Mel Diffley 4G Pitch Extended Report   08/10/2018

By Longford RFC PRO Tommy Butler 


The opening of the Mel Diffley Memorial 4G Pitch took place last Sunday September 30th after the Longford v Carlow Leinster League Matches.  The Senior Men kicked off the day in style by beating a strong Carlow side with a 4 try bonus point win.  A large crowd gathered straight after the match including Mel’s Wife Ann and sons; Alan, Mark and Paul and Mel’s brothers. Guest of honour along with the Diffley’s was the President of the Leinster Branch Lorcan Balfe who performed the official opening along with Ann.

The 4G pitch is a great addition to the club.  It is an artificial pitch that also has shock absorption meaning that it is suitable for contact sports like rugby.  It will allow training at all levels of the club throughout the year, especially during the Winter.  Undoubtedly if he had not passed on too early, Mel would have been deeply involved in its development, as he was at the heart of developing and maintaining what is one of best rugby facilities in the country; Longford RFC for many a year.

Fr O’Sullivan conducted a blessing along with speeches in remembrance of Mel by Paul Trueick, Michael Connellan, Mike Magan, Paschal Diffley and Paul Diffley.  The Clubs U12s rounded of proceedings by played a match on the newly opened pitch.

The addresses below help to sum up Mel’s contribution to the club, but like our friend Hugh Connolly who also passed on way before his time, you needed to see Mel in full flight to appreciate him fully.

The full album of photos from the day can be viewed at this link!

Remembrance by Longford RFC Club President Paul Trueick

As anybody who has an association with Longford RFC will know our club strives to have one of best facilities in the country.  We were one of the first clubs to put in all weather pitches in the 80s.  We then erected flood lights in the 90s and organised the Heineken Floodlit competition, which was a great success.  In the last 10 years we embarked on a project to renovate our club house and are one of the few clubs to have a restaurant on the premises.  Already this year we have resurfaced the car park.  We are now delighted to open our 4G pitch and I am particularly delighted that it is being named after our great friend Mel Diffley.  Mel was simply one of the most selfless clubmen the club has ever had.  He gave his time and expertise and never wanted any recognition.  I remember him being inducted into the Longford RFC Hall of Fame and never seen him so embarrassed.  Mel rarely missed any Longford games and travelled the length and breadth of the country to attend games.   Even in his final year he would come to club to watch a match even if he was unable to get out of his car.  There are a few people who are responsible for the success of the club and Mel is certainly top of the list.  I know he would be horrified to get this recognition but hopefully it will be a source of pride to his wife Ann and sons, Alan, Mark and Paul that his legacy will remain forever in this club.

Remembrance by Longford RFC Club President Michael Connellan

Throughout my time as Captain of the 1st XV and as an executive in the early 2000’s, Mel Diffley was very active at all executive meetings and as a rock of sense.  Mel was the calming influence at all meetings.  There is no doubt that I would regard Mel as a true friend and neighbour as I moved up to live in Lisduff in 2004, adjacent to Upper Ferefad where Mel and his wife, Anne and have lived all their lives.  If there was a problem at an Executive meeting or if there was an FBI/Secret Branch/covert operation in play in the club at any one time, you would find Derick Turner and Mel nodding at each other across the table at the Executive meeting an informing the other members that they are ‘looking into that matter at the moment and will keep the Executive in the loop when they have done a deal’.  We all knew that each matter would be resolved to the liking of the club and we put our trust in Mel and Derick.  Mel would look after any matter that needed addressing around at the club at a time when we certainly did not have the state of the art facility we have now and when the facility needed constant repair and work.  The fact that he ran a successful Plant and Tool hire business in Longford was indicative of how he also ran the club.  His passing was met with great sadness and the naming of the 4G pitch after Mel is fully warranted and welcomed by all involved in the club and will ensure his name lives on in the club.  The redevelopment of the club is certainly down to Mel and a number of other stalwarts and it is fair to say we would not have what we have without Mel’s support, influence, wisdom and drive.

Remembrance by Mike Magan Form Club President and Friend for over forty years.

‘Ask Mel’ – How often has that been said with regard to some detail in and around the rugby club?  Mel Diffley knew nearly every blade of grass, where electric cables were buried, where drains were located and who to call to fix something in and around the club.  He was the consummate clubman and never knew the word ‘No’ where it came to any request to help out with any task, with one major exception, Mel refused a number of requests to become Club President.  He fully merited the honour but true to form he preferred to work in many other ways for the club.  I got to know Mel in the early 70’s.  It was a time shortly after the club had been reformed and was in an exciting growth stage.  Around the time the club routinely fielded three teams on a Sunday and often four teams were in action.  Mel played at fullback and was a classic last line of defence…totally reliable and dependable.  He was also a good place kicker and when you consider that the ball at the time was the old brown leather one it was a difficult task to kick any great distance.  It was bad enough in fine dry weather but when wet the ball transformed into a big heavy bar of soap!  Mel was a fast driver… there is no other way to say it.  He loved driving at speeds that today would land you in serious trouble.  He had more than one encounter with the law but invariably talked his way out of some tight corners.  I’m sure Ford never knew just how fast a 1300cc Escort could go!  Mel was totally unforgiving when behind a slow moving line of traffic and said that ‘at the head of every line of slow traffic was an auld wan in a Morris Minor!’.  Another regular piece of advice was to ‘drive around corners as if you were about to meet a low loader with a D6 blade on your side of the road’.  Mel, like Hugh Connolly was taken too soon from his family and while their loss is much greater the club misses these two great clubmen.  It is fitting that a bit of the club is named after them both.

In conclusion

The opening of the pitch was a fitting tribute to Mel who put so much of his time into the club.  Plans are a foot to extend the pitch to full match size in the coming years.  Seeing Senior rugby games played on the pitch bearing his name will undoubtedly enhance the memory of Mel’s many years of work improving Longford RFCs facilities.

Lorcan Balfe (President of the Leinster Branch), Marc, Alan, Paul and Anne Diffley

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