
It covers positional clinics on kicking, lineout throwing, half-back passing, scrummaging and the general skills of tackling, catch and pass, evasion and decision-making.
The course is run by expert coaches and involves Portlaoise players, present and past, to test and create an appropriate programme for all ‘academy’ players.
There will also be a nutrition talk, via Zoom, for all players, coaches, and parents.
The plan has also identified the need to develop a clear rugby plan for a pathway from mini’s through to adult rugby, emphasising participation, enjoyment, player development and player retention.
The pathway will be managed annually by a rugby sub-committee to ensure its implementation, and the hope is that, in the near future, it will ensure the successful transition of PRFC youths’ players through to the senior teams.
In parallel to the development of the rugby plan, Portlaoise has enhanced its community and commercial engagements.
This has allowed the local business community to see the club as an amenable body for its corporate social responsibility endeavours.
The future is bright and positive and the potential to grow is great. The ambition is to place Portlaoise Rugby at the centre of sporting excellence in the midlands area.
There is an environmentally friendly angle to the development of the club too.
It recently secured funding from Laois Partnership Company and LEADER to commission a report, produced by Green Pine Consultants and RPS, a leading global, professional services firm.
The project brief set out to explore opportunities using sustainable and green infrastructure design principles to maximise the economic, sporting, and environmental benefits for the club and its members.
The plan is to maximise the grounds’ potential for rugby use with any unused space used as an opportunity for ground sharing with other local sporting organisations.
In 2021, after a period of consultation with club members, local stakeholders, and the wider public, the plans were developed.
They propose to utilise the existing infrastructure and build future facilities around them. This will allow the club to develop and cater for future growth within its long-term budgetary capacity.
It will also reduce the environmental impact and carbon costs associated with demolishing and creating new buildings.
The vision is to develop Togher Sports Ground, into a top-class sports facility founded on sustainable and low-carbon principles.
Access to high-quality open spaces and opportunities for sport and recreation can make an important contribution to the health and well-being of a community.
The club recognises that there are many improvements that can be carried out, consulting with club members, the wider community and stakeholders in the Midlands to ensure all suggestions are considered and that the full potential of the site can be recognised in the future.
Whilst the primary aim of the development of the grounds is to benefit the members of Portlaoise Rugby Club, it wishes to encourage the wider community to make the best use of the facilities and benefit from the club grounds; “Together at Togher” being the motto for this collaboration.
Portlaoise RFC will host the Junior Interprovincial game between Leinster and Connacht on Saturday 6th of May, 2023.
Supporters are encouraged to visit the club and see for themselves the massive strides being taken there.