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‘It’s A Step In The Right Direction’ – Corcoran On Nenagh’s Historic Promotion To #EnergiaAIL Division 1B

‘It’s A Step In The Right Direction’ – Corcoran On Nenagh’s Historic Promotion To #EnergiaAIL Division 1B

Nenagh Ormond fittingly lifted the Division 2A trophy on home soil, following last week's bonus point triumph over MU Barnhall at New Ormond Park ©Nenagh Ormond RFC

Nenagh Ormond RFC are bringing Tipperary rugby to the next level after winning the Energia All-Ireland League Division 2A title to become the first club from the county to achieve promotion to the second tier.

The north Tipperary team sealed their league crown with a 29-12 bonus point win over MU Barnhall in front of a packed crowd at New Ormond Park last Saturday.

The upward trajectory of Nenagh Ormond has spanned a little over 25 years, all the way back to when they were plying their trade in the second division of the Munster Junior League. They achieved senior status in 2005, before winning the All-Ireland League’s Division 2B in the 2013/14 season.

They have spent the last decade battling it out in Division 2A, with some promotion play-off appearances and relegation scraps along the way.

Long-serving Nenagh player Derek Corcoran, who is the club’s player/head coach, is thrilled to have guided his side to league success and promotion. They will have the chance to explore new waters for the 2024/25 campaign.

“It’s a great feeling, we were delighted to get the job done last Saturday in front of our home supporters,” he told IrishRugby.ie. “It’s a big achievement for us all and it’s a step in the right direction.

“We’ve been in Division 2A for 10 years now. We’ve played in a couple of play-offs, including one last season. We’ve been knocking on the door. We’re an ambitious club so we wanted to progress.

“We’re delighted to achieve promotion to Division 1B, the first Tipperary club to do that. We’re in the top 20 clubs in the country now.”

Corcoran, who still laces up his boots at the age of 40, puts in a shift wherever his team needs him in the back-line. He started playing for the first team during their junior rugby days, before helping them win Division 2B in 2014, alongside Trevor Hogan.

In every club there are always certain individuals who have put in the early groundwork to make the triumphs of the present day possible. Few more so than Nenagh’s former club President Keith Hayes, who suddenly passed away in May 2022. He was described as the ‘heartbeat’ of the club.

Hayes lived and breathed his beloved Nenagh Ormond RFC, as a junior player, their director of rugby, and eventually as President. He was always working tirelessly in the background on committees, trying to constantly drive the standards.

The players all had a great connection with him, and he was in their thoughts last weekend, with Corcoran explaining: “Our captain Willie Coffey made a speech and he mentioned it. Keith played a big part in all our lives.

“It’s still a very tough subject for us to discuss now but we were glad to secure that promotion to 1B last Saturday. We know he’d be smiling down on us.

“You definitely do think about the people that have gone before you in moments like Saturday. All the different people that are no longer with us that have contributed to Nenagh being such a wonderful club.”

Nenagh were named Munster Senior Club of the Year after a hugely positive 2023. They became the first club from the Premier County in over a century to reach the Munster Senior Challenge Cup final, whilst also making the Division 2A play-offs last season.

They were beaten by Young Munster and Blackrock College, a current Division 1B club, in both of those respective games, but Corcoran believes those experiences have made them a better team.

We learned a lot from that Blackrock loss last year, the same goes for the Cup final defeat to Young Munster. We’ve had games like that in this campaign too.

“We were beaten by Cashel at home just after Christmas. We blew a big lead against Banbridge in a poor 20-minute period.

“We learned so much from all of that. Sometimes you need those experiences to figure out where you need to improve and be better in future games.”

The entire Nenagh squad played their part in this historic achievement. Centre and captain and 2022/23 Player of the Year, Coffey, led by example both on and off the field.

John Healy did Trojan work in the back row, Jake O’Kelly controlled operations in the engine room, and the 19-year-old Joe Coffey has flourished with his opportunities in first team rugby.

Asked what he thinks were the contributing factors to the Tipp men winning AIL silverware this time around, Corcoran replied: “We have a really good S&C programme that was brought in two years ago. The players have really bought into that.

“Physically they’ve progressed a lot in the last 18 months. In terms of tactically, I think we’ve developed a hybrid game-plan, two ways of playing.

“We’re able to manage the game in wet and windy conditions, and we’re able to switch to that expansive play when the weather allows it.”

Nenagh sit top of the pile on 68 points with one more game left to play tomorrow afternoon. A season that will live long in the memory finishes in Limerick against UL Bohemian, who are still fighting to avoid finishing in the bottom two.

The Munster derby could also potentially bring down the curtain on Corcoran’s impressive playing career. “I love competing, always have, it’s more enjoyable as you get older as you appreciate it more. Longevity is down to evolving my skillset,” he added.

“I’ve been lucky with injuries and adding value to the team in a different way, using my experience, but I had a very small playing part this year and will likely not play next year as new talent emerges from within the squad.”