Kilkenny man Noel Devlin remains hopeful that rugby in the county can continue to prosper despite the issues that have arisen for the sport due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Devlin, who has been involved with Leinster Rugby for seven years now as one of nine Club Community Rugby Officers in the south east of Ireland, detailed the work that he does in schools and communities across Kilkenny.
“My role is to deliver an all-inclusive tag rugby programme designed by Leinster Rugby for the schools and communities around Kilkenny. I’m there to get kids to enjoy rugby whatever age they are,” outlined Devlin.
His job has been severely impacted by the pandemic as trips to schools across the county have been brought to a halt due to the restrictions currently in place. With it appearing unlikely that he will return to schools in an effort to promote the sport across Kilkenny in the foreseeable future, Devlin did not try to hide his disappointment at the prospect of not going back to schools before the end of the academic year.
He said: “Due to the current lockdown I can’t go to schools and reach so many kids who might have an interest in rugby. It’s been really difficult from my own perspective.”
As someone who has been involved with the Kilkenny Rugby Club for over 20 years, Devlin feels that there is an abundance of talent coming through the ranks in the club at the moment. However, Covid-19 has made it even more difficult to pick out the top young players who are part of the underage system.
“It’s been tough to scout players in schools due to Covid-19 but ultimately it’s up to the players themselves and if they want to prosper and develop then Leinster Rugby will give them the tools to do so.”
A key component of all sports since the pandemic began has been their participation on social media platforms. Devlin has been keen to use the various sites to promote the game and keep players as active as possible during the current situation.
“We’ve kept active on social media, so along with the various courses we do we’ve asked the kids to take part in challenges and post them on social media to improve their skills so that they can bring them back to the club when they eventually return.”
Growing up in a time when rugby was not as prominent with young people as it is today, Devlin is best placed to pass comment on the health of the sport across the county compared to where it was at before the turn of the century.
“There’s a massive interest in rugby now compared to when I got involved in the club.
“The one thing about rugby that you don’t have in other sports is that it doesn’t matter what height or weight you are, you can play, which really distinguishes it from various other sports.”
Clearly passionate about rugby in Kilkenny and across the country, Leinster Rugby seem to have the best man in place to grow the sport in the county for years to come.
You can listen to the full interview with Noel on our Scoreline Extra podcast below: