WHILE Ennis RFC has always prided itself on being a club that represents the whole county, there’s no doubt it’s also very much a family club and coach John Colleran and his son, captain Jack, very much encapsulate that spirit.

Going through the team, John says there are players on the Ennis U18 panel from Shannon, Sixmilebridge, Lahinch, Ennistymon, Kildysart, and Spanish Point. “The way it is with the team over the years, we’ve traditionally had a good few players coming from the Ennistymon area, we’ve always had that,” explains John.

“It’s the biggest game I’ve ever played for Ennis, I don’t think you can say much, yes it is. Munster final, not many people get there,” said Jack. “It’s natural to be a bit nervous, playing in Thomond Park is big, but we’re all excited for it as well. Going out there wanting to win.”

For a team that pulls its players from across the county, there’s a number of strong family connections to the club among the panel — and John explains that is integral to the team’s success as the management team heavily relies on players’ parents to help with the slick running of the operation.

Among the players whose parents are past players or involved in coaching include Quin native Jack, Keelan Butler and his dad Ken, Joe Connaughton and his dad Eamon, Shane Brennan and his dad Pairic, and Ronan Corey, whose dad Mike is the current club president.

Jack (17), a fifth year student at St Flannan’s, is now in his last year at 18s level and he told The Clare People he’s been playing rugby as long as he can remember.

“I started the second I can remember, I’d say I was six or seven,” said Jack.

Dad John chips in, “He’s come through the whole minis system within the club, starting in 2006.”

Jack, who has played at hooker for a number of years having been converted from No 8, told The Clare People that this is Ennis’s biggest game in living memory.

“It’s the biggest game I’ve ever played for Ennis, I don’t think you can say much, yes it is. Munster final, not many people get there,” said Jack. “It’s natural to be a bit nervous, playing in Thomond Park is big, but we’re all excited for it as well. Going out there wanting to win.”

Jack praised his dad’s coaching skills, joking, “He shouts a lot anyway,” adding that his inspirational team talks “get you going for the matches”.

And John, who started coaching in Ennis in 1997 when he moved back to Clare from London, admits that for him there’s enormous pride in seeing his son carry on the love for rugby he developed at the club as a teenager.

When asked if he ever worries about seeing his son during a physical game, John says, “No — there’s pride, huge pride that he’s out there playing because it’s the one thing that I’ve always wanted. The love of rugby that Ennis gave me when I was playing youth rugby, and the craic we had at 18s and 16s, and the friendships that we built at that age. When I came back and started coaching with Ennis, and the fact that I had a son and I wanted him to play rugby. So that he likes rugby and is playing rugby is a great sense of pride for me, and the fact that he’s the captain, even more again.”

He added, “Jack himself is a natural leader and the good thing he does is lead by example, so that gives me a great sense of pride.”

John also moved to thank the players’ parents, who he says are the driving force (literally) behind the successful side.

“It’s the effort the parents put into it — they don’t mind doing the miles. Like driving to Waterford City and parents, no problem getting into their cars putting three of four lads in to the car and driving that distance, you’re whole Sunday’s gone. So let alone the commitment the players are putting in, the commitment the parents are putting in is huge. Simple things like feeding the away teams. The parents do all that.

“For me as a coach, having the likes of Eanna as a manager who deals with all that paperwork is also hugely important, it frees up myself and George to concerntarte on coaching. It’s huge.”

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Stuart returned to his native county to join The Clare People team as a reporter having spent his 20s studying and working in Dublin with the national media. The Ennis native most recently worked as a subeditor with the Irish Daily Star for three years before which he worked as a subeditor with the Irish Independent and as a reporter with The Evening Herald. He holds a BA in Journalism and Visual Media from Griffith College Dublin. Contact Stuart at [email protected]

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