In this week’s Limerick Leader column, Aidan Corr argues that the local rugby competitions need to be organized better.
I WAS doing a bit of coaching last week. Nothing that could be classed as really heavy stuff, like lifting in the lineout, forming pods or wedges or the driving maul.
I just stuck to some ball-handling and fine-tuning the art of the perfect pass. Minutes into the session I was stumped by a question from the single squad member, 3-year-old James: “Grandad! Why does a rugby ball look like an egg?”
I was flummoxed and later research revealed that soon after William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran with it during a football game in the playgrounds of Rugby School in England in 1823, a local cobbler by the name of William Gilbert set up a business of providing rugby balls for the school. These were made from pigs’ bladders, which, as many Limerick families of the pig trade in the late 1980s and early 1990s were aware, are plum-shaped.
The Gilbert family continued to play a major role in the development of the oval ball: James Gilbert, a nephew of William’s, a man blessed with particularly powerful lungs, inflated the smelly green bladders single-handedly by blowing into a pipe and it was 1870 before Richard Lindon saved him from inevitable heart-failure and a possible early demise by inventing the first inflatable rubber bladder for use on the rugby fields of the British Isles.
Over the years the size of the rugby ball has increased from a clumsy, rough laced, heavy lump to today’s lightweight Gilbert product that has a circumference of between 580-620 cm and weighs between 410 to 460 grams.
Children are likely to come up with the most testing of questions and the aforementioned ‘Magnus Magnusson’ followed his query about the rugby ball with this one: “What are you going to be when you grow up grandad?” I was tempted to respond with a four letter word that starts and ends with a ‘d’ and also has the letters ‘e’ and ‘a’ in it.
For all their innocence and inexperience of this complicated world, a group of kids could hardly do a worse job at running Limerick junior rugby as what has occurred over recent weeks.
Two competitions have been ‘on hold’ all because of questionable governing decisions. Firstly, we had the semi-final of the Gleeson League, a well-respected and highly competitive competition for second and third teams. One semi-final between St Mary’s and Garryowen did not take place at Grove Island and the branch awarded the game to the Light Blues. St Mary’s objected claiming that they had informed the branch in advance that they could not field a team on that day, got little joy, acquired the representation of a solicitor and now, it appears that this semi-final is at last going to be played.
Last week, six local junior clubs were informed that they were no longer participating in the Webb Cup, another long-established junior rugby competition which was set up in the early 1970s in memory of the late Bohemian RFC clubman Sean Webb.
The teams excluded were St Mary’s, Newcastle West, Kilfeacle and District, Ennis, St Senan’s and Presentation and none of them were happy. The view of the branch was that the clubs they removed from the Webb Cup had played in “a higher grade cup competition.” Inevitably, this resulted in more objections being lodged with the branch by the clubs.
This Monday I learned that these objections will be dealt with by the branch over the coming days and it is hoped that the six clubs will be reinstated. It is also understood that the whole sorry mess has resulted in at least one resignation from the branch.
Isn’t it time that all clubs and the branch were fully aware of the rules of these junior club competitions before the start of each season and fully adhered to them?
Grey areas continue to result in long delays and add to the unnecessary frustration of clubs and players.