Ahead of their fourth successive season in AIB League Division Two, Clonakilty have received a considerable boost with the confirmation that last season’s captain, David Lombard, has pledged his immediate future to the West Cork club.
David Lombard has been ever-present in the Clonakilty senior team since arriving from the underage section for the 2003/04 season.
He has been a tremendous ambassador for the club and represented Munster and Ireland with the youth teams. He has been consistently courted by more established clubs in higher divisions and has always resisted these overtures to stay with his home club.
According to club sources, there was a flurry of interest recently from clubs in the new Division 1A of the AIB League and the temptation was obviously huge for an ambitious player.
However, once again, the talented centre made the decision to remain with the club he has played for since the age of eight.
Coming so close to the announcement of David O’Mahony as Clonakilty’s new head coach for the coming season, Lombard’s decision will help to maintain the optimistic mood in the club at present.
In the years prior to going senior in 2001, Clonakilty’s elite players were always hunted by the senior clubs and the drain was damaging.
When the club entered the senior ranks, albeit in Division Three, this trend stopped and indeed reversed, resulting in great success and advancement to the second tier of the AIB League.
However, with competition for players now more intense than ever, the pressure on players to move to what can appear to be a better club/team/package, etc. is again savage and Lombard’s decision is to be welcomed and seen as an endorsement of the club’s ambitions matching his own.
Clonakilty have also confirmed the signing of loosehead prop Tom Ryan from Cork Constitution.
Clon had been keen to bring Ryan on board last season and although the player had agreed to come, Cork Con would not release him as the June 1 deadline for voluntary transfers had passed.
This was a measure of the player’s worth and Clon continued to talk to him, culminating in his arrival at Shannonvale Cross for the coming season.
Ryan won a Munster Junior 3 League medal with his home club, Kanturk, before being recruited by Cork Con.
He added two Munster Junior Cup medals, a Munster Senior Cup medal, an AIB Cup medal and an AIB League Division One medal with Cork Con last season.
With the unfortunate retirement of Eddie Knowles through injury, at 5ft 10in and 17-and-a-half stones, Ryan’s timely arrival could not be more welcome and is another big plus as Clon prepare for the new campaign.
Knowles and Paul Buckley have been appointed as assistant coaches to O’Mahony.
Forwards coach Knowles will need no introduction to the Clon faithful as he has been one of the reasons that the club has endured in the senior ranks.
He played a huge part in the success of the team as a player and hangs his boots up now to concentrate on coaching.
A product of Clon’s impressive underage section, he was snapped up by Dolphin at an early age and played for ten years with the city club, whom he captained, and also with Munster’s development squad before returning to Clon.
Buckley, meanwhile, will be another new face to the majority of the club but he also brings an impressive CV to the table.
He first came to prominence as part of Declan Kidney’s great PBC Munster Schools Senior Cup-winning side.
He was then recruited by Cork Constitution and played junior rugby before progressing to the senior squad, playing many league and Munster Senior Cup matches.
He moved to Dolphin where, under the coaching of Kidney again, he played in the side that was promoted to AIB League Division One in 1997.
This was a huge achievement for the club but unfortunately for Buckley, shoulder injuries forced him to stop playing in his prime.
He got involved in the coaching side of things with Dolphin, starting with the junior squad before moving up to the senior squad a few years ago with O’Mahony as the head coach, and that partnership will be renewed at Clonakilty.