The recipient of this year’s Roger Cleary Rugby and French Scholarship was High School student Joel O’Dwyer from Kilcash, Clonmel. Joel received the scholarship from Clonmel RFC President Tom Fennessy at the High School Awards ceremony in October last year.
This scholarship was established by Kieran Cleary and his family in 2005 in memory of the late Roger Cleary who taught in the High School for many years. The aim of the scholarship is to promote rugby and French in the school. Last year Clonmel RFC became co-sponsors with the High School and the Cleary family.
Joel has played for successive High School rugby teams since First Year. He was part of the senior team that reached the Munster Schools O’ Brien Cup final in 2011. This season his efforts have been rewarded by being selected for the Munster A Schools U-19 team along with his High School team mates Stephen Carey, Padraig Keating and Dylan Cadogan. All four played an integral part in their recent victories over Connacht and Leinster in the inter- provincial series. Joel also plays for the Clonmel U-19 rugby team.
Joel spent ten days in Soustons near Biarritz in the south west of France during August, where he received professional rugby coaching and French tuition. This is his account of his time in France -
“We all met up in Dublin airport on 5th August and were introduced to three of the four coaches. We flew to Bordeaux and after quite a long bus journey arrived at the camp. We were given only a few minutes to change before we were into our first training session.
The first few training sessions were concentrated on ball-handling skills, passing, making space and fitness. All the coaches expected 100% effort in every training session but were also very aware of the toll of the 30 degrees heat so water breaks were very frequent and each player was encouraged to tell either a coach or a team mate if they felt unwell at any point. On days that it was too hot, training was played in the morning before it became warm and later in the evening when it was cooler, as one day it hit 39 degrees!
Our daily routine consisted of breakfast at 8am followed by an hour of French class, a training session and then lunch. Every day in the afternoon we had a different activity including going to the beach, sailing, surfing, kayaking, high ropes and trips to a nearby town to go shopping. In the evening after dinner our activities were much more relaxed and social. We watched the Olympics, which was good fun, especially during the 100 metres final. We also had singing and talent competitions, as well as music quizzes (which got surprisingly competitive), DVDs and playing cards. All the activities in the afternoon and evening were great for everyone to get to know each other and make friends.
The French classes were much more relaxed than in school. We spoke about relevant everyday topics to each other such as the food, the weather, pastimes and rugby positions. We did small but interesting activities such as going to the morning market in groups to get traditional French food, breads, pastries and meat. We brought them back to class and had our own French market where we had to create general conversation about the food, the weather and so on.
During many of the days we were given the freedom to go into the town, which was a five-minute walk away. We also attended the market once during the morning and during the night. The market was vibrant, exciting and great fun with hundreds of friendly people so the whole time we were engaged in the French language. Although they were difficult to understand at times, the people were patient and spoke slowly. There was also a bull ring in the town, which we were lucky enough to go to one evening. Thankfully the bulls were not hurt as only ropes were used. Of course being Irish we were the ones making the most noise.
When Nigel, the head coach, arrived on the fourth day the training sessions became much more intense and everything was stepped up. Nigel focused on tackling technique, running support lines, communication in defence and attack, and fitness. Nigel was quite strict and expected 100% from everyone. Lack of effort was punished with extra fitness. He encouraged every player to push themselves to the limit and play for each other and not as individuals. Although we were unable to play another team, every match we played during training was very intense and physical and we learned a great deal.
I would like to thank Clonmel RFC, the High School and Cleary solicitors for providing the scholarship as it was an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience. I would never have had this opportunity without the scholarship. I would absolutely recommend that any 5th Year student with an interest in rugby and French should apply”.
The Roger Cleary Rugby and French Scholarship is open to 5th Year High School students who study French and play rugby for the school. Past recipients include Jaco Oosthuysen, Tony Cantwell, Aldo Matassa, Stephen O’Sullivan, Mark Corby, Robert Carroll and Richard Power.