Club in Focus: Suttonians
March 30, 2023 11:00 am Des Berry
There is something special about Suttonians.
There is no better example of this than Oscar Reilly, a thorough Londoner, schooled at St George’s College, Weybridge.
It was there he met Peter Synnott, his coach, as part of a rugby experience that included representing the Irish U18 Exiles against Ulster, Leinster, Munster and Connacht.
In 2017, Oscar travelled over to Dublin for nine months, returned to earn a degree in Journalism, Communications and Politics from Cardiff University before securing a Masters in Marketing at the Smurfit School of Business in UCD.
“There is something about the club. Even when you leave, like I did, you never really leave,” says Oscar (pictured below)
“We have got people in Canada and Australia, who travel all across the world and they are still involved in the club.”
It is certainly the case with Oscar as he currently plays for Suttonians in the Leinster League 1A, coaches the SCT at St Fintan’s High School and works for the Irish Rugby Institute, situated at the club on Station Road.
Oscar has put his skills to use in heading up Suttonians’ Social Media campaigns, designed to invite people into the club and keep the local community informed on what’s going on at the club.
It is an extension of the tireless work of the outgoing PRO Noel Cuddy, now a driving force behind the Ireland Touch Rugby set-up.
“In the aftermath of the pandemic, those involved in Suttonians realised how important it was for people to leave their homes and get back out into the community.
“In this part of Dublin, there are quite a lot of new builds. New people coming into the area may not know much about the community.
“The club is keen to make Suttonians one of the centres to which people can come, get to know each other and, maybe even, join the club.”
There have been a number of initiatives pursued.
A government grant related to the performing arts was procured to help put on live music every Thursday night.
This was backed-up by an extensive leaflet drop in the surrounding area, encouraging people young and old to come on down.
“It happens after training on Thursday when the Men’s and Women’s senior teams are served food by the club and the music starts after 9pm.
“It does attract a wide range of people from the local area, even those who don’t have anything to do with rugby. It is just a nice place to come and have a chat or a drink.
“In recent weeks, it has gotten quite busy in the club and it is just an example of how everything is getting back to what it was before Covid.”
Suttonians had always been that place where people come to socialise. That changed utterly when Covid struck, keeping people inside their homes, ruining social circles and putting a huge strain on the personal and mental well-being of everyone.
People missed out so much on person-to-person social interaction and they want to get back to getting out there into the world.
Organically, a renewed interest in what is going on locally leads to conversations around what is happening at Suttonians at the weekend.
The Women’s Rugby programme at the club is expanding.
“We have our starlets at U10s and U12s. We have the Youths teams at U14s, U16s and U181/2. We have our Women’s AlL squad competing at the highest level.”
The synergy between the respective senior squads has made for a more united front.
“Recently, there has been a lot more integration, a lot more camaraderie between the Men and Women teams,” noted Oscar.
“If we don’t have a game on a Saturday, the lads go down to watch the Women’s game. That has definitely grown – the mutual support.”
There is also the mutually beneficial arrangement between Suttonians and the Irish Rugby Institute, described as “a professional rugby coaching company” whose “mission is to develop young national and international players in the game.”
The IRI was instrumental in financing the state-of-the-art gym facilities and the company operates out of Suttonians, offering the players access to the equipment.
While so many rugby clubs are relatively quiet during the off-season, there is a real buzz of excitement generated around the JJ McDowell Grounds.
“In the summer, there are camps organised by the IRI in which kids from Suttonians and all across Europe come together to develop their skills,” says Oscar.
The Rainbow Montessori is also housed in the club, catering for children aged between 2 years and 3 months to 6 years old in classes running from Monday to Friday.
“There is a lot going on through the week. It is a hive of activity really,” shares Oscar.
In terms of rugby, it all begins at the minis where former Leinster lock Aidan Kearney is the main co-ordinator of the fun and chaos on Sunday mornings.
The longstanding relationship with St Fintan’s High School flourished last year when the Sutton school made it all the way to the Leinster Junior Cup semi-final with an exceptionally talented bunch of players.
“There is a massive tradition of the boys at St Fintan’s coming to Suttonians when they leave school,” says Oscar.
The bonds are stronger than ever as the likes of Robert Forbes, Bru Amerlynck and Peter Synnott have laid the foundations on which Oscar, the current Senior Cup forwards coach hopes to build.
“We haven’t had an U20s squad for a few years. It is something we are looking at due to the sheer talent coming through,” he adds.
Right now, there are players out there on the various rugby circuits making Suttonians proud that their ‘once upon a time’ happened at the club.
“Dylan O’Grady (pictured above) played for the Ireland U20s last season. Jack Aungier is playing for Connacht. We’ve got Sean Cribbin playing for the Ireland Men’s 7s and Kate Farrell-McCabe for the Women’s 7s.”
These are the sort of role models that provide a visible pathway for any kids coming into the club to see how it is possible to reach the higher levels.
“It is fantastic for our boys and girls to see how someone from Suttonians is playing the game on the world stage.
“Closer to home, our main goal is getting the community involved in the club.”