Volunteers are the lifeblood of every rugby club. They are the unsung heroes who are there week in, week out working tirelessly for the club and the game they love. One such person is Fred Casey who will be inducted into the Cork Constitution Hall of Fame this week.
Fred Casey will be inducted into the Cork Constitution Hall of Fame at this year’s Captain and President’s Dinner.
From 1964 onwards, Fred has been the inspirational force behind the resurgence of the Cork Constitution Conettes (the Cork Con underage section). Although at the time he was a J2 player, he spent countless hours organising matches and training for the youngsters.
Although young in age, Fred was wise beyond his years. As a 16-year-old he got involved with the underage section, booking coaches from CIE to bring his ‘Conettes’ to Tralee.
In the early days Fred was offered tremendous assistance by his two ‘second fathers’, Con O’Leary and Ned O’Connor.
The weekly meetings were held in Ned’s house and Fred would always arrange for these to coincide with Nancy’s (Ned’s wife) cooking lessons so that there would be plenty of food for all.
Fred is world famous for his tours and over the years has developed contacts in every rugby country in Europe. The first overseas tour was to Wales in 1972 and they really took off from there.
Under his leadership, the Conettes have toured England, Wales, France, Greece and Italy. It is a great credit to both Fred and his coaches that the Conettes are such great ambassadors for Cork Constitution and the city of Cork when they are abroad.
In 1990, the IRFU invited Cork Constitution to represent Ireland in the Under-11 and Under-12 European Championship at Roche-La- Moliere, near St Etienne in France.
Cork Constitution won both Championships, a wonderful tribute to the youngsters and coaches involved. It should be acknowledged that Fred was the first coach to bring a European trophy back to Munster.
A photo of the Under-12 team features a young Peter Stringer and Ronan O’Gara (pictured below playing for Cork Con in the All-Ireland League), who captained the team, sitting together.
Fred always claimed that he saw the potential of both the first time he played them together and that he never had a doubt that they would go and play together for Ireland.
The picture of U-11 champions features the same combination of Stringer and O’Gara, this time John and Fergal who went on to play senior rugby for Constitution.
In January 1988, Fred was invited to bring a team to an underage tournament that Ballymena were holding to celebrate their centenary year. On arriving at Ballymena they were meet by the great man himself, Willie John McBride, and the Lord Mayor of Ballymena, who thanked them for honouring their town by attending their tournament.
Cork Constitution were the only team from the Republic of Ireland who played in the tournament. Both Ronan O’Gara and Peter Stringer were once again part of that Cork Constitution tour party.
Fred played a large part in the club’s centenary celebrations in 1992 when he organised a centenary tournament with 15 teams visiting Temple Hill. As well as England and Wales, teams came from as far afield as Sweden and Latvia.
On Saturdays Fred can be seen driving all over Cork bringing his players to training sessions and matches, it is immeasurable how many miles Fred has driven over the years.
Fred has coached many of the players that have come through the Conettes to play senior rugby for Cork Constitution and Munster and his record of developing 16 Ireland Internationals and four British & Irish lions will stand the test of time. The number of Munster players are too numerous to mention.
The club’s rugby tour this year is to England and the teams will play against Bath, King Edward School, Wilcox and Bristol. The tour departs on Thursday, April 21 and returns on 28 April. The current numbers travelling are 51 which would make it the largest tour party that Fred has managed.
Today, juvenile rugby in Cork Constitution is a well-oiled machine catering for over 500 youngsters every weekend, with teams from Under-6 to Under-18 under the guidance of Con’s two assistant directors of rugby, Peter Good and Kevin Flanagan.
They are ably assisted by a team of 50 coaches who ensure that the highest standards of juvenile and youth rugby is attained in Temple Hill. This would not be happening today without the visionary work of Fred.
Another interesting fact is he has trained the club’s President this year, Der O’Riordan, and the next two years’ Presidents, Brian Humphries and Finian O’Driscoll.
One thing is for sure, there will be many more as Fred’s charges are now in every committee in the club. The legacy continues gets stronger!
In his own time, Fred also coaches on the St. Anthony National School (feeder school for Christians and Presentation rugby schools in Cork) rugby programme, ontinuing the club’s link with local schools.
The members of Cork Constitution are privileged that Fred Casey is a member of the club and are proud of his achievements in developing a vibrant underage and youth structure where so many youngsters can enjoy rugby in a safe and enjoyable manner.
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