Talking Sport with Stephen Glennon
After winning the Irish U-17 National Cup for the seventh year running, and with their senior team retaining its Division 1 status following promotion last year to the top flight, Corrib Water Polo Club is certainly enjoying an upturn in fortunes.
Founded as a senior men’s club in 1980, the Galway City-based outfit struggled to gain any traction in the National League in the early years and it was not until 1995 that the club finally claimed its first Division 2 crown. Since then, they have added three more such accolades, including a title in 2016.
“We have gone up and down and up and down (to Division 1) over the years,” begins the club’s Head Coach Joe Smyth, “but from 1998 to 2002 we stayed in Division 1 and we made the semi-final of the Irish Senior Cup three times.”
It was around this time that the underage set-up was established by Sandie Ashton, wife of former player Tommy Ashton. This largely consisted of a one-hour training session, incorporating children from eight years up, in Leisureland on a Saturday evening
“That has been the lifeblood of the club since,” continues Smyth. “We really got that going. So, that was in early 2000s. Out of that, we got a string of good players between U-15s, U-16s, U-17s and U-19s and those guys began to flow through to the seniors.”
As with any sport, though, there is a significant drop-off in numbers when a lot of these young players begin their Leaving Cert year, or head off for their first year in college.
“Where at the beginning of those two years, you might have had 20, you then end up with four or five. It is hard. And it is a pity.”
For Corrib Water Polo Club, it must be particularly frustrating given they have been the national champions at U-17 level for the last seven years – a feat no other club has come close to in the history of the sport in Ireland – but sadly, apart from that first year in 2011, they have not followed this up with similar success at the U-19 grade.
Smyth notes that not all has been lost and he feels this is more likely to translate into success at senior level. “On the senior side, we had a really good team coming through before the recession hit and half the team emigrated to Australia. As a result, we ended up back in Division 2.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.