Edmund Van Esbeck talks to the IRFU President Barry Keogh on his thoughts for Irish Rugby and the coming season. Click here for more details.
When Barry Keogh was elected President of the IRFU at the annual general meeting of the Union last June, he became only the second man from the Old Belvedere club to attain the highest office in the game in this country.
He followed an illustrious predecessor in Paddy Madigan, who was President in 1987/88. Barry had succeeded Paddy as Old Belvedere9s representative on the Leinster Branch in 1984 and he continued in that capacity until elected as Junior Vice-President of the IRFU in 2002/03.
So 18 years of service on the branch and the administrative experience that goes with it. He joined the IRFU as one of Leinster9s representatives a decade ago and it is against that background that he now presides over the affairs of the IRFU.
The changes that have taken place in rugby over the last ten years have been nothing short of remarkable. What changed the scene and, one might say the goalposts, was the decision in 1995 by the International Rugby Board to declare the game ‘open’. Immediately rugby moved from being a game to being a business. That was to impose unprecedented demands on those who ran the game at every level.
Barry Keogh readily acknowledges that mistakes were made. “That was inevitable”, he said. But basically he believes that “while there is a great deal of work to be done, there is every reason to be optimistic about the game in Ireland and there are exciting days ahead including the impending new stadium at Lansdowne Road.”
“Of course there are difficulties, problems to be solved in the best interests of the game and challenges to be met”, he said.
“The professional game has moved rugby on to a different level and like every sport, rugby is changing. Clubs are suffering and of course the clubs’ anxiety is being and must be addressed and we do recognise the problems and are striving to get things right. I believe in change but change for the sake of change is not the way forward.”
“Funding the professional game imposes huge demands and a great challenge.
The underage structure is strong, the schools and the youths make an invaluable contribution and we try to create the atmosphere to get young people involved in the game. They are the future. Great progress has been made in the Tallaght and Clondalkin area and I am delighted about the developments planned for Lansdowne Road. We are looking at all the union grounds as we must not have amateur facilities for good professional teams.”
“On the question of the game in Connacht, the President said, “of course we see a future for Connacht. They have a major role to play in the ongoing development of the game in this country. There is huge enthusiasm for the game there, at club and schools levels. How we maximise that is the key issue.”p>
In conclusion he emphasised the necessity of getting the scene right. “We must try and get more money into the clubs but they must use it more prudently than some have in the past.”
On the prospects for the Ireland team at Senior level this season he said, “if we can avoid injuries, I think we will have a very successful season and that is my wish for all the Ireland teams and our provinces on the European scene.”
BARRY KEOGH CV
Married: To Margaret (three daughters, one son)
Occupation: Quantity Surveyor
Educated: Belvedere College
(School) Played for Belvedere College JCT and three years on the SCT – playing in two semi-finals and one final of the Leinster Schools Senior Cup.
(Club) Played for Old Belvedere for 13 years – winning a Leinster Senior Cup medal in 1968 – captaining the Senior XV for two seasons.
Administrative Career: Joined the Leinster Branch in 1984/85. President of the Leinster Branch in 1993/94. Joined the IRFU Committee in 1994. Has been Chairman of the Marketing Committee, served on Finance and Game Committees, and helped to set up the highly successful rugby initiative in Tallaght
Elected Junior Vice-President of the IRFU in 2002/03
Elected Senior Vice-President of the IRFU in 2003/04
Elected President of the IRFU in 2004/05