Longford U15s prepare for new season with Pre-Season camp   06/09/2016

In preparation for a new season, pre-season Training Camps are very much the norm nowadays for the rugby provinces such as Leinster, and for international squads, and Longford’s U15’s were no exception when they embarked upon their pre-season Training Camp in Enniscrone over the weekend of the 19th/20th/21st August.  The squad, coaches, catering and support crew and camp mascot (Jenny) departed the Rugby Club at 5:00 p.m. Friday afternoon arriving at the training camp base just before 7:00p.m.  With everyone pitching in, the four accommodation tents and the separate catering tent were up and ready for use less than two hours later.  Following a meal high in protein to energise the players for the gruelling weekend’s activities ahead a squad meeting took place at which ground rules were laid down to cover:

1.    mundane matters such as discipline, standards of behaviour and such like along with fines and punishment for breaches of camp discipline, use of inappropriate language etc, and,

2.    the scales of fines and forms of punishment to be applied by the Court for rugby related issues such as late attendance at training sessions, below level performances, failure to complete fitness drills, substandard displays of skills and such like.

Unfortunately, it has to be said that even before the camp proper got under way fines and punishment had to be administered to three attendees – Mark Mc Hugh who arrived five minutes after the scheduled departure time (despite his hollow and rather pathetic attempt to lay the blame on his mother), Shane Mallon for fraternising with rugby players other than his U15 team mates (when selected to play with the Midlands U16 Development squad during the Summer) and Mossie McDermott who allegedly besmirched the honour of his Club, Province and Country when tackling a French player during the Leinster School of Excellence Rugby over the Summer.

Showing admirable commitment the entire squad, players and coaches, embarked on a lengthy reconnaissance trip along the beach at 11.00p.m in pitch darkness surveying the difficult terrain upon which the following days training and fitness programme would be conducted.  In the meantime, not unlike other supporting organisations currently in the news for different reasons, while the players and coaches willingly and happily made do with basic tented accommodation in their own mini “athletes village”, the support staff retired elsewhere to somewhat more salubrious five star accommodation consisting of a floor, walls and roof…………..and proceeded to decant their first bottle of wine as an aid to recovery following the gruelling journey from Longford to Enniscrone.

While the training camp was, for almost the entire of the three days and two nights, conducted in perfect weather conditions, a storm of biblical proportions swept in from the Atlantic at around 5:00 a.m. but, testament to the skills and expertise of Peter and Mary Mallon in erecting tents, honed through years of association with the Boy Scouts, the tents held firm.  The only moment of concern was when an airbed carrying an oblivious Conor Cox had to be rescued as it floated away from his tent in the direction of the Atlantic with poor Conor likely never to be seen again.  In the meantime, as the playing and coaching squad endured the buffeting inflicted upon them by the might of the Atlantic the support staff tucked into their fourth bottle of expensive Chardonnay cocooned in their salubrious surroundings, utterly oblivious to the drama unfolding just a few hundred yards away on the campsite.

With the storm clouds gone and a bright day unfolding the squad was roused from a deep slumber by the camp’s own Sergeant Major, David Shannon.  By 8:15a.m all and sundry (support staff excluded for obvious reasons!) were ready for the day’s work which started off with a ninety minute beach fitness session comprising a five kilometre run followed by energy sapping runs up and down almost vertical sand dunes 4-5 stories in height.  Ninety minutes later the leg weary squad had it’s own cryotherapy session in the form of a twenty minute “cooling down” session in a somewhat chilly Atlantic Ocean.

Having recovered from their morning exertions the squad was more than ready for breakfast and, in fairness to the support and catering staff, they too had put behind them the effects of the four bottles of Chardonnay the night before to produce a culinary feast the likes of which even Jamie Oliver would have struggled to muster.  Many of the squad complimented the staff saying it was the best beans and toast they had ever tasted! High praise indeed.

A short period of digestion was followed by another two hour session on the beach where the squad engaged in ball work, concentrating on basic skills such as footwork, running, passing and evasion.  Unfortunately, some of the players displayed a degree of over enthusiasm for the physicality of the season ahead, Mossie McDermott practising hand offs in what was supposed to be a non-contact Tag rugby game, copping yet another fine/punishment.

The ball work session was followed by another hydrotherapeutic recovery session in the ocean by which stage a ravenous squad was ready for lunch.  For lunch on both days, the squad had the pleasure of being fed with military precision by prospective Master Chef contestant, David Shannon, although if he is to have any hope of impressing judge Gordon Ramsay he really will have to work hard on his head attire. A bandana in lieu of a Chef’s hat? Following a short break, and as a distraction to take their minds off the serious work being done over the weekend, the players were allowed play an alien sport called soccer, or to give it it’s proper term, Association Football, on the local astroturf pitch which was a twenty minute hike away but this was quickly followed by another infinitely more appropriate and rigorous rugby training session focusing on honing the players’ skills at catching and kicking.

Following these two sessions the squad hiked back to camp for a short nap but the day’s work was far from over – it was another twenty minute trek back to the swimming pool this time for a warm water ninety minute hydrotherapeutic recovery session.  Dinner was followed by the only period of “downtime” the squad was allowed over the whole weekend when they were permitted to break camp and wander around Enniscrone before curfew was imposed at 10:00 p.m.  Spared the frightening ravages of an Atlantic storm on the second night an exhausted squad retired to their tents for much needed sleep but it was only around 4:00 a.m. that the last of the whispered discussions about the day’s activities and the forthcoming rugby season ended and the snores of Maksymillian Napieralski could finally be heard even above the sound of the waves crashing on the nearby beach.

Meanwhile, the support staff had retired to their palatial accommodation and the difficult task of decanting their fifth, and penultimate, bottle of Chardonnay.

No more and no less than any Camp, there was the odd incident of errant behaviour, appropriately punished by a fine or worse. Among the serial offenders were the aforementioned Maksymillian Napieralski who contributed handsomely to the fines jar over the weekend and among those who had to be punished were Shane Mallon and Mossie McDermott for leaving their tutus behind them on the beach after training, the aforementioned Mossie McDermott for handing off during a game of non contact Tag Rugby, Ben Carthy for not handing off during a game of non contact Tag Rugby (figure that out), Daire Mc Manus for buying an outrageous dummy, Jack Sullivan for being too well attired for a rugby player, Ultan O’Sullivan for acting like a soccer player when celebrating scoring a goal in the game of Association Football (in fairness it was a brilliant goal but the celebration was a tad OTT for a rugby player). The list goes on and if truth be told every one of the squad was found to have been guilt of some misdemeanour at least once over the weekend.

Rejuvenated by, in most cases, roughly four hours sleep the squad was up at about by 8:00 a.m. on Sunday to be met, unbelievably, by another bright, sunny day, with not a drop of rain in sight.  Breakfast was followed by another gruelling fitness session.  The squad hiked the twenty minutes from the camp site to the pier in Enniscrone there to be met by their SUP instructor (SUP means stand up paddle boarding for those unfamiliar with the term).  Having tutored the squad for half an hour in the basic skill of being able stand upright on, and manoeuvre a SUP, the squad then worked on upper body strength with a number of races from the harbour out to sea and back driven on by their enthusiastic instructor.  Left to their own devices for the last half hour the players worked on agility and evasion as they sought to crash tackle each other from their SUP’s in “bumper car” fashion.  Quite how this newly acquired skill is to form part of the team’s play during the forthcoming season remains to be seen.  Exhausted after another gruelling session the squad were put through a final twenty minute hike back to the campsite where lunch and the last Court session brought the Camp to a close. 

With many hands assisting, tents were dismantled, sleeping bags packed away and rubbish dumped while the support staff used their best (but unsuccessful) efforts to secretively discard the by now drained bottles of Chardonnay, not very cleverly disguised and hidden among the players and coaches discarded bottles and cartons of milk, juice and minerals. With a final walk along the beach to relax tired limbs the squad broke camp late in the afternoon to arrive back at the Rugby Club at 6:00 p.m. exhausted but eager for the season proper to begin.

On a more serious and positive note the Camp showed a modest surplus of income over expenditure and this surplus, coupled with the fines levied or imposed on miscreant squad members, is being donated to the squad’s designated Charity for the weekend, the Boy Scouts.

Finally, as coaches to the squad, our sincere thanks to Bernie, Finn, Mary, Peter and Jennie for their tireless work and assistance over the weekend, without whose work and assistance the weekend would not have been the success it was, and lastly to the players themselves for their exemplary behaviour throughout and their willingness and eagerness to buy into the concept of a training camp/tour and all that goes with it.

Camp photos are available here

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