This year Barnhall RFC the Parsonstown based rugby club are celebrating their 40th season as an affiliated Rugby club…

A senior club for 11 years Barnhall were amongst the fastest developing clubs to achieve senior status from the time of its inception in 1969.

The beginnings were humble. The Barnhall Blues started out as a business team playing for the IMP meat group and the original dressing rooms were the shower facilities in the abattoir. Many a good story is told about those early days and how the posh Dublin 4 clubs were treated to the trials and tribulations of the trip to Leixlip. Pitch invasions by heavy heifers and bullocks added a pungent spice to proceedings before the club took on a more professional approach which saw a meteoric rise and achieving Senior status in season 1998/99.

The astute Barnhall back room boys realised this was a plateau achieved by with a significant group of very talented players. As the club developed mini and youth players significant numbers of players moved away after playing in rugby schools to other senior clubs in Leinster and Munster.

In the early years some many of those that stayed with the extensive club youth programme found there way into the senior teams with a moderate number breaking through to the first team. Three players went on to the paid ranks in the UK and France. But much of the bright youth talent found new communities to play in resulting in a dispersal of local talent.

It was agreed that something needed to be done to provide the club with a clear route from mini rugby to youth and schools rugby all the way to varsity rugby within the catchment area of the club. In 2005 Barnhall kicked off a relationship with the NUI Maynooth to jointly develop a Rugby academy programme. In the current season this accounts for 22 scholarships and the club have provided a development officer and rugby co-ordinator to the University. As a result of continued youth development today Barnhall can boast of 16 home grown players in the first team squad.

The NUI Maynooth and Barnhall RFC have agreed a much bolder strategic development plan which will see a rebranding of the club to NUIM Barnhall RFC from the commencement of next season. This development has been warmly welcomed and endorsed by the IRFU and the Leinster Branch. A key strategy of the name change is to bring the number of Barnhall RFC-sponsored scholarships at NUI Maynooth from its current level of 22 scholars to 40 scholarships within the next two years.

The continued development of the University men’s and ladies teams and the administration of rugby matters will be under the watchful eye and guidance of NUIM Barnhall RFC.

Prof. John Hughes, President, NUI Maynooth said: “Our student sports scholarships go from strength to strength. We are delighted with this announcement from the IRFU, and assure NUIM-Barnhall RFC of the University’s long term commitment”.

Rugby Director, Eddie Fitzgerald says: “Barnhall RFC has its background as a community based club and this development with NUI Maynooth will allow it to keep its top players local to the community. By developing the rugby academy to the highest levels possible it will also make it attractive and possible for students coming from around the country to realise their AIL ambitions.”

From humble beginnings Barnhall have made great strides in developing the Rugby family in their community. It will be interesting to see what new heights NUIM Barnhall can scale to in the next 40 years.