The Club

Since Rathdowney Rugby Club ceased playing in the early fifties, Co. Laois were without a rugby club. This prompted a group of Portlaoise Rugby supporters to meet and investigate if there was enough interest and players to form a rugby club in the mid 1960’s. This meeting took place in Kelly’s Hotel, Main Street, Portlaoise in September 1966. The club was thus formed from a very meagre background but with enthusiastic support of a number of key individuals. The first pitch used by the club was opposite the County Hospital where a petrol station now stands. After the game it was a race back to Kelly’s Hotel where each team had the “privileged” use of one bath and the hot water as long as it lasted.

Weekly meetings were held in the Hare and Hound Public House owned by Tony Shelly which is now Delaney and Sons, Main Street, Portlaoise. A social committee under the guidance of Dermot O’Sullivan. (better known as The DOS) was formed. A weekly social was started each Friday night in the County Hotel which was formed. A weekly social was started each Friday night in the County Hotel which proved to be very successful and provided the club every necessary funds to purchase their first grounds.

In 1969 a seven acre field on the Mountmellick Road was purchased for the sum of £1,950 (€2475). This provided enough room for the two pitches, however with the sudden increase of players and the poor quality of the field it was decided to look elsewhere. In 1971 nineteen and half acres came on the market at Togher and was bought for the sum of £9,500 (€12,062).

Portlaoise spent the next four years enthusiastically developing the grounds at Togher. This ground was extremely wet and drainage was inserted in the early 1970’s. The funding for this development was largely from the social activity generated by the weekly dance in the County Hotel where the proprietors Finane and Kathleen Bracken warmly welcomed the Portlaoise Rugby club and its supporters. The after match facilities were also facilitated by the County Hotel, Portlaoise.

In 1971 the first piece of silver was won by the club with the thirds team under the leadership of Densel Mills, beating Arklow in Carlow Rugby Club to win the Lawlor Cup.

Portlaoise_RFC_ArielGrounds

Four years after the purchase of Togher the club played its first game on the grounds. They were officially opened in September 1975 with a game against the Wolfhounds which included many famous international players.

The club decided to sell its Mountmellick Road pitch which made a handsome price of £10.500 which went a long way towards clearing the debt on Togher where the club now resides. Over the years Portlaoise have developed a great relationship with the Hockey and Cricket Club and are delighted to facilitate both the clubs with the use of their grounds. In latter years we have also extended our welcome to Rugby League, The Athletic Club, the local G.A.A clubs training. Samba Soccer. Clonminam Soccer Club and also numerous local schools and organisations who have used the grounds for both social and sporting activities. The club can proudly say that they have one of the finest grounds in the country with five playing pitches, an all weather hockey pitch, an all weather Cricket Crease. New changing rooms thanks to Sports Funding Grant Aid in 1995.

When one looks around Togher the club takes pride in its achievements and in doing so we wish to place on record our appreciation of the support, not only from the officers and playing members but also from the supporters who have supported the club through some very difficult financial times. The club recognises that this support came from every corner of the county of Laois and we are deeply indebted to those that are sadly departed and also those that are living and have contributed so generously over the last years to build Portlaoise Rugby Club to the standard that it is today.

In September 2006 Portlaoise celebrated its 40th anniversary. There was a gala black tie event in the Heritage Hotel, Portlaoise with an after dinner speech form Ollie Campbell, former rugby international. It was extremely rewarding and comforting to see all age groups catered for at this event.

Now Portlaoise is looking to the next forty years and this can only be done through the development if a sound youth structure. Portlaoise can now stand proud of their record in this regard with teams from the under 7 right through to under 18. The club was recently appointed a youth development officer to develop rugby in Local Schools throughout the County. Portlaoise Rugby Club and their Youth Development Officer Junior and Senior Cup Campaign in 2007. The boys in the PatricianCollege train two days per week in the college and will pay matches on Wednesday’s in Portlaoise RFC grounds.

In 2006 Portlaoise RFC applied for and received Sports Capital Programme Grant to the value of €120,000. This has been used successfully in the provision of a flood lighting system for our main rugby pitch to allow evening matches. This venture has only been made possibly by the generous support of the Sports Capital provided by the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism.

In 2007 Portlaoise RFC were again successful in applying to the Sports Capital Programme for a grant of €100,000 used for the upgrade of 2 pitches to all weather status. This has further added to the already excellent playing facilities. at the club. The  clubhouse and changing rooms have undergone a major upgrade development..A new bar manager was  employed which has bee very successful leading to the installation of state of the art bar and function room equipment resulting in increased use of the clubhouse for functions providing a regular stream of income.During 2008 in keeping with medical developments a defibrillator has been installed at the club and a series of First Aid  and Defibrillator Courses have been run for coaches A new range of club playing and casual wear was produced and available in local stores increasing the profile of the club.