Interview conducted on November 2013
Dr. Derek Neylan started playing rugby 45 years ago, coached and refereed numerous games and still looks confident to take it further as a senior member of Seapoint Rugby Club located in Killiany, County Dublin. He is also time part- lecturer at DIT and Trinity Medical School. “I started playing Rugby since I was 12 and today I am at my late 50s and still on it very determined to take it further,” he says.
Dr. Neylan was born and raised in Sandymont, and started his career in rugby from Sandymont High School. “I was a hooker, passer number 2 while, there later I went to play for Seapoint Rugby Club, ”he says. Later he went to United States to teach in a university at Miami and came back on 1988 and again played senior rugby for Seapoint.
Now Dr. Neylan is the executive vice president for Seapoint Rugby Club which places an emphasis on developing young players from its youth and mini rugby systems. The club has 400 junior members from the age 7 to 16 and also has a team for the players with special needs known as Seapoint Dragons. The club was promoted to All-Ireland League Division 2A for season 2011-2012.
Dr. Neylan has a great story to tell. He recalls his from the year 1989 to 1999 as golden oldies. “During that time I was coaching the U-17 team in Seapoint and had a great experience,” he says. “Later, I went to Wales for referring in the under 14 tournaments.” Neylan also played water polo for Marion College and bagged 5 medals.
Is rugby today different than it used to be during his prime time? His answer is ”Yes”. “Today rugby is more competitive and physical game where players are very committed, with increased physical level and with lots of travelling involved,” he says. “Players are now making their luxurious living from playing rugby today which was very rare in the past.’’
“Rugby today has grown huge, in one sense things have changed which we have never expected,” he says. He adds, “It was very rare to see big teams playing but now every renowned teams including All Blacks come here and we go to play everywhere.” We can’t deny him saying good things are happening in rugby now. “Big tournaments like 6-Nations, Heineken Cup are held which attract millions of fans and numerous sponsors creating a massive economy,” he further adds.
Rugby is not a globally known sport like soccer. But it has very strong influence in some of the nations. Dr. Neylan admits rugby is developing everyday in Ireland. He says rugby now has a strong bond with the Irish society. “Now most Irish people know many professional rugby players from Ireland”.
One popular theory about rugby players is size and physique. Dr. Neylen does not hesitate to agree on this theory. “Yes, one needs a good physique and strength in order to become a good rugby player today,” he says. “If two equivalent players with same capability but different size are to be selected, then the coach will definitely favor the bigger player.”
Then, is rugby encouraging the young people to eat more? His answer is, No. “We basically don’t encourage eating more to become a rugby player,” he says. “You need tough training, lift weights and become physically strong.’’ Neylan though make aggressive comments on using the steroids to build up muscles. He says, “We always encourage our players to come and workout at Seapoint gym if you want to build your body.’’
Neylan used to coach the U-16 team during his coaching career. Now Seapoint Rugby Club is mostly about youth players. He thinks that a lot of young people are attracted towards the game. “When these young fellows see a rugby team arriving in the town, looking physically strong and playing with a huge passion, they want to become like them,’’ he says. “The young lads thus want to get involved, work hard with the dream of wearing the green jersey.” He further said rugby is not only encouraging them to become physically fit but that also is making them mentally strong.
Not only these young people but Dr. Neylan argues that rugby is impacting the whole society and the nation. He says; “First of all it is creating unity among us, especially through the games when Ireland plays. People either go the games, watch in local pubs or their home get their country going and even contributing to the country financially.”
Dr. Neylon compares the current Irish rugby scenario with the English football trend during 60s and 70s. “As Jack Charlton and Bobby Charlton drove their country with football craze and success, currently Ireland is being driven by rugby.”
Dr. Neylon does not consider rugby as a dangerous game. He says that some injuries and collisions are just part of every game. When players are well coached and physically fit it is not too bad. “I broke my nose 5 times, while playing few water polo games but broke my nose one while playing rugby numerous games,” he says.
One of the serious problems with rugby today is concession. Concussions are likely to occur in games like rugby and American football. “It is a matter of following the guidelines,” he says. “It is a serious problem and is also recognised by IRFU and thus IRFU guidelines should be always applied during a game.”
Dr. Nylon does not believe, introducing hamlets as in American football into rugby would be a problem. He says; “I don’t see any reasons why we should not introduce hamlets for head protection in rugby since it does not have any negative impacts. He further says if a person is trained with hamlets from the beginning, they will be used to it and it will become normal later on.
Dr.Nylon also points that women’s rugby is growing immensely and getting popular. According to him, in support from IRFU Seapoint Rugby Club hosted the Leinster Women’s Rugby Cup Finals on April 20th, 2013 and was well attended. He further says he would be delighted to see Irish ladies team going to 6-Nations. “The Rugby is very much male oriented game now, but if such things can happen it would attract women”, he adds.
If everything goes well, then Neylon says he will be running for the president of the club next year. He has a lot of commitments and dreams to take the club further. He says he has a plan of building a female rugby team for Seapoint. As the club has three flooded pitches the club is also planning to host a renowned team at Seapoint.
According to Neylon, the Seapoint Rugby Club is in a verge to resister its name in Guinness Book of World Records for Seapoint Blitz by hosting 2250 young players next April. He is very optimistic that Ireland is ready to make a bid for 2023 World Cup. He says; “We are absolutely ready to host and win the world cup as everything is going good in Irish rugby.”