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Grassroots graft lays foundations for Boyne boom

Boyne RFC club community rugby officer (CCRO) James Fey is a relative veteran of the CCRO programme, having been involved for the past five years. In this time, he has seen dramatic changes in the rugby landscape.

"In five years, I've seen rugby become a sport that's on everyone's lips. Children now associate with Leinster a lot more than five years ago. Back then it was a case of being soccer-orientated in the area."

The increased awareness of all things rugby in the Boyne area has led to some spectacular gains at Boyne RFC. Boyne now field two sides from under-13 to under-17 and James believes the increase in youths and minis numbers is directly attributable to the work being undertaken in the local schools through the CCRO program.

"I've definitely noticed a direct link between increased numbers playing in the club from the work in the schools," he explains.

This increased participation is thanks in large part to the time James spends with local schoolchildren.

The former Boyne RFC player interacts with 12 primary schools and three secondary schools throughout the course of the year, and has seen significant progress in the past couple of years. James only sees the trend continuing.

"Rugby is absolutely still growing as a sport. Now I'm getting phone calls trying to get me into schools!"

James' success in spreading the game throughout the area is a result not only of his hard work but also of a general changing of attitudes towards the game. "We're slowly losing the stigma of rugby being a rough sport. The Leinster brand, through the Heineken Cup, has really raised the profile," he says.

The difference in attitudes is perfectly highlighted by the fact some local schoolchildren are now choosing their secondary school based on the level of rugby expertise being offered, something according to James that "would have been unheard of in the area before".

Progress is certainly being made and the Boyne RFC CCRO takes particular pride in establishing a love of rugby among kids who had no previous experience of the sport.

"Seeing these guys within the schools and then up at the club is fantastic," he says. "The most rewarding thing is seeing a guy who had no clue how to play rugby two years ago playing well in the club."

Laurels

Despite enjoying considerable success, James is keen to not rest on any laurels and although there is much work still to be done, there is a sense that the club and youth representative structures in place will reap rich rewards in the future.

"The structure is in place to make sure less players slip through the net who might have the potential to go all the way. I think the right systems are in place," he says.

Through these improvements in structures, James believes that the days of a handful of elite schools providing the majority of professional players may be coming to an end.

Although there are clearly still many obstacles ahead, through the hard work of James and others, the game looks set for a bright future in the Boyne area.


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