Clonmel threw it all at the Ireland Rugby team - snow storms, hurricanes and blackouts, but they still want to come back!
Brian Oâ€™Driscoll, Paul Oâ€™Connell, Jamie Heaslip - not the usual line out on the pitch at Clonmel rugby club but for two days last week the local club was honoured to host the national team as â€¨they prepared for next weekendâ€™s Triple Crown decider against England, in the Six Nations.
The IRFU training camp was a great coup for the town and even though there was some disappointment that a public training session had to be called off word from inside the camp is that they really enjoyed their trip to Tipp and want to come back to do it all again - just without the horrific weather!
National Team Manager Mick Kearney told The Nationalist that they all enjoyed the visit to Clonmel. â€œEverything at the club has been fantastic, from the groundskeepers to the president to the caterers itâ€™s been a really good experience for everyone and a nice change from Carton House where weâ€™re based most of the time.
â€œWe had everything from a snowstorm to hurricanes to blackouts at the hotel. We spent a few hours in the darkness together last night from 6.30pm to 8.30pm so that was a very good opportunity for the fellas to bond together,â€ he said the day after Storm Darwin knocked out powerlines and downed trees across the country. â€œEveryoneâ€™s been working really hard to make us feel welcome itâ€™s been really successful, yeah weâ€™ve enjoyed it.
The team and support staff arrived at the Clonmel Park hotel last Wednesday and trained later that day in terrible weather conditions at the local club. On Thursday morning they were back out on the pitch to train with the Munster Academy players, among them Clonmelâ€™s David Johnson. This session was to have been open to the public, however because of the dangerous weather conditions the IRFU made a call on Wednesday that for health and safety reasons the session would have to remain closed. There was a lot of disappointment at the decision, but most people understood the reasoning. And there is good news for everyone who hoped to see their rugby idols in action - team manager Mick Kearney has said they want to come back to the town. He sent this message to local Ireland supporters: â€œIâ€™m sure they were really disappointed not to come along but we had to make an early call on it given the weather conditions yesterday (Wednesday) and there were health and safety concerns. The message is we would love to come back to Clonmel, obviously it wonâ€™t be this year but maybe during our preparations for the world cup.â€
â€œWeâ€™re normally based up in Carton House and we just decided with this being a down week that weâ€™d have a training camp down in Clonmel. Itâ€™s been fantastic I must say, everyone has been welcoming, the rugby club has been absolutely fantastic. We trained (on Wednesday)in pretty horrific conditions but the lads had a bit of fun. Today is a much nicer day. Weâ€™ve got the Munster academy training against us weâ€™re which is really good, weâ€™re very thankful for them.â€
Clonmel RFC were â€œabsolutely excited and honouredâ€ to host the Ireland team, club PRO Paul Condon said. â€œItâ€™s a great reflection on our facilities and pitches.â€
Mr Condon went on to say that obviously everyone was disappointed that because of the weather the IRFU were forced to cancel the public training session, but as a club they fully understood and endorsed that decision. â€œWeâ€™re looking forward to working with the IRFU to plan a return visit in better circumstances,â€ he added.
The club had expected to host up to 2,500 people, mostly school children, at the planned public training session. Excitement had been great in the town, especially after national coach Joe Schmidt announced the Clonmel trip in a television interview after the Irish defeat of Wales in the Six Nations.