A huge crowd gathered in Portarlington RFC recently for what turned out to be a hugely successful day packed with activity for families as the eagerly awaited Big Push event unfolded.
The free family fun day, which was part of the Blueberry Harvest Festival, was run in conjunction with the PCDA (Love Port). The day started at 10am when 250 kids from Portarlington RFC and Clane RFC played a series of mini rugby matches and this was immediately followed by U-13s and U-17s youths matches against Portlaoise and Naas respectively.
At lunchtime the crowds started to really swell as families came out to enjoy the comprehensive programme of entertainment and activities. There were Irish dancing, drama and musical performances on the outdoor stage, face painting and a Mad Science show in the giant marquee and a host of field games, bouncy castles and races on the pitches.
One of the highlights of the day was the World Bowley Championships which drew huge interest as the younger generation got a taste of a game that entertained their parents and grandparents for years. Throughout the day the huge crowds enjoyed the wares on offer from the tea rooms and BBQ.
The club were also attempting a couple of world records on the day. The first involved Port’s U-19s squad and they managed to set a new record by completing 273 passes in only three minutes smashing the previous mark of 234. The second record attempt was a sponsored giant scrum and although they managed to get over 500 people involved this fell short of the mark but proved to be not just a successful fundraiser but also a source of great craic for all participants.
The club also had Leinster’s Pro12 and Amlin Cup trophies and the Irish Women’s Grand Slam trophy on display. Ireland captain Fiona Coghlan and her team mate Nora Stapleton turned up to lend their support and despite obliging the gathered fans with photos and autographs they still had time to compete in the Bowley Championships and participate in the scrum record attempt.
Portarlington RFC President Padraig Maree was visibly proud of the event’s success and said, “a day like today doesn’t happen by itself. It takes a huge collective effort from our committee and members but it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Offaly Local Development Company and the considerable contributions from the event’s sponsors The Heritage Hotel Killenard and Fastway couriers. Both of these businesses continuously support us with our activities and without them and others like them we simply couldn’t do everything that we do to promote rugby in our community.”
Midlands 103 were broadcasting live from the event and presenter Mark Hughes took the opportunity to hold a very interesting discussion with Fiona Coghlan, Nora Stapleton and Port Women’s captain Laura Oakley on the development of the women’s game from grass roots up to International level.
Later on the day evening a big crowd of members and invited guests gathered in the clubhouse to mark the club’s upcoming 40th birthday. Captains and Presidents from all eras beginning with the first team fielded in 1974 shared stories of successes on and off the pitch over the four decades of the clubs existence.
It was a fitting way to bring to an end a wonderful day when the club’s gates were opened to all.