Interview with Longford RFC Director of Rugby Niall Moran   20/11/2018

By Tommy Butler Longford RFC PRO

The Beginning

I first came to the club nine years ago when Colm Glynn was Head Coach as Forwards/Assistant Head Coach.  It was a great year as we won the Leinster League Division 2 and got promoted to Division 1B.  Even though the club had done well in the past it was the first blue Pennant the club had ever won.  Blue Pennants are only awarded to Divisional or Cup Winners.  The following year we consolidated our position in Division 1B and also reached the Provincial Towns Plate Final, where we lost out to Portarlington.  We went one better the next year, when we reached the holy grail of the Provincial Towns Cup Final, which is widely regarding as the premier cup competition in Irish club rugby.  It was only the clubs second time in the final, the other being in 1932.  I then decided to step away from the club to pursue other coaching opportunities before coming in as Head Coach the following season.  My first year in charge along with Glenn Basket was a baptism of fire where we got relegated from Division 1B.  We actually also reached the Plate Final again that season versus Ashbourne and lost out to our opponents who played in Division 1A with the final kick of the match.  While relegation never feels good, it was actually a blessing in disguise as it allowed things to be re-evaluated at the club and introduce new players into the team.  Ultimately, we went straight back up as Champions of Division 2 in a fantastic season and then last season we consolidated our position in 1B with a our highest ever league finish in third.  We were in the shakeup right until the latter stages of the league.  We also reached the Provincial Towns Plate Final v Naas.  Again, we unfortunately left the game behind us.  This season I have moved up from Senior Men’s Head Coach to the position of overall Director of Rugby for the whole club.  I am working hard on getting the structures right throughout the club at this seasons U13s are the new Senior Players in five years’ time.  I am also focusing on trying to make the Senior Men’s Early XV a force to be reckoned with.

Great Memories

I have multiple great memories of my time with Longford RFC.  Some of the special ones were in our run to the Provincial Towns Cup Final.  We beat a much fancied Enniscorthy side in the first round of the cup.  It was extra special as it was the week after the untimely death of one of the club’s players Derek Bannon.  The atmosphere before the match was electric and I knew we were going to win.  The second was our hard fought victory against Roscrea in the semi-final.  It was a great feeling for the team and management knowing that we had reached the holy grail.  Other highlights were beating Kilkenny in Kilkenny last season, winning the two Division 2 titles and Colm Glynn kicking a last minute drop goal to beat Clondalkin.    

Where It All Started

My coaching career started up the road in Cavan in 1996 where I was working at the time.  We won Division Three of the Ulster Qualifying League that year.  I then went back playing/coaching with Buccaneers in Athlone and it was the first place I came into contact with a young Colm Glynn.  We won three Connacht Junior Leagues and the All Ireland Reserve Cup.  Ultimately, opportunities to move to coaching the First Team were not available in Athlone so I moved to coaching Athy.  It was a successful two years where we got promoted and also beat Skerries in Skerries in the Cup.  I had also had some great years coaching Marist College in Athlone where we won two Connacht Cups and I was involved in the formative years of one of Irelands top players, Robbie Henshaw. 

Now and the Future

Now that I am in the role of Director of Rugby, I am taking a more strategic role and trying to improve the club’s overall rugby structure.  I am trying to make sure that every age group has a good set of qualified coaches.  Obviously, GAA is very strong in Longford, so we have to have the right coaching and facilities to encourage underage players to come in and play rugby.  As previously said the club’s current underage players are our future Senior Players.  We also need pathways for coaches to move up in the club to the older underage teams right up to coaching the Seniors.  Ronan Keith has taken on the role of Head Coach of the U18s and it is great to see a player with his knowledge passing it on to the next group of Senior Players.  This season we have introduced underage girl’s rugby for the first time with a focus on the U16s.  As regards Senior rugby I would like to see both the Senior Men and Women play in the highest division possible.  For the Senior Men that means playing in Division 1A and Saturday rugby, which brings it’s own challenges.  Ultimately, I would like all our underage players main ambition to be to play for Longford and only consider going to another club if their ambition is to ultimately play AIL Division 1 rugby or go professional.

Niall Moran, Glenn Baskett (Current Head Coach) and Ronan Keith (U18s Coach) with Leinster Division 2 Blue Pennant

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