NEW Strabane RFC coach Adrian Sweeney is at the start of a journey that he hopes will see the club at least start to fulfill its potential.
The first step of that particular quest begins this coming Saturday at the Meadows when his side tackle Letterkenny in their opening Kukri Ulster Championship Division Three clash of the season.
Rather than attempting to temper expectations by throwing about words like ‘consolidation’ or phrases such as ‘finding our feet’, Sweeney is aiming high and is targeting promotion and a good cup run in his debut season.
The Dregish native has returned home after teaching at some prestigious rugby schools in England over the last 17 years and he’s hoping to bring the knowledge garnered and experienced gained during that time and put it to good use at his local club.
“It’s great to be back because I spent 17 years teaching in England and working in some quite nice schools where rugby was almost equal to the academic side of the school,” he explained.
“So to come back having had a lot of experiences there at top schoolboy level, it’s something I’m looking forward to now transfering those things I’ve learned into the local rugby club.”
Rather than heaping pressure on himself to deliver immediate success, Sweeney sees the club as a work in progress that will require as much effort off the pitch as on it if they are to achieve their goals.
“I’m quite excited because looking at Strabane Rugby Club from a distance when I was away from home I’ve always felt that given our area and given the wide spread where people come from we have the potential to be a much bigger club than we currently are,” he observed.
“I see this as being the start of a journey for the club which I’m looking forward to being a part of.
“I’ve been part of journeys with schools over in England, including being part of an all-girls school that introduced boys for the first time and within three years we won a national title at Twickenham, so journeys and being part of things is what excites me, so no i wouldn’t say I feel pressure to perform. I hope the boys feel a bit of pressure because they are the ones on the pitch on Saturdays.
“The pressure is on them, but I’m very hopeful we are going to have a lot of success in Strabane, it’s a big area and I think the challenge for us as a club is really to foster that community spirit so we can get people in from all over our district.
“Part of my challenge is to try to encourage people to come and play for the club and I think we can do that and go a couple of divisions higher than we are currently.”
Sweeney and his players started preparing for the season ahead in June and he has been pleased by the effort and progress made since.
However, he doesn’t want anyone to rest on their laurels and pat themselves on the back for a good pre-season, he wants the congratulations to be in April or May.
“We’re on a journey, but I’d like to get off to a fast start and these first few matches are going to be important for the season,” he stressed.
FULL STORY IN THIS WEEK’S STRABANE CHRONICLE