People ask what it is exactly that carries Bruff RFC from one season to the next in what used to be known as an “Upwardly Mobile” fashion. In one way I suppose I’m kinda uniquely placed to describe the different generations of Bruff players since it started. I played with some of the “First Bruffians” and finished with some of the current batch over a twenty five year period but I find it very hard to put it into words, to explain it to someone who isn’t involved. In hope of answers, I met with the new Bruff First XV Management team, Michéal Leahy (Manager), Cathal O’ Regan (Captain) Eoin Cahill (Head Coach) and Peter Malone (Forwards Coach) to sound out how they explained the Bruff phenomenon and to get a feel for where they saw the future of the club.
Now, you have to keep in mind that all four of these started their career in Bruff, Eoin playing all the way through from U8 to U20, Peter starting at U13, gathering Irish Community Games medals, they both garnered U16, U18 and U20 AIL medals along the way before moving on. Eoin went on to end up as Vice-Captain and sometimes Captain of Shannon, is completing his Level 2 Coaching Certificate and came back as Backs Coach last Season. Peter captained Garryowen, got a Munster Development contract under his belt, and represented Ireland as International Club team captain. They are laden with AIL Division One Medals, yet both (in their mid twenties) have returned to where it all began and will be involved in the Bruff Senior squad next season as player/coaches. Michéal is a former Club Captain, and after many years of service in the front row, moved on to manage the team successfully through most of the promotions of the last ten years. With them again this season is the reappointed captain and Hooker Cathal O’ Regan, whose career may have taken a different path, Bruree Community games team first before moving to Bruff U10’s, but again has the U16, U18 and U20 AIL medals to show for it. During the day he serves in the Garda Síochána in Anglesea St. Station in Cork but along with his teammates has a Division three league medal under his belt. This mixed group has come together for the first time in seven years, but this time around in a Bruff Club in Division Two of the AIB All Ireland League.
I first asked the newly appointed coaches how they felt they would cope with taking charge of guys that they have played with over the years: Peter simply stated “These guys will be honest, hard working, fair and straight with us; they are a good well drilled squad with a great balance of a well varied attack coupled with an awesome defence. They find it easy to motivate themselves. Both them and the players that went before them have brought this club from Junior division 2 all the way to Senior division 2. Look, with the fresh challenges facing the club in division 2 next season, new opponents, the likes of Thomond and Old Crescent, motivation is not going to be a problem. I feel that there is very little difference between the top teams in Division 2 and the lower half in Division 1 and that’s our aim for next season, Top half of Division 2”.
Eoin just grinned: “They’re well used to me bawling them out, but seriously these lads are brilliant, you push them and push them again and still they don’t complain, everyone wants the same thing and they are all willing to do what it takes to get it. Basically the players want to be completely professional in their approach. Bruff has always been a club that others admired, we know that there are many clubs out there both junior and senior that want to emulate our achievements, the success we have had. The heart of our club is our underage, home grown players that have bonded and gelled into a unit over the years, it almost scary how they can read each other’s minds on the pitch. Everyone just knows where they are supposed to be and where everyone else is. It’s unique as a club in that sense. How many other teams in the AIL can honestly say that all but one or two of their players have been together for fifteen years solid? There’s not many. ” At this stage someone brought up the story about the interviewer from RTE, after the Match in Naas last season she asked who the Bruff foreign players were, the answer she got was “Those two over there, Liam is from Abbeyfeale, the Kerry side and Ger is from Kilfeacle in Tipp.”
Turning my attention to Cathal, I asked how he felt about working with the new coaches: “Everyone will be treated equally, there are no favourites here and with the new rotation systems everyone will get a fair crack of the whip. These fellows (Peter and Eoin) are the ultimate professionals, they bring a vast store of experience and knowledge back with them and even though it’s a new departure for Bruff having two player coaches, it may well turn out to be the system that people will copy in other clubs. We’ve always done things our own way and at our own Pace. We want to consolidate our position in Division two first. Where we want to be is in the top half of the table at the Christmas break, if we achieve that then we can examine the goals again at the Christmas review.”
Finally I asked the team manager Michéal Leahy how the current Batch of players measured up to those we had played with over the years: “There’s no comparison. Look in the door there, when were we ever lifting weights like that? and that’s during the off season! They’re fitter, faster, stronger than we ever were, they put in a week’s work into this. Mind you there’s nutrition & diet training, individual programmes, we never knew any of that. Take Ger Collins there, he was in Australia for a year, came back home last night and here he is”. Then he smiled and as he walked into the gym to observe the pained expressions “We can’t tell them that though, can we? it’d give them swelled heads”
It’s true, as I watched from the door and listened to the banter inside, I knew that there was no room in that gym for Prima Donnas. They’d never handle the slagging….