RUGBY: GARY ROWAN INTERVIEW – NAAS RFC DIRECTOR OF RUGBY
“They’ve done the right thing”
By Daire Walsh
NAAS RFC Director of Rugby Gary Rowan was in full agreement with the IRFU’s decision last Thursday to bring a permanent halt to the 2019/20 domestic season.
Owing to the outbreak of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), a host of matches – as well as collective training sessions – across all grades of rugby had already been postponed. With the current restrictions imposed by the Irish Government set to extend well beyond the initial date of 29 March, the union took their own steps to combat this global pandemic.
“They’ve done the right thing, for sure. Rugby is very important, but I think everybody is seeing the bigger picture here. That there’s a bigger crisis than rugby at the minute. Rugby is a sport that we all love, we play for enjoyment,” Rowan acknowledged.
“Certainly not being able to train and play over the last couple of weeks, it has been very, very difficult. It’s difficult times across the club but on the scale of things, people are dying at the end of the day. We kind of put it in perspective.”
As a consequence of their directive on this matter, there won’t be any promotion or relegation within all five divisions of the men’s All-Ireland League. Whereas this comes as a major blow to north Kildare outfit MU Barnhall – who were flying high at the summit of Division 2A – Naas will retain their 1B status having found themselves second from bottom with just four games remaining.
Though a ninth-place finish would have left them facing into a relegation play-off, Rowan felt survival was well within the grasp of the Forenaughts side.
“I think we would have gotten out of it. We worked very hard over Christmas, got some good results after Christmas. You can never be overconfident. I can’t say to you ‘listen, we surely would have been in Division 1B’. I was impressed with the way the players reacted to it. The attitude that we showed all season, particularly over Christmas, to get back in it.
“Who knows what would have happened, but we’ve been in relegation battles a lot over the years. Not everything has been sugar and candy like the last couple of years. I think the fight would have been there, the battle would have been there. That’s what I’m quietly confident of.”
Of course, this drastic alteration to the rugby calendar affected more than just the adult teams within Naas. The underage sides also saw their seasons coming to an end, with many of them originally set to kick-start cup campaigns in the coming weeks.
The U16 boys squad secured a Leinster league title at Tullow’s expense on March 7 and had already begun preparations for a forthcoming All-Ireland semi-final. Nevertheless, rather than lamenting the end of their memorable journey, Rowan was keen to focus on how this team can help to deliver a bright future for the club.
“It really does seem to be an excellent side. There’s a lot of great hope in a lot of those lads that they’re going to go really well in the game. Whether that’s with Naas or Leinster or other clubs. There’s some really talented guys there. That’s one part of it, they’ve an excellent coaching set-up as well.
“Karl Alexander and Paddy McDonnell, they’ve really gotten stuck in and looked after them. That’s going to leave us in good stead for the next couple of years. Every year it is a battle. Guys retire every year. Players give up because of life situations, so you need constant influx of other guys in the team,” Rowan added.