Based in Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Temple Carrig first opened its doors in September 2014. Despite enrolling 132 new students in its first year and conducting classes in a prefab building, few would have anticipated the impact that they have made on the Leinster Schools’ rugby scene.
While many sports and activities feature on the schools extra-curricular programme, such was the interest in rugby that it was soon apparent that it would take up greater resources. Mark Crean, the gamesmaster at Temple Carrig, was therefore faced with the daunting task of ensuring everything was in place to guarantee a positive rugby experience for a plethora of new students and rugby enthusiasts.
While many have bemoaned the diminished relevance of the club game in recent times, the tragic passing of Anthony Foley has shown that, despite the proliferation of wealth on a professional level, club rugby remains at the core of the identity of Irish rugby. The way in which Shannon RFC have marked the passing of one of their favourite sons has in many ways emboldened the club scene once again.
Gresytones RFC has been hugely influential in establishing a strong rugby base at Temple Carrig. Upon the opening of the school, a close link was established with the local club, which has since gone beyond the call of duty through the provision of gear, facilities and voluntary coaches. Crucially, the pupils have responded with enormous positivity to the work and faith that has been invested in them. Just as William Webb Ellis did in 1823, the students of Temple Carrig picked up the ball and ran with it in 2014 – they continue to do so.
“It all happened very quickly,” admits Mark Crean. “The first ever game for the school came against Pres. Bray within a few weeks of our opening. The kids enjoyed it and so we pulled a full calendar of fixtures together. We now play games against all the major rugby-playing schools across Leinster and Northern Ireland.”
“In our first year we managed to field two competitive teams,” Crean adds. “Given that we have now started our third year, we have expanded that number to six boys teams in the school. But that’s only the half of it! We also have a girls side that has contested several tournaments and blitz festivals throughout the past few years.”
Already competing in Division 1A (Section B) at Junior level, Crean and his coaching team consisting of Henry Hurley, Gabán Ó’Briain, Philip Kinsella, Peter Wallace, Adam Rice, John Simpson and John McGuinness have pulled off something quite remarkable in just two short years. “It has also been of enormous benefit to have Alan Cox, our Headmaster, backing us in our efforts. He is sports mad which always helps!”
Although the opening fixtures of the Junior season have resulted in losses to both Gonzaga and Castleknock College, the Temple Carrig players are determined to show what they are capable of as the season progresses. While such schools are steeped in history and the traditions of the game, Temple Carrig continues to carve out its own character. An impending trip to Souston in the southwest of France will go some way to creating a team bond that is integral to a successful and enjoyable rugby environment. All 46 players on the Junior panel will return to Greystones as a stronger unit, ready to take on the likes of Pres. Bray, Newbridge and Wesley College.
Notwithstanding the disappointment of losing their opening fixtures of the campaign, the mere fact that Temple Carrig are competing at this level is a credit to the structures that have been put in place at the Wicklow school.
“All of the coaching in school is voluntary,” Crean asserts. “We are very lucky with the staff that we have in place, all of whom give a great deal of their own time to help the grow the game in Temple Carrig and promote the values of the sport amongst our pupils.”
Unquestionably, the goal for Temple Carrig in the coming years will be to impose themselves on the Senior rugby grade. In this light they can take great heart and encouragement from the achievements of St. Fintan’s High School in Sutton. The school can already count several domestic titles amongst its achievements, while a number of past-pupils have earned representative honours. Reflecting on such success, Rob Forbes claimed “mighty oaks from little acorns grow.” Mark Crean and all at Temple Carrig will hope that their own roots take a similar path.