End of Season for Longford Rugby Club Statement   23/03/2020

By Tommy Butler Longford RFC PRO 


The 2019-20 season will go down as the most disrupted season since possibly World War 2 as a combination of very poor weather in early 2020 and the outbreak of Covid 19 virus had led to the fixture list running way behind for all sections of the club. 

When the IRFU made the call that all rugby on island of Ireland would be suspended until March 29th everyone held out some hope that perhaps the important fixtures could be completed before the start of Summer.  Longford Senior Men’s 1st XV and the Senior Women’s XV both had put themselves in position for promotion via playoff and both had one match outstanding to secure that place and then go into a promotion playoff for a place in Leinster Division 1A and 3 respectively.  However, the call that we were all dreading but knew was inevitable was made on Thursday where IRFU in conjunction with the provinces decided that all domestic competitions were to be deemed finished immediately and that promotion would only take place where a competition was finished.  Unfortunately, that means for the second season in a row it is close but no cigar for Longford Senior Men and also this season for our resurgent Senior Women’s squad. 

Of course in these uncertain times the preservation of life and the effort to halt the spread of Covid 19 are paramount and the outbreak certainly shows how fragile life is and how we can take things like rugby and Longford Rugby Club for granted.  Rugby and sport is an important release valve that we all need.  However, we will all get through this by working together and will be back playing rugby again soon but now we look to next season, which hopefully will kick off on time next September with all players safe, well rested and raring to go. 

There is definitely a feeling within the Senior Men’s squad that the outcome of this season leaves the feeling of a job unfinished.  Commitment and heart were brilliant this year as were the playing numbers.  We finished second in Division 1B for the second year in a row and our 2nd XV won the Seconds League going completely unbeaten all season.  We used upwards of 60 players in both squads and it is particularly heartening to see all the players coming through from our Youth section.  Hopefully most of the players will come back next season ‘to finish the job’ and with a few additions to the squad I have no doubt that this squad can finally fulfil its potential and win 1B gaining automatic promotion to Division 1A, this would be on the back of finishing third, second and second in consecutive seasons. 

Longford Women had a great season and were looking forward to a promotion playoff.  However, with the addition of the Girls underage teams this year where they played lots of matches at U12, U14, U16 & U18 age levels, I am in doubt that the Senior squad will continue to grow as the underage section continues to reinforce the Senior Squad. 

Underage rugby in Longford has never been more successful with over 400 players registered and big numbers training and playing matches.  One of the best initiatives this year was a new club policy which stipulates that all players in a match squad playing below U16 level are guaranteed a half of rugby.  Winning is important but players who train hard getting to play is more important.  Even with the policy our U16s lost out in Leinster Division 1 Final. 

No doubt once things settle down again there will be end of season awards for all sections and an opportunity to reflect and regroup for next season where everyone will want to come back bigger and stronger.  The development of our superb new full size 4G pitch and the annual club AGM this year with election of officers will also be on the agenda. 

No doubt Director of Rugby Niall Moran, Senior Men’s Head Coach Glenn Baskett and his coaching team and everyone in the club are already preparing for next season. 

In signing off for the season we ask everyone to do what we have always done in Longford Rugby Club to watch out for each other and the community.  Please follow the Government/HSE guidelines and help vulnerable members of the community, if we do so we can get through this together. 

For our underage members we have a special request; keep practising your skills but do it at home and do not associate in groups outside your family until the HSE tells you it is safe to do so. 

Reaction to the news of the premature end of the Season by Longford RFC Senior Men’s Head Coach Glenn Baskett 

“We are just trying to take in the decision by the IRFU to cancel the season. I suppose if I’m realistic it was looking harder and harder to find a window to run these games off as the days went by and the situation evolved, so while we are all hugely disappointed I’m not completely surprised. Does that make it easier to take, absolutely not. We have put 9 months work into this season and to have it cut off without a conclusion is tough. The boys had put themselves into a position to get promoted to 1A and to not be able to achieve that after the hurt of losing last years play off in the last play of the game is really tough on the boys. We had a dip November/December and the boys climbed into their work after that in January and had gone unbeaten to get that playoff spot, so for the hard work put in by them to not get the opportunity to see a conclusion is hard. Some of these guys have played AIL rugby and know it is very hard to get into the top levels of competition, and those windows of opportunity close pretty quick, so to have that taken away is a killer for the boys. But on the positive side our J2’s went unbeaten and sit top of the league. And from when I first came in with Niall 5 years ago we couldn’t even put 2 teams out. So to be playing every week, training competitively with 40+ guys in the group and winning a J2 league is a huge positive for Longford Rugby. To have Kieran and Alan dedicated to the J2’s on a Friday and the weekend has been a real positive for them.  On that Phil Dardis and Benny McManus have been two outstanding captains this season. They have taken the leadership brilliantly and pushed the group. For me having Kolo and Steve in the coaching group has meant different voices around training and selection, which is good for the boys to be challenged. The two of them brought a different dynamic to each session. But for now it’s a matter of digesting this premature conclusion to the season and for the club to sit back and look at where things will go from here ahead of next season, as much as anyone can plan right now the way things are. I would like to acknowledge the support of the club, Niall, the coaches with me, physio’s (Ronie and Dean), Karen, Gerry and John. Now it’s about the country getting through this and getting back to normal, and us all getting back to playing and watching sport.”     

IRFU Statement 

“Irish Rugby’s 2019/20 domestic season is to conclude with immediate effect due to ongoing concerns over coronavirus.  Government action in combatting the virus looks set to continue beyond March 29th. Irish Rugby wants to play its part while giving clubs the chance to put plans in place for the 2020/21 season.  The directive applies to all incomplete national and provincial competitions. It was ratified by the IRFU Rugby Committee on Thursday March 19th 2020. Cups will be shared by finalists, where cup competitions have reached the final fixture.  There will be no promotion or relegation in any of the five divisions of the Energia Men’s All-Ireland League.  The planned expansion of the Energia Women’s All-Ireland League for the 2020/21 season remains in place.  There will be no league or cup winners in any competition organised at a national level including the Energia All-Ireland Leagues, Energia Women’s All-Ireland Cup and the Energia Bateman Cup.  The Fraser McMullen U20 Cup, the Junior Interprovincial Championships and the round-robin qualifiers for the Energia All-Ireland League will not take place.  Speaking about the announcement, IRFU Director of Rugby Development Colin McEntee said: “The decision to end the domestic rugby season for 2019/2020 season has not been made lightly. All options were discussed and the IRFU is satisfied it has arrived at the only equitable solution.  These are challenging times for us all and we know clubs will be impacted by this directive, but we will look back at this season as one where we put the physical welfare of our rugby community above all else.  Clubs are now in a position to make plans for the 2020/21 season. We look forward to marking the 30th anniversary of the All-Ireland League.” 


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